American Mental Health Counselors Association
The only organization working exclusively for the mental health counseling profession

New Army Directive Authorizes Counselor Independent Practice/Army Hiring More Counselors 08/19/11

Washington, DC – August 19, 2011 – The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), American Counseling Association (ACA), and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) are pleased to announce that on July 26, 2011, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh signed Army Directive 2011-09, Employment of Licensed Professional Counselors as Fully Functioning Army Substance Abuse Program Practitioners. This directive authorizes "the Army Substance Abuse Program to employ licensed professional counselors and licensed mental health counselors as independent practitioners with a well-defined scope of practice."

The directive also establishes credentialing and privileging standards for licensed counselors who seek employment through the Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP). The criteria include:
  • Successful completion of a master's degree in counseling from a regionally accredited college or university that has its counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (Counselors who are already employed with ASAP or entered the application process for an ASAP counseling position prior to the effective date of the directive do not have to meet the accreditation requirement.)
  • Possession of a state license as a professional counselor or mental health counselor
  • Achievement of the highest clinical level offered by their state licensure board
  • Passage of the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination
The directive became effective upon signature by the Secretary of the Army on July 26, 2011.

We have been told that the directive is a temporary policy that allows counselors to practice independently until the TRICARE regulations are completed as directed by the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 111-383).

You may recall that the TRICARE regulations were due out by June 20, 2011, but the deadline was missed and we were told that it may be another six months or more. There is no requirement that the final TRICARE regulations establish the same criteria as this directive. NBCC, ACA, and AMHCA continue to urge the Department of Defense to adopt broad TRICARE regulations that recognize all qualified professional counselors.

Qualifying counselors who are interested in ASAP positions should act quickly. The Army is in dire need of more counselors and recently launched a national hiring initiative described here: The job announcements reference social workers and psychologists, but we have confirmed with ASAP leadership that these positions are available to professional counselors.

ASAP vacancies are posted here for interested counselors:

Our organizations are pleased with this step forward, but continue to encourage recognition of all qualified professional counselors. We welcome counselors to report back on any challenges or successes they encounter resulting from this new policy or employment opportunities. Contact James K. Finley, AMHCA Director of Public Policy, at 800-326-2642 X-105, or