MODERN DEFINITION AND SCOPE OF PRACTICE
In 2014, the American Counseling Association adopted a consensus definition of counseling: "Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals” (Kaplan, Tarvydas, & Gladding, 2014, p. 368). Implied in this definition is counselors’ professional scope of practice, a legal term that delineates what a licensed individual can do. For instance, prescribing medication is within the scope of practice of psychiatrists but not social workers. Therefore, a social worker cannot legally prescribe drugs. Professional counselors’ scope of practice is written into each state’s counselor licensure law and is based primarily on what a counselor is trained to do. That is why national accreditation is so important. CACREP accreditation sets minimal standards for training and prescribes, among other things, coursework, clinical experience, and qualifications of faculty members and supervisors. CACREP accreditation provides a unified standard for training at the national level, which helps facilitate licensure portability by allowing a professional counselor licensed in one state to more easily be licensed in another state. State licensure boards know that you are qualified by virtue of the national accreditation of your training program.
So now you have seen how counseling has evolved as one of the newest helping professions and how professional counselors have earned their reputation as state-of-the-art healers. Is this a profession you wish to pursue? When you were in school, were you someone that people came to for advice? Were you the person that people trusted with their problems and challenges? Are you a good listener? In my years as a professor in a graduate counseling program, many of our applicants told me that they were this person. However, if you do not tolerate change, if you are not interested in learning about folks who are different, or have different viewpoints, then counseling may not be the field for you. As a professional counselor, every day presents new clients, new challenges, and new opportunities for you and your clients to grow. Whether you are a clinical mental health counselor or school counselor, no two days are alike. It may be hectic, but never boring. Do you have what it takes?