Recognition by the Federal Government
In 2010, The Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public, recommended licensed counselors who graduate from CACREP-accredited Mental Health Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs to be eligible for classification as independent practitioners. TRICARE, which provides healthcare to U.S. military members and their families, quickly followed these recommendations. Prior to this time, licensed counselors were not eligible for independent practitioner status within TRICARE. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began to recognize counselors by creating a new job category, Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors, for which counselors could be hired to work with veterans and their families. The eligibility requirements for employment under this job title in the VA also mirror the IOM recommendations, including the requirement for possessing a graduate counseling degree from a CACREP- accredited program.
Today, professional counselors have professional associations, ethical standards, accreditation standards, certification and licensure, and legal recognition. Counseling has come of age and is recognized as a leader in the helping professions. But what is unique about counseling compared to other helping professions?