Unit 1.3 db: different types of counselors

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 There are over a dozen different avenues a student can take in order to become a “counselor.” Of the ones listed in Chapter 1, identify two that most resonate with you and explain why (choose at least one from the Counselors section; choose no more than one from the Related Mental Health Professionals section).  Why do these avenues interest you the most? 


LO 2a

In the past, the word counselor referred to any mental health professional who practiced
counseling (Chaplin, 1975). However, today, counselors are generally seen as those who hold a
master’s degree in counseling. Today, we find a wide variety of counselors, such as school
counselors, college counselors, mental health counselors, counselors in private practice, pastoral
counselors, rehabilitation counselors, counselors in business and industry, and more. The
counselor’s training is broad and includes expertise in individual, group, and family counseling;
administering and interpreting educational and psychological assessments; offering career
counseling; administering grants and conducting research; consulting on a broad range of
educational and psychological matters; supervising others; and presenting developmentally
appropriate psychoeducational activities for individuals of all ages. Although not all counselors
have in-depth expertise in psychopathology, they all have knowledge of mental disorders and know
when to refer individuals who might need more in-depth treatment.

Today, counselors tend to have had coursework in common areas defined by the Council for
Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP, 2014a), the program
accreditation body for most counseling programs. Although not all programs are CACREP
accredited, most follow their guidelines. These include knowledge in the following eight content
areas (for more details, see Chapter 7):

Professional counseling orientation and ethical practice

Social and cultural diversity

Human growth and development

Career development

Counseling and helping relationship

Group counseling and group work

Assessment and testing

Research and program evaluation

In addition to the eight content areas, a counselor has taken coursework in a counseling specialty
area, such as clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, college counseling and student
affairs, and others. Such classes usually include content in the history, roles and functions, and
knowledge and skills of that specialty area. Finally, all counselors have had the opportunity to
practice their acquired skills and knowledge at field placements, such as a practicum or internship.

Master’s level counseling programs accredited by CACREP include programs in school counseling;
clinical mental health counseling; marriage, couple, and family counseling; addiction counseling;
career counseling; and college counseling and student affairs. Currently, CACREP requires 60
credit semester hours for clinical mental health counseling; marriage, couple, and family
counseling, and addiction counseling. The other programs currently require a minimum of 48
semester credit hours. However, beginning July of 2020, all master’s level programs will require a
minimum of 60 semester credit hours

In addition, to the above programs, there is a 48-credit rehabilitation counseling program
accreditation that is administered through the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), as well
as a new, 60-credit clinical rehabilitation counseling accreditation process that is jointly
administered by CORE and CACREP. CORE and CACREP recently signed a planned merger
agreement, and in July of 2017, CACREP will administer all of the rehabilitation counseling
programs (CACREP, 2014b, n.d.a).

A master’s level counselor can become a National Certified Counselor (NCC) by passing the
National Counselor Exam (NCE) offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
(NBCC, 2015a). Students who are matriculated in CACREP-accredited programs can take the exam
prior to graduating, and become certified upon passing the exam and graduating from their
program, while others have to obtain post-master’s clinical experience (NBCC, 2015a, 2015b).
NBCC also offers subspecialty certifications as a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor
(CCMHC), National Certified School Counselor (NCSC), and Master Addictions Counselor (MAC).
In addition, today all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have established
licensing laws that allow a counselor who has a master’s degree, additional training, and
supervision to practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) (some states use a different,
but similar term) (ACA, 2011; 2015a). Whereas certification is generally seen as mastery of a
content area, licensure allows counselors to practice independently and obtain third-party
reimbursement for their practice. (An in-depth discussion of credentialing can be found in Chapter

8.) The American Counseling Association (ACA), and its 20 divisions, focus on a variety of
counseling concerns and are the major professional associations for counselors (see Chapter 2).

The following describes the most common types of master’s level counselors, including school
counselors; clinical mental health counselors; marriage, couple, and family counselors; addiction
counselors; career counselors; college counselors and student affairs professionals; rehabilitation
counselors; and pastoral counselors.

School Counselors

School counselors have received their master’s degrees in counseling with a specialty in school
counseling. Some states credential school counselors on the elementary, middle, and secondary
levels, while other states offer credentialing that covers kindergarten through 12th grade (K–12). The
professional association for school counselors is the American School Counselor Association
(ASCA), which is a division of ACA, although one can become a member of ASCA without joining
ACA. In recent years, the ASCA National Model has been used as a model for the training of school
counselors (ASCA, 2012). In addition, over the past few decades, there has been a push by
professional training programs, professional associations, and many in the field to replace the term
guidance counselor with school counselor, as the latter term is seen as de-emphasizing the
guidance activities of the school counselor (Baker & Gerler, 2008).

School counselors are certified or licensed by their state boards of education, usually directly after
having graduated from a state-approved school counseling program. If they so choose, school
counselors can also become National Certified Counselors (NCCs), National Certified School
Counselors (NCSCs), certification as a school counselor by the National Board for Professional
Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and, in most states, with additional coursework and supervision,
Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) (ASCA, 2015; NBCC, 2015b). Other certifications are also
available if the school counselor chooses to specialize (e.g., addiction counseling, etc.).

Clinical Mental Health Counselors (Agency Counselors)

Clinical mental health counselors are individuals who have obtained their degrees in clinical
mental health counseling, or a closely related degree in counseling (e.g., agency counseling). Those
who obtain a degree in clinical mental health counseling, or related degrees, are generally trained
to conduct counseling for those who are struggling with life problems, emotional issues, or mental
health disorders. They are usually found working in a wide variety of agencies or, in private practice,
conducting counseling and psychotherapy.

The clinical mental health counselors’ professional association is the American Mental Health
Counselors Association (AMHCA), which is a division of ACA, although one can now be a member

of AMHCA without joining ACA. If they so choose, clinical mental health counselors can become
NCCs and LPCs. Other certifications are also available if the clinical mental health counselor
chooses to specialize (e.g., Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor [CCMHC], Master
Addictions Counselor [MAC], and more) (NBCC, 2015b).

Marriage, Couple, and Family Counselors

Marriage, couple, and family counselors are specifically trained to work with couples and with
families and can be found in a vast array of agency settings and in private practice. These
counselors tend to have specialty coursework in systems dynamics, couples counseling, family
therapy, family life stages, and human sexuality, along with the more traditional coursework in the
helping professions. The International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC), a
division of ACA, is one professional association these counselors can join; another is the American
Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). These days, one can join IAMFC without
joining ACA.

Although all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some requirement for marriage and family
licensure, the requirements can vary dramatically (Association of Marital and Family Therapy
Regulatory Boards [AMFTRB], 2015). Generally, these individuals have the title Licensed Marriage
and Family Therapist (LMFT), or something similar. While some states license marriage and family
counselors who have studied from programs that follow the 60 semester credit CACREP guidelines,
other states prefer licensing counselors who have studied from programs that follow the guidelines
set forth by AAMFT’s Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education
(COAMFTE), and still others have set their own curriculum guidelines for credentialing. Most states
that offer marriage and family counselor credentialing allow related licensed helping professionals
(e.g., licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, licensed psychologists) to
also practice marriage and family counseling as long as they have some expertise in this area.
Often, couple, marriage, and family counselors can become NCCs, LPCs, and obtain other
specialty certifications, if they so choose.

Addiction Counselors

Addiction counselors study a wide range of addiction disorders, such as substance abuse (drugs
and alcohol), eating disorders, and sexual addiction. They are familiar with diagnosis and treatment
planning and understand the importance of psychopharmacology in working with these
populations. Many addiction counselors can become certified through their state. In addition,
NBCC offers a certification as a Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) (NBCC, 2015b). Often
addiction counselors can become NCCs, LPCs, and obtain other specialty certifications, if they so
choose. In addition to AMHCA, addiction counselors often belong to the International Association
of Addictions and Offender Counselors (IAAOC), which is also a division of ACA.

Career Counselors

Career counselors focus on vocational and career counseling and may work in a variety of settings,
including private practice, vocational rehabilitation settings, college career centers or counseling
centers, schools, and in some agencies. Career counselors often join the National Career
Development Association (NCDA) and/or the National Employment Counseling Association
(NECA), both divisions of ACA. Like most other counselors, career counselors can become NCCs,
LPCs, or obtain other specialty certifications.

College Counselors and Student Affairs Professionals

Sometimes referred to as postsecondary counselors, these college counselors and student affairs
professionals work in a variety of settings in higher education including college counseling centers,
offices of educational accessibility, career centers, residence life, advising, multicultural student
services, and other campus settings where counseling-related activities occur. Usually, college
counselors and student affairs professionals will have taken specialty coursework in college
student development and student affairs practices.

Often counselors who work in college settings can become NCCs, LPCs, and obtain other specialty
certifications (e.g., MAC), if they so choose. There are two main professional associations of
counselors in higher education settings: College Student Educators International (this organization
was formerly the American College Personnel Association and has kept the acronym ACPA), which
tends to focus on administration of student services, and the American College Counseling
Association (ACCA), which is a division of ACA and tends to focus on counseling issues in college
settings. Today, one can join ACCA without joining ACA.

Rehabilitation and Clinical Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors and clinical rehabilitation counselors offer a wide range of services to
people with physical, emotional, and/or developmental disabilities. As noted earlier, currently
CORE and CACREP both accredit rehabilitation counseling programs and CACREP will be
accrediting all such programs starting in 2017 (CACREP, 2014b, n.d.a).

Both CORE and CACREP accredited rehabilitation counseling programs include coursework on
vocational evaluation, occupational analysis, medical and psychosocial aspects of disability, legal
and ethical issues in rehabilitation, and the history of rehabilitation counseling. The Commission on
Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) credentials rehabilitation counselors as Certified
Rehabilitation Counselors (CRCs), and rehabilitation counselors can usually obtain other related
credentials, if they so choose (e.g., NCC, LPC, MAC). Many rehabilitation counselors join the
National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (NRCA) and/or the American Rehabilitation
Counseling Association (ARCA), a division of ACA. Today, one can join ARCA without joining ACA.

Pastoral Counselors

Pastoral counselors sometimes have a degree in counseling but can also have a degree in a related
social service field or even just a master’s degree in religion or divinity. Pastoral counselors
sometimes work in private practice or within a religious organization. Pastoral counselors, religious
counselors, or counselors with spiritual orientations might join the Association for Spiritual,
Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC), a division of ACA, and/or the American
Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC). AAPC offers a certification process for those who are
interested in becoming Certified Pastoral Counselors (CPCs) (AAPC, 2005–2012a), and pastoral
counselors who have a master’s degree in counseling can often go on to obtain certification as
pastoral counselors and may be eligible to become LPCs or NCCs.


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