My Thoughts on the Real Simple Article: How to Find a Therapist

By Alan Goodman posted 21 days ago

  

If you have read the article “How to Find a Therapist”, by Andrea Peterson in the latest edition of Real Simple magazine, then you are probably upset and bewildered.

The piece is in part based on an interview with Dr. David Kaplan, American Counseling Association's (ACA) Chief Professional Officer, among others. The article is patently incorrect on many levels and stands as an indication that the author simply didn’t do the most basic fact-checking. Even a rudimentary online search would have led her to the AMHCA website and more information on who counselors are and what we do. In the article Dr. Kaplan is quoted as follows:

“If you’re having problems at work or in your relationships or just feeling blah about life, a licensed professional counselor might be a good person to start with. Counseling doesn’t usually focus on treating severe mental health issues but helps people “figure out the factors that get in the way of being happy,” says Dr. Kaplan, PhD, chief professional officer at the American Counseling Association.”

Not only does he do us a grave injustice, but nowhere in the article does he reference AMHCA, though other behavioral health related associations and organizations are mentioned freely.

I have been responding to as many emails and phone calls as I can with some of our AMHCA members calling for some explicit act of contrition on the part of ACA. I have not had a single item of correspondence supporting the views presented in the article. I understand the frustration and share it and the AMHCA CEO and Board of Directors will be asking ACA leadership how they propose to resolve this issue.

I have also had some members asking why they should continue their membership with ACA, but in my view that’s a personal decision and not one I can address. The best advice I can offer on this matter is for existing ACA members to contact ACA and discuss their concerns with them directly. I can say that AMHCA is still and always has been the only organization that is 100 percent dedicated to supporting (and understanding) clinical mental health counselors; who we are and what we do.

We know how academically prepared, skilled, and qualified CMHC’s are.

We know CMHC’s offer critical services to the communities and populations you serve, and that includes those with severe mental health issues.

We also realize that it’s important to educate the public as to what we have to offer. In that respect, sadly we view the Real Simple article as a missed opportunity.

The executive director/CEO and members of the AMHCA board of directors take this issue very seriously. We will not let it drop, and we will continue to serve you, our members as you deserve to be served; with dignity and respect for all that you know, and all that you do.

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19 days ago

Al,

I see this very differently.  David Kaplan and ACA just gave AMHCA a huge gift.  They gave a public definition of their vision of the counseling profession.  Everyone that works in any kind of clinical setting recognizes the disconnect between that vision and what they actually do on a daily basis.  This gives AMHCA an opportunity to differentiate itself from ACA based on its own vision of the profession as clinical mental health counselors.

If AMHCA wants to grow its membership and gain a stronger, more relevant voice it needs to be able to  communicate a succinct and cogent vision the profession desires to rally around.  AMHCA may not get another chance to draw such a clear distinction for a long time. 

Tony Onorato

19 days ago

The quotes made by Dr. Kaplan and related themes in the article are quite unfortunate indeed. But, they are not necessarily surprising. David’s response does reflect the literal interpretation of the 20/20 definition, which is very imprecise and, when applied, makes it difficult to differentiate professional counseling/CMHC from (for example) coaching. They are reaping what they have sown. I hope they grasp how we are put down and negatively affected by their actions.

 In so many ways,  the ACA seems more concerned about consolidating professional identity under its umbrella than positioning the profession in the marketplace and public policy (e.g., Medicare legislation). While the implications of the 20/20 definition may be more palatable to our non-clinical cousins in the broader profession of counseling, it fails to highlight the breadth and depth of our expertise as a specialization.

To me, in failing to even mention CMHCs or AMHCA, David committed a major sin of omission. And as such, confession to AMHCA and the many offended CMHCs by the ACA leaders might be good for the profession. 

Thanks so much, Alan, for responding to this concern.