What is the American Counselling Association?


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.


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 a Licensed Professional Counsellor?


Licensed professional counsellor (LPC) is a licensure for mental health professionals in some countries.

In the US, licensed professional counsellors (or in some states, “licensed clinical mental health counsellors” or “licensed clinical professional counsellors” or “licensed mental health counsellors”) provide mental health and substance abuse care to millions of Americans.

LPCs are doctoral and master’s-level mental health service providers, trained to work with individuals, families, and groups in treating mental, behavioural, and emotional problems and disorders. LPCs make up a large percentage of the workforce employed in community mental health centres, agencies, universities, hospitals and organisations, and are employed within and covered by managed care organisations and health plans. LPCs also work with active duty military personnel and their families, as well as veterans.

Licenses are awarded for professional counsellors (LPC) and professional counsellor supervisors (LPC-S); Interns are identified with the corresponding suffix “I” (LPC-I), and Licensed Professional Counsellor Associates, with the suffix “-A”; this also applies to licensed therapists, as in the case of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) who are designated as: LMFTA. Texas prohibits the use of “I” after the term LPC, and requires that LPC Interns spell out the word Intern each time.

In the US, the exact title varies by state, but the other most frequently used title is licensed mental health counsellor (LMHC). Several US states, including Illinois, Maine, and Tennessee, have implemented a two-tier system whereby both the LPC and LCPC (or equivalent) are used. In those states, higher tier professionals are granted the privilege to practice independently. However, in most states, LPC’s or LMHC’s may practice independently. Licensed Professional Counsellors are one of the six types of licensed mental health professionals who provide psychotherapy in the US.

In addition to their education, LPCs must obtain supervised clinical experience and must pass a state licensing exam. Different states require one of several different licensing examinations. Examples are the National Counsellor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) as well as the National Certified Mental Health Counsellor Examination (NCMHCE). LPCs are regulated by federal and state laws, which either protect the title of LPC or LMHC or actually define the scope of practice of a professional counsellor and stipulate certain client protections. If an LPC is also a member of a professional association or has received additional certifications, they must adhere to the codes of ethics of the professional association or certification body with which they have aligned.

Requirements for Professional Counsellors

United States

LPC (or variation, e.g. LCPC, LMHC, etc.) licensure is recognised in 50 states in the US, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The requirements vary from one jurisdiction to the next. Most states require some combination of a master’s degree, counselling experience and supervision, as well as passing a national examination, such as the National Counsellor Examination (NCE) and/or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselling Examination (NCMHCE).

A summary of requirements from the state of Texas LPC board serves as an example; requirements vary from state to state. For example, practicum/internship requirements (during the master’s degree) vary significantly between states (i.e. 300 in Texas and 1000 in Vermont). Course requirements and credit amount also vary, making reciprocity between states difficult for many licensed counsellors.

  • A master’s degree or doctoral degree in counselling or a related field.
  • Academic course work in each of the following areas: normal human growth and development; abnormal human behaviour; appraisal or assessment techniques; counselling theories; counselling methods or techniques (individual and group); research; lifestyle and career development; social, cultural and family issues; and professional orientation.
  • As part of the graduate programme, a supervised practicum experience that is primarily counselling in nature. The practicum should be at least 300 clock-hours with at least 100 clock-hours of direct client contact. Academic credit for the practicum must appear on the applicant’s transcript.
  • After completion of the graduate degree and before application, an applicant must take and pass the National Counsellor Exam and the Texas Jurisprudence Exam. After receiving a temporary LPC license from the board, the applicant may begin the supervised post-graduate counselling experience (internship). 3000 clock-hours with at least 1,500 being direct client contact of internship under the supervision of a board-approved supervisor is required. The 3000 clock-hours may not be completed in a time period of less than 18 months.”

Exemptions (US)

Some states, such as Oregon, have broad exemptions that allow the practice of professional counselling without a license.

In Alabama, nothing in the chapter regulating professional counselling applies to the activities, services, titles, and descriptions of persons employed, as professionals or as volunteers, in the practice of counselling for IRS recognised 501(c)(3) public and private non-profit organisations or charities. [Alabama Code 34-8A-3-a-6].


In the Canadian province of Quebec, the Ordre des conseillers et conseilleres d’orientation et psychoeducateurs et psychoeducatrices du Quebec (OCCOPPQ) grants counsellor licensure. The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, CCPA offers a distinct certification, Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), separate from the regular professional membership.

The Canadian Professional Counsellors Association (CPCA) is a national competency-based association that provides the designation of Registered Professional Counsellor (RPC) to its members. Unlike degree-based associations, a specific degree level does not automatically qualify applicants for membership. Instead, the CPCA requires core competencies in education and experience prior to taking a qualifying exam and undergoing psychological testing as part of the membership application process. Counsellors must then embark on a two-year candidacy under the supervision of an approved Clinical Supervisor prior to becoming a full member. The CPCA membership roles are a mixture of Diploma, Bachelor, Master, and PhD level degree holders, and its primary purpose is the protection of the public and the promotion of competency in the mental health profession in Canada.

As well; the Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation (CACCF) promotes, certifies and monitors the competency of addiction specific counsellors in Canada using current and effective practices, which are internationally recognized. The certifications CACCF issues and its professional conduct review process provide public protection for counsellors, employers, regulatory agencies, clients and their families.


The Ministry of Labour and Human Resources grants counsellor licensure.


In Malaysia, Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia grants counsellor licensure.