Facts About Clinical Mental Health Counselors
What is a clinical mental health counselor?
Clinical mental health counseling is a distinct profession with national standards for education, training and clinical practice. Clinical mental health counselors are highly-skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy. They combine traditional psychotherapy with a practical, problem-solving approach that creates a dynamic and efficient path for change and problem resolution. Find a mental health counselor near you
- According to the report, "Mental Health, United States, 2004" published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 100,500 mental health counselors are licensed or certified for independent practice in the United States.
- The majority of national behavioral health managed care companies reimburse clinical mental health counselors for services they provide.
- The median cost per session for clinical mental health counselors is $63, compared to a median cost of $75 for psychologists, and $60 for clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists, according to a January 2006 study by Psychotherapy Finances.
- All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico license or certify mental health counselors for private practice.
- Clinical mental health counselors adhere to a rigorous code of ethics and professional practice standards. View the Code of Ethics or Purchase a printed copy or download a PDF the Standards
Clinical mental health counselors offer a full range of services, including:
- Assessment and diagnosis
- Treatment planning and utilization review
- Brief and solution-focused therapy
- Alcoholism and substance abuse treatment
- Psychoeducational and prevention programs
- Crisis management
In today's managed care environment, clinical mental health counselors are uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of providing high quality care in a cost-effective manner. Clinical mental health counselors practice in a variety of settings, including independent practice, community agencies, managed behavioral health care organizations, integrated delivery systems, hospitals, employee assistance programs, and substance abuse treatment centers.
The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) is the professional membership organization that represents the clinical mental health counseling profession. Clinical membership in AMHCA requires a master's degree in counseling or a closely related mental health field and adherence to AMHCA's National Standards for Clinical Practice.
Graduate education and clinical training prepare clinical mental health counselors to provide a full range of services for individuals, couples, families, adolescents and children. The core areas of mental health education programs approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) include:
- Diagnosis and psychopathology
- Psychological testing and assessment
- Professional orientation
- Research and program evaluation
- Group counseling
- Human growth and development
- Counseling theory
- Social and cultural foundations
- Lifestyle and career development
- Supervised practicum and internship
Licensure requirements for clinical mental health counselors are equivalent to those for clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists, two other disciplines that require a master's degree for independent status.
A licensed clinical mental health counselor has met or exceeded the following professional qualifications:
- Earned a master's degree in counseling or a closely related mental health discipline;
- Completed a minimum of two years post-master's clinical work under the supervision of a licensed or certified mental health professional; and
- Passed a state-developed or national licensure or certification examination.