What is a Mental Health Counsellor?

Introduction

A mental health counsellor (MHC), or counsellor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health.

Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and ageing. The United States Bureau of Labour Statistics distinguishes “Mental Health Counsellors” from “Social Workers”, “Psychiatrists“, and “Psychologists“.

Duties

The legal definition of a counsellor, and hence the legal scope of practice, varies with jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions across the US, counsellors, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists have virtually identical definitions: evaluating and treating mental and behavioural disorders. In spite of such definitions, many mental health professionals reject the medical model (which assumes that clients are “disordered”) in favour of broader viewpoints, such as those that emerged from systems psychology.

Service Users

MHCs work with individuals, couples, families, and groups to address and treat emotional and mental disorders and to promote mental health. Most mental health counsellors in the US work in outpatient and residential care centres, individual and family services, and local governments. They are trained in a variety of therapeutic techniques used to address issues, including depression, anxiety, addiction and substance abuse, suicidal impulses, stress, problems with self-esteem, and grief. They also help with job and career concerns, educational decisions, issues related to mental and emotional health, and family, parenting, marital, or other relationship problems. Some career concerns include helping employees who have mental health conditions to manage their health condition whilst adhering to organisational demands to demonstrate performance and commitment to their work. MHCs also continue to play a growing role in the military mental health crisis, helping military personnel and their families deal with issues such as PTSD. MHCs often work closely with other mental health specialists, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, and school counsellors. Many mental health counsellors look to help their clients have a concise whole body treatment plan that addresses all the needs of the client. In the United States, MHCs diagnose as well as treat mental illness, though the scope of practice for mental health practitioners varies from state to state.

Regulation

United States

Licensing requirements can vary depending on which state a mental health counsellor practices in. Across the United States, mental health counselling licensure is required to independently practice, but can be practiced without a license if under close supervision of a licensed practitioner. Licensing titles for mental health counsellors vary from state to state: Licensed Mental Health Counsellor (LMHC), Licensed Professional Counsellor (LPC), Licensed Professional Clinical Counsellor (LPCC), and various forms of these titles may list differently per state statues. The title “Mental Health Counsellor” (or variation thereof) is often a protected title and thus it may be a violation of state law for persons to hold themselves as such without a proper credential.

A licensed mental health counsellor holds a minimum of a master’s degree in counselling or another closely related field in mental health care. After obtaining a master’s degree, mental health counsellors complete two to three years (depending on various state statutes) of clinical work under the supervision of a licensed or certified mental health professional. The qualifications for licensure are similar to those for marriage and family therapists and for clinical social workers. Becoming a counsellor and using it in daily life to help others to learn more about themselves is not a reason for someone to pursue a degree within this field. Ethics within this profession require the counsellor to remain professional to be able to adequately treat patients. Remaining detached as the witness to a client’s thought, feelings, and emotions can be a hard thing to do, but will ultimately reassure a patient that there are no judgement to what they will share. Guiding a patient to understand themselves and their choices is also another aspect of this profession.

What is the American Counselling Association?

Introduction

The American Counselling Association (ACA) is a membership organisation representing licensed professional counsellors (LPCs), counselling students, and other counselling professionals in the United States. It is the world’s largest association exclusively representing professional counsellors.

The non-profit organisation serves more than 55,000 members from various practice settings, including mental health counselling, marriage and family counselling, addictions and substance use disorder counselling, school counselling, rehabilitation counselling, and career and employment counselling. Counselling professors and students are also represented.

Its stated mission is to “enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counsellors, advancing the counselling profession, and using the profession and practice of counselling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity”.

The association headquarters is located in Alexandria, Virginia.

Brief History

The group was founded in 1952 as the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA), formed by the merger of the National Vocational Guidance Association (NVGA), the National Association of Guidance and Counselor Trainers (NAGCT), the Student Personnel Association for Teacher Education (SPATE), and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA).

The American Personnel and Guidance Association changed its name to the American Association of Counselling and Development (AACD) in 1983. On 01 July 1992, the association adopted its current name.

ACA presidents are elected by association membership for a one-year term.

Branches & Divisions

There are 20 chartered divisions within the American Counselling Association. These divisions provide leadership, resources and information unique to specialised areas and/or principles of counselling. Divisions are chartered by ACA elect division officers who govern their activities independently and carry a voice in national ACA governance. Members enhance their professional identity and practice by joining one or more divisions. ACA has 56 chartered branches in the US, Europe and Latin America.

Publications

ACA publishes books, journals and other educational materials on counselling topics. The organisation’s flagship magazine, Counselling Today, is published once a month and sent to all ACA members via US mail.

ACA Takes a Stand

In 2016, ACA moved its 2017 San Francisco Conference & Expo from Nashville, Tennessee to San Francisco, California after Tennessee’s legislature passed a discriminatory bill, HB 1840/SB 1556, targeting members of the LGBTQ community and others. The bill allowed counsellors in Tennessee to turn clients away based on “strongly held principles.'” “The legislation ‘denies services to those most in need, targets the counseling profession’ and violates the ACA’s code of ethics, the group said.”

“Tennessee’s governor, Republican Bill Haslam signed the bill into law on April 27, insisting it was not meant to be discriminatory. But opponents said the law permits therapists and counselors to deny treatment to gay, lesbian, transgender and other patients. After Haslam signed the bill, ACA members debated the issue and decided not to hold the meeting in Tennessee. Officials said the association received bids from 13 cities after deciding to nix Nashville, but chose San Francisco as ‘the best choice and … an inclusive and inviting city’ for its members.”

What is the National Board for Certified Counsellors?

Introduction

The National Board for Certified Counsellors, Inc. and Affiliates (NBCC) is an international certifying organisation for professional counsellors in the United States. It is an independent, not-for-profit credentialing organisation based in Greensboro, North Carolina. The purpose of the organisation is to establish and monitor a national certification system for professional counsellors, to identify certified counsellors, and to maintain a register of them.

NBCC has more than 66,000 certified counsellors across the US and in more than 40 countries. Its examinations for professional counsellors are used by all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to license counsellors.

Brief History

In December 1979, the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA) Board of Directors approved a plan to create a generic counsellor certification registry. In February 1982, the APGA President chose the members of the first NBCC Board, and the board’s first meeting was in April 1982. In July 1982, NBCC was incorporated as a not-for-profit entity separate from APGA. The separation ensured an unbiased certification process and an assumption of liability on the part of NBCC.

The NBCC established and now monitors a national certification system, to identify for professionals and the public those counsellors who have voluntarily sought and obtained certification. Unlike other professional mental health entities such as the American Counselling Association (ACA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Association for Counsellor Education and Supervision (ACES), NBCC does not have members. Instead, NBCC sets its own policies and procedures for national certification in professional counselling, administers the National Counsellor Examination to applicants, and keeps a register of counsellors who achieve certification.

Since 2001, NBCC has worked to pass legislation adding licensed professional counsellors (LPC) and marriage and family therapists (MFT) to Medicare. Medicare is the largest health care programme in the United States and currently recognises psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses for outpatient mental health services, but does not reimburse LPCs or MFTs for behavioural health services. As a result, a client who sees an LPC or MFT has to immediately cease therapy at the age of 65, when the government mandates that they must leave their health insurance to enrol in Medicare. NBCC believes that this Medicare exclusion of LPCs and MFTs should be removed, because they can play an important role in a functioning mental health system by maximising the capacity of the behavioural health workforce.

Certifications

The certification programme recognises counsellors who have met predetermined standards in their training, experience, and performance on the National Counsellor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).

National Certified Counsellor (NCC)

NBCC’s flagship certification is the National Certified Counsellor (NCC). The NCC is a generic certification for professional counsellors and does not designate a particular specialty area. Holding an NCC indicates that a counsellor is nationally board certified. There are currently over 63,000 NCCs in the US and many other countries.

The current requirements to become an NCC include:

  • A graduate degree in counselling (or one with a major in counselling) from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • At least 48 semester hours of graduate-level coursework, including at least one course in each of nine specified areas, as well as at least six semester hours of supervised field experience.
  • At least 3,000 hours of post-master’s counselling experience in an applied setting over a minimum of 24 months, 100 of which must be supervised by a qualified supervisor.
  • A passing score on the associated National Counsellor Exam (NCE).

After 01 January 2022, NCC applicants will be required to have a degree from a counsellor education programme accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counselling and Related Educational Programmes (CACREP), which includes a minimum of 60 semester hours of coursework.

The NCC is the board certification for counsellors. It is not required for supervised or independent practice; it identifies counsellors who have voluntarily sought and met established professional standards, and who continue to fulfil requirements governing continuing education credits and certification renewal. Certification is not a substitute for state-mandated licensure. However, many states use the NCE examination as part of their licensing requirements.

Specialty Certifications

In addition to the NCC, NBCC administers three specialty certifications that each have the NCC credential as a prerequisite, along with other requirements.

  • Certified Clinical Mental Health Counsellor (CCMHC).
  • Master Addictions Counsellor (MAC).
  • National Certified School Counsellor (NCSC).

Affiliates and Divisions

Since its establishment in 1982, NBCC has expanded to include:

  • The Centre for Credentialing & Education (CCE):
    • Created in 1995, CCE provides practitioners and organisations with assessments, business support services, and credentialing in a variety of fields, including counselling supervision, coaching, distance counselling, and human services.
    • CCE manages the Mental Health Facilitator (MHF) programme, which educates community members and leaders in providing basic mental health care and resources to their neighbours, especially in locations where mental health care is difficult to access.
  • NBCC International (NBCC-I):
    • Created in 2003, NBCC-I’s purpose is to promote the counselling profession worldwide.
    • With a focus on cultural sensitivity and understanding, as well as public awareness of the meaning of quality in professional counselling, NBCC-I offers programmes and institutes all over the world. NBCC-I also manages the international portion of the MHF programme.
  • The NBCC Foundation (NBCCF):
    • Created in 2005, NBCCF uses scholarships, fellowships, and capacity-building grants to encourage counsellors and counsellors-in-training to pursue careers as professional counsellors serving high-priority populations.
    • Increasing access to mental health care in rural, military, and minority communities is a major focus for NBCCF.
  • The European Board for Certified Counsellors (EBCC):
    • Created in 2010, EBCC is the hub for NBCC-I’s work in Europe.
    • EBCC provides support for European countries that are developing their own professional counselling efforts.
  • The Professional Counsellor (TPC):
    • Published by NBCC since 2011, TPC is a peer-reviewed, open-access, academic journal.
    • It is published online in a continuous format, and covers a wide range of topics including: mental and behavioural health counselling; school counselling; career counselling; couple, marriage, and family counselling; counselling supervision; theory development; professional counselling ethics; international counselling and multicultural issues; programme applications; and integrative reviews from counselling and related fields.

Book: Principles and Practice of Grief Counselling

Book Title:

Principles and Practice of Grief Counselling.

Author(s): Darcy L. Harris and Howard R. Winokuer.

Year: 2019.

Edition: Third (3rd).

Publisher: Springer Publishing Company.

Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis:

This core introductory text, with a focus on clinical application, combines the knowledge and skills of counselling psychology with current theory and research in grief and bereavement. The third edition is updated to address issues related to the developmental aspects of grief, including grief in children and young people, grief as a lifespan concept, and grief in an increasingly aging demographic. It describes new therapeutic approaches and examines the neurological basis of grief as well as trauma from disruption and loss.

Also emphasized is the role of diversity, along with cultural considerations in grief counselling. Instructor’s resources include a Test Bank, Instructor’s Manual, and PowerPoint slides. User-friendly, while grounded in the latest research and theoretical constructs, the text offers such pedagogical aids as learning objectives, practice examples, glossary terms, and questions for reflection in each chapter. Above all, the book addresses grief counselling and support in a way that is informed and practical. The content explores concepts relevant to complicated grief, while differentiating the normal human experience of grief from mental disorders. Purchase includes digital access for use on mobile devices and computers.

Book: Assessment Procedures for Counsellors and Helping Professionals

Book Title:

Assessment Procedures for Counsellors and Helping Professionals.

Author(s): Carl Sheperis, Robert Drummond, and Karyn Jones.

Year: 2019.

Edition: Ninth (9th).

Publisher: Pearson.

Type(s): Paperback.

Synopsis:

A classic textbook for aspiring counsellors, now updated and expanded to improve its usefulness and relevance for practicing counsellors.

Since its first publication in 1988, Assessment Procedures for Counsellors and Helping Professionals has become a classic among assessment textbooks designed specifically for aspiring counsellors. Now in its 9th Edition, the text includes extensive changes to content and updating throughout, while maintaining its popular, easy-to-read format and continuing emphasis on assessment information that is most useful and relevant for school counsellors, marriage and family therapists, mental health counsellors, and other helping professionals. Throughout the text, readers get invaluable information and examples about widely used assessment instruments in order to become familiar with these well-known tests.

NOTE:

Before purchasing, check with your instructor to ensure you select the correct ISBN. Several versions of the MyLab(TM) and Mastering(TM) platforms exist for each title, and registrations are not transferable. To register for and use MyLab or Mastering, you may also need a Course ID, which your instructor will provide.

Used books, rentals, and purchases made outside of Pearson

If purchasing or renting from companies other than Pearson, the access codes for the MyLab or Mastering platform may not be included, may be incorrect, or may be previously redeemed. Check with the seller before completing your purchase.

Book: Encyclopaedia of Counselling

Book Title:

Encyclopaedia of Counselling: Master Review and Tutorial for the National Counsellor Examination, State Counselling Exams, and the Counsellor Preparation Comprehensive Examination.

Author(s): Howard Rosenthal.

Year: 2017.

Edition: Fourth (4th).

Publisher: Routledge.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

With more questions and answers than any other edition, the Encyclopaedia of Counselling, Fourth Edition, is still the only book you need to pass the NCE, CPCE, and other counselling exams. Every chapter has new and updated material and is still written in Dr. Rosenthal’s lively, user-friendly style counsellors know and love. The book’s new and improved coverage incorporates a range of vital topics, including social media, group work in career counselling, private practice and non-profit work, addictions, neurocounselling, research trends, the DSM-5, the new ACA and NBCC codes of ethics, and much, much more.

Book: Encyclopaedia of Counselling

Book Title:

Encyclopaedia of Counselling: Master Review and Tutorial for the National Counsellor Examination, State Counselling Exams, and the Counsellor Preparation Comprehensive Examination.

Author(s): Howard Rosenthal.

Year: 2008.

Edition: Third (3rd).

Publisher: Routledge.

Type(s): Paperback.

Synopsis:

In the third edition of Howard Rosenthal’s best-selling test preparation guide for the National Counsellor Examination (NCE), students get more help than ever with an expanded section on marriage and family counselling, new material on web counselling, and updated material throughout. This resource now includes over 1,050 tutorial questions/answers and a new “Final Review and Last Minute Super Review Boot Camp” section. This guide is an ideal review tool for state licensing, the NCC credential, and preparation for written and oral boards. And because the new Counsellor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE), draws from the same subject areas, the Encyclopaedia is a perfect study guide for the CPCE as well. Written in a unique question/answer format, with a quick reference index, this is also an essential student reference volume for use in any counselling, social work, or human services course.

Book: Contemporary Psychotherapies for a Diverse World

Book Title:

Contemporary Psychotherapies for a Diverse World.

Author(s): Jon Frew and Michael D. Spiegler.

Year: 2012.

Edition: First (1ed).

Publisher: Routledge.

Type(s): Hardcover.

Synopsis:

This unique text is the first to provide an introduction to the theory and practice of the major theories of psychotherapy and, at the same time, illustrate how these approaches are dealing with the ever-increasing diversity of today’s clients. Frew and Spiegler have assembled the leading contemporary authorities on each theory to offer an insider’s perspective that includes exposure to the style and language used by adherents of the approach, which is not available in any other text. The history of each approach and the latest, cutting-edge theory and practice are integrated with an emphasis on an awareness of the needs of diverse non-majority clients, creating a comprehensive, practical, and invaluable text for any counselling theories course.

The major psychotherapeutic approaches are presented in roughly the chronological order in which they were developed, and each chapter follows the same basic format to ensure consistency throughout the text. Along with traditional theories, there are chapters on reality therapy, feminist therapy, and narrative therapy, and the chapter on ethics includes multicultural and feminist perspectives. Each chapter includes:

  • The origin and evolution of the theory.
  • Theoretical foundations and how the theory is manifested in practice.
  • An evaluation of the evidence for the theory’s success, limitations, blind spots, and challenges.
  • “The Author’s Journey,” in which authors describe what lead them to adopt their approach and how their own practice has evolved over time.
  • Multicultural competencies and their importance in the context of the theory.

Resources are available online for instructors to supplement the material in the text and include a test bank and PowerPoint lecture slides.

Book: Case Study Research in Counselling and Psychotherapy

Book Title:

Case Study Research in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Author(s): John Mcleod.

Year: 2010.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

Case-based knowledge forms an essential element of the evidence base for counselling and psychotherapy practice. This book provides the reader with a unique introduction to the conceptual and practical tools required to conduct high quality case study research that is grounded in their own therapy practice or training. Drawing on real-life cases at the heart of counselling and psychotherapy practice, John McLeod makes complex debates and concepts engaging and accessible for the trainees and practitioners at all levels, and from all theoretical orientations. Key topics covered in the book include:

  • The role of case studies in the development of theory, practice and policy in counselling and psychotherapy.
  • Strategies for responding to moral and ethical issues in therapy case study research.
  • Practical tools for collecting case data.
  • ′How-to-do-it′ guides for carrying out different types of case study.
  • Team-based case study research for practitioners and students.
  • Questions, issues and challenges that may have been raised for readers through their study.

Concrete examples, points for reflection and discussion, and recommendations for further reading will enable readers to use the book as a basis for carrying out their own case investigation.

All trainees in counselling, psychotherapy and clinical psychology are required to complete case reports, and this is the only textbook to cover the topic in real depth. The book will also be valuable to people who intend to use existing case studies to inform their practice, and it will help experienced practitioners to generate publishable case reports.

Book: A Concise Introduction to Existential Counselling

Book Title:

A Concise Introduction to Existential Counselling.

Author(s): Martin Adams.

Year: 2013.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

A Concise Introduction to Existential Counselling is just that: a brief and accessible pocket guide to the underlying theory & practice of the existential approach.

Addressing everything a new trainee needs to know and do in a way that is entirely accessible and jargon-free, this book:

  • Provides a short history of the existential tradition.
  • Puts key concepts into contexts, showing how theory translates into practice.
  • Discusses issues in the therapeutic process.
  • Shows how to work effectively with whatever the client brings to the session.
  • Addresses the significance of existential thought in the wider world.

This book will be the perfect companion to new trainees looking to embark on their path to thinking and practicing existentially.

Martin Adams is a practitioner and supervisor in private practice and a Lecturer at the New School of Psychotherapy and Regents College, both in London.