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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 Participates in the American Association of State Counseling Boards Conference

by Scott MacConomy | Jan 23, 2018

American Counseling Association Chief Professional Officer David Kaplan and ACA State Legislative Affairs Representative Scott MacConomy gave a presentation last week at the American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB) annual conference. The presentation, titled Critical Issues Facing the Counseling Profession and State Counseling Boards, focused on the issue of licensure portability.

During the presentation, Dr. Kaplan explained the American Counseling Association portability proposal. The proposed ACA plan would enable a counselor licensed in one state who wants to move to another state to be considered licensed in the new state after taking a jurisprudence examination, regardless of years of experience or educational background.

The AASCB conference offered an excellent opportunity to meet with state licensing board members who decide state policies for counselors seeking licensure. The licensing boards are responsible for the registration, certification, and licensing of counselors within each state. Their stated goal is to protect the public by ensuring that counselors are competent and follow a professional code of ethics. These boards are very much aware of the difficulties counselors can face when moving to a different state with different licensure requirements.

Resolving the portability problem so that counselors can move freely around the country is a top priority for the American Counseling Association. At the conference, ACA hosted a focus group to discuss the ACA portability proposal with licensure board members from several states.

Also attending the AASCB conference were American Counseling Association President Gerard Lawson, ACA Chief Executive Officer Richard Yep, Dr. Simone Lambert, the ACA President-elect, and other ACA staffers. ACA staff attend the AASCB conference to keep up with changes in counselor licensing and to maintain relationships with licensing boards, in an effort to maintain open lines of communication to work on issues such as licensure board consolidation.

 “ACA continues to support the good work of AASCB. We respect the time, energy, and dedication of state licensure board members. Our goal is always to listen to what is of importance to them given the responsibility they have to the clients of our Nation’s Licensed Professional Counselors,” said Mr. Yep.

Last year, several states tried to streamline their board structure, to the detriment of counselor representation on those boards. These boards are usually combined boards covering social workers, psychologists, and those in other professions.

Other states have attempted to eliminate the licensure process entirely. While the AASCB conference was taking place, attendees learned that a bill had been introduced in the Arizona legislature to do just that. When legislatures consider such legislation, the American Counseling Association will work with counselors in any state to keep the licensure process in place. The licensure process clearly benefits the profession and the consumer.



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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.