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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

  • American Counseling Association and the American School Counselor Association Announce New Collaborative Relationship

    Mar 21, 2018
    The American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) are pleased to announce a new collaborative relationship that will support continued growth of both organizations as we continue to serve the best interests of school counselors nationwide. As of April 1, both organizations will operate independently and autonomously – a formal recognition of the existing relationship, which was voted on by the ACA Governing Council on March 21, 2018. ACA and ASCA will continue to work together on common advocacy issues that strengthen the work of school counselors to support children and adolescents.
    Read More
  • In Support of Counselors and Students Seeking a Reduction in Gun Violence

    Mar 14, 2018
    The American Counseling Association recently adopted a resolution calling for more school counselors to support children affected by gun trauma.
    Read More
  • Get Ready. April is Counseling Awareness Month!

    Mar 13, 2018
    Each year, the American Counseling Association designates April as Counseling Awareness Month. The celebration, first held in 2002, was created to recognize the important work done by professional counselors and to draw attention to the many ways that counseling can help everyone.
    Read More
  • ACA Calls for More School Counselors to Support Children Affected by Gun Trauma

    Mar 01, 2018
    On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the Executive Committee of the American Counseling Association adopted a resolution supporting and highlighting the role that school counselors play in addressing the anxiety, stress, and trauma students experience after a school shooting. The resolution underscores the vital role that school counselors play in helping students cope with adverse conditions.
    Read More
  • ACA Names National Award Winners

    Feb 28, 2018
    The American Counseling Association and the American Counseling Association Foundation are pleased to announce the 76 winners of their annual awards competitions for professional counselors and counseling students.
    Read More
Click here to read past Latest News stories from ACA.

ACA Government Affairs Blog

ACA CEO Richard Yep's Congressional Testimony on Opioids and Medicare Reimbursement Legislation

by Scott MacConomy | Feb 20, 2018

Responding to a request for policy recommendations on the opioid crisis, ACA CEO Richard Yep has written to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee concerning the role counselors play in fighting the opioid crisis.  Mr. Yep highlighted the need for reimbursing counselors through Medicare to help seniors who may have been receiving counseling using Medicaid but can no longer afford it when they transition to Medicare. 

Mr. Yep's letter says, "The 21st Century CURES Act created the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC). Its membership includes representatives from eight federal departments that support programs related to serious mental illness and non-federal members with expertise across the healthcare sector. In its initial December 2017 report to Congress, ISMICC recommends that Congress “Maximize the Capacity of the Behavioral Health Workforce.” The report identifies the exclusion of Licensed Professional Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists as eligible Medicare providers as a barrier to services and recommends the barrier be removed."

The letter goes on to encourage the passage of S. 1879, The Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act, which would provide Medicare reimbursement to licensed professional counselors.  You can read the letter here 

Mr. Yep also provided testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee on opioids, counseling, and the importance of passing the House bill that would similarly authorize Medicare reimbursement for counselors, H.R. 3032,  You can read his testimony here

You can contact your Members of Congress about supporting these bills by entering your zip code on this page to look up their contact information.  Ask your Senators to support S.1879 and your House Member to support H.R. 3032.  


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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.