Counselor Titles and Scope of Practice
Counselor titles are based on the settings in which they work and the names of their official positions as outlined by employers, whether it be in a mental health treatment facility, hospital, school, community agency, or government organization. Counselor titles are also dictated by counselors’ professional identity, which begins to form during their graduate training program and continues to develop throughout one’s career. This professional identity is often recognized through the initials at the end of a counselor’s name which indicates the license(s), certification(s), or other professionally recognized credentials that the counselor has obtained. At times, there can be a disconnect between a position title and a counselor’s professional identity title. One example of title discrepancy is commonly found in school counseling: A school district may hire you as a school counselor who has a title of Support Services Staff or Pupil Personnel Services Officer, but in reality you are trained, certified, and self-identify as a school counselor. Or, consider a different example of balancing multiple counselor titles: You might be trained as a clinical mental health counselor, recognized by your state as a Licensed Professional Counselor, earn the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential through NBCC, become certified as a counselor supervisor, qualify to work independently as a TRICARE Certified
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK
Mental Health Counselor, and still have another “job title” within your own private practice or at another company where you are employed! Can you imagine trying to explain all of that to a stranger in the seat next to you on an airplane? Box 3.2 gives you an example of how challenging it can be to delineate titles and credentials. It is because of examples like this that the counseling profession has adopted the philosophy that all counselors share a common identity as a counselor first, followed by an area of specialization (Kaplan & Gladding, 2011).
As explained in Box 3.3, it is important to note that a counselor's true scope of practice is often further defined by the setting in which the counselor works, adding another layer to consider regarding appropriate and inappropriate counseling activities. For example, it is not appropriate for a school counselor to engage in long-term individual counseling sessions with students but rather make professional referrals for services when necessary. Similarly, a marriage, couple, and family counselor would not be engaged
DEFINING SCOPE OF PRACTICE
Scope of practice is essentially a phrase used to define the unique nature and focus of a counselor's work. A scope of practice outlines appropriate and inappropriate counseling services and activities that fall within the purview of counselors in specific settings which is based on counselor training, experience, and qualifications. Every state has its own scope of practice for professional counseling that is tied to counselor licensing laws and regulations. While these scopes of practice may be different from state to state, they often have a few core tenets in common.
THE CODE OF ETHICS
The ACA Code of Ethics is the foundation for professional guidance and ethical behavior ofcounselors. Many state licensure boards use the ACA Code ofEthics in their practice laws. You can access the Code at www.counseling.org/ethics to begin to see the regulations that govern professional counselor practice.
in developing and implementing a comprehensive school counseling program. Furthermore, the professional Code of Ethics (Box 3.4) for counselors also indicates that counselors only practice within the bounds of their training and do not employ interventions or treatment modalities without the appropriate training, experience, and personal abilities.
We discuss credentials, licensure, and certification in greater detail in chapter 9. For now, it is important to understand that each state regulates its own counselor licensure requirements and law. The core curriculum provided in CACREP-accredited counseling programs is generally sufficient to meet the educational requirements for such credentials. We will spend some time in chapter 9, after you’ve learned about applying to graduate programs in counseling, teaching you about these credentials and who to contact in the states you are interested in working in for more information about credentialing and practice requirements.