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The American Counseling Association (ACA) is a not-for-profit, professional and educational organization dedicated to the growth and advancement of the counseling profession. Founded in 1952, ACA is the world's largest association exclusively representing professional counselors in various practice settings.

Our Mission: To enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity.

ACA is on:
Facebook (American Counseling Association)
Twitter (@CounselingViews)
LinkedIn (American Counseling Association)

Counseling Today, the award-winning monthly magazine of ACA, is on:
Facebook (Counseling Today)
Twitter  (@ACA_CTOnline) 

10 Things to Know About Counselors and Counseling

1. Professional counseling is a therapeutic relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.

2. Common specialties within professional counseling include mental health counseling, school counseling, career counseling, addictions counseling, and couples and family counseling.

3. Many counselors are specifically trained to support individuals or groups in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters. 

4. Professional counselors abide by ACA’s Code of Ethics.

5. Professional counselors can diagnose and/or treat mental health disorders.

6. Counselors do not prescribe medications.

7. School counselors must be certified/licensed by a state education department to work in a public school.

8. Counselors working in mental health settings (mental health centers, college counseling centers, hospitals, substance abuse centers, etc.) must be licensed in their state as a professional counselor.

9. Rehabilitation counselors typically must be Certified Rehabilitation Counselors, especially if they work in the traditional setting of a state Office for Vocational Rehabilitation.

10. The differences among counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists can be summarized by differences in education and focus: Professional counselors have a graduate degree in counseling. A master's degree is the entry-level requirement. Counselors focus on client wellness, as opposed to psychopathology. Psychologists have a graduate degree in psychology, and licensed psychologists typically have a degree in clinical, counseling, or school psychology. Of all the mental health professions, psychologists are the best trained in conducting research. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have usually completed a residency in psychiatry. Their niche is prescribing psychotropic drugs.


Facts and Figures about Mental Health and Professional Counseling 

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services publishes statistics on mental health in America here

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes employment statistics on mental health counselors here.  School and career counselors here.

ACA publishes state-by-state counts of mental health professionals here.


Latest News From ACA



Click here to read past Latest News stories from ACA.





ACA Government Affairs Blog



ACA Takes Action Against State-Based Legislation Threatening Licensure for Counselors

by Scott MacConomy | Jan 29, 2018

Bills that would eliminate or reduce licensure for counselors are becoming more common in state legislatures. The Arizona House of Representatives is considering a bill that would eliminate the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners and the licensure process for counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and addiction counselors. Last year, Iowa considered a bill to abolish the entire licensure process for almost all licensed professions, and Ohio introduced a bill to consolidate the licensure boards so counselors would not be guaranteed a representative on their own board. Neither bill was successful. However, other states are also leaning toward board consolidations. Even the Federal Trade Commission, which has no direct role in state licensure decisions, is recommending that too many professions are have licensure requirements across the country. 

The American Counseling Association continues to advocate for licensure and against legislation that would diminish its role for counselors, as it did in Iowa and Ohio. ACA knows the importance of education, experience, and accountability in the licensure process for counselors and for their clients. Licensure is also vital when counselors work with the VA, TRICARE, Medicaid, and insurers. 

Most recently, ACA and the Arizona Counseling Association (AzCA) have been working together to fight the bill in the Arizona legislature and preserve the licensure process that benefits both counselors and people who seek counseling. 

The bill, HB 2406, is pending in the Arizona House Health Committee. 

“We know the education and training counselors must have in order to become licensed is invaluable for those who come to us for help,” says Art Terrazas, Director of Government Affairs for ACA. “The licensure process ensures accountability and is good for our profession, and more importantly, good for consumers.”

ACA took action to ask that all Arizona members and all of AzCA’s members send a message (below) about the importance of counseling licensure to their representatives in the Arizona House. Our latest information is that this bill is unlikely to pass out of the Health Committee, but we will continue to monitor the status throughout the winter and spring. 

ACA is committed to working with members in any state where the licensure board is proposed to be eliminated or consolidated.  

 

5 Comments

  1. 5 Dr. Fred J. Hansen 30 Jan
    This is so sad; the purpose of licensure is to provide an assurance to the public that the person to whom they are entrusting their mental health is not a charlatan.  Bad enough we already have “Coaches” counseling with people with no mental health training, now we will just eliminate the entire profession?  Word to legislature, managed care insurance companies will not work with unlicensed counselors, so unless you simply want to drive the practice of professional counseling out of the state, might want to rethink this bill.
  2. 4 John Seniff 30 Jan
    Training and education is highly important. Just being a coach or claiming knowledge is not good.
  3. 3 Donna Rose 08 Feb
    Holy cow!!!! Are you joking? This would be a complete disaster for mental health care consumers, one of the most vulnerable populations! What a ridiculous, horrible, idea. Wow.
  4. 2 L. Panepento 08 Feb
    It is my professional opinion we are splinters as a profession in a time of need for Counselors who are trained professionally though maybe at various different levels during these presenting difficult times.  Not only are many competent professional counselors not working due to red tape licensing (portability for example) but we have a world of hurting people and we have the skills to make the difference though we maybe at various professional levels.  

    Instead of banning out Professionally Trained Counselors it is my professional opinion something needs to be done to support a more effective national licensing process that makes Professional Counselors able to get licensed easier vs state-to-state portability hoops to jump landing nowhere.  

    I am in favor of the bill FCC as well as well as the AZ House of Representatives came to the legislation table with.  We as professionals did not spend a couple/few years and thousands of dollars to be sitting on the bench.

    We need to show some "internal professional honor" for the profession by taking care of our own profession.  Taking care of our own Professional Counselors or Mental Health Counselors, becoming chameleon would look similar as to how MSW's take care of their own profession with five levels for licensing as follows: CMSW, ACSW, LMSW, LCSW, LCSW-R.  No one professionally trained is left out.  They can keep increasing their certifications up the ladder and still be able to practice at a capacity for what their certification or license allows them to.   We're living in a rapidly changing world of hurting people and we are walking around fragmented, hurting our own and broken instead of unified one level to the next level upward. 
  5. 1 Randi Herman-Roggeman 19 Feb
    Licensure is imperative to ensure that our community members experiencing mental, emotional, and behavioral health issues and conditions receive appropriate services from a qualified professional. 

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Endorsed Scope of Practice for Professional Counseling

The independent practice of counseling encompasses the provision of professional counseling services to individuals, groups, families, couples and organizations through the application of accepted and established mental health counseling principles, methods, procedures and ethics.

Counseling promotes mental health wellness, which includes the achievement of social, career, and emotional development across the lifespan, as well as preventing and treating mental disorders and providing crisis intervention.

Counseling includes, but is not limited to, psychotherapy, diagnosis, evaluation; administration of assessments, tests and appraisals; referral; and the establishment of counseling plans for the treatment of individuals, couples, groups and families with emotional, mental, addiction and physical disorders.
 
Counseling encompasses consultation and program evaluation, program administration within and to schools and organizations, and training and supervision of interns, trainees, and pre-licensed professional counselors through accepted and established principles, methods, procedures, and ethics of counselor supervision.
 
The practice of counseling does not include functions or practices that are not within the professional’s training or education.