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The President's Perspective
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By Gray Otis, PhD, LPC, CCMHC
AMHCA President, 2011–2012

How Does the DCMHS Matter for You and Our Profession?

Are you a Diplomate and Clinical Mental Health Specialist (DCMHS)? Since AMHCA just announced that clinical mental health counselors can now apply, the answer is “no.” However, many of our members already meet all of the qualifications to become an AMHCA Diplomate—all they need to do is apply. Why should this matter to you?

Two years ago, AMHCA’s leadership identified the need to recognize advanced-practice clinicians. Additionally, there was a growing demand for specialists in the profession—individuals who were especially skilled in treating specific disorders or populations. Therefore, AMHCA’s board of directors proposed a new approach to distinguish clinical mental health counselors who:

  1. Demonstrated advanced clinical counseling proficiency, beyond the level of full state licensing, which is substantiated through certification and experience, and

  2. Demonstrated expertise in one or more of the following specializations:
    • Child and Adolescent Counseling 
    • Couples Counseling 
    • Developmental Disability Counseling 
    • Family Counseling 
    • Geriatric Counseling 
    • Substance Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders 
    • Trauma Counseling

A Growing Demand for High-Level Training and Abilities

Increasingly, both the public and insurance providers look for qualified clinical mental health counselors who have acquired cutting-edge training and clinical abilities. Advanced practice clinical counselors with specialist skills are in growing demand. The AMHCA Diplomate will not only enhance the position of distinguished clinical mental health counselors but also will increase the prominence of our profession.

For example, my friend Lee Anne completed her requirements for full licensure in the two years following graduation, and during that time she became specially trained in trauma treatment. It was not long before she started to get referrals from mental health therapists with clients suffering from traumatic experiences. As her reputation grew, Lee Anne received more and more referrals for children and adolescents with trauma. Most of her practice focused on effectively helping them so that they could continue to grow and mature.

Lee Anne is now recognized as a highly skilled clinical mental health counselor. Needless to say, she has a caseload full of referrals.

Lee Anne already meets all of the requirements to become an AMHCA DCMHS. The DCMHS would not only recognize practice as a highly effective clinical mental health counselor but would also acknowledge her skills as an advanced trauma specialist working with children. In applying to insurance panels, she would have added documented qualifications attesting to her abilities and proven success. As other professionals and the public inquire about her capacity to help individuals heal from trauma, she would also be able to reference her award certificate and acknowledged proficiency.

What Does the DCMHS Mean for the Profession?

We want the public and government officials to know that clinical mental health counselors are among the best-trained and qualified psychotherapists. We get results. Specialized experience is becoming ever more important as individuals and families want to know that their investment in counseling in terms of both time and money will make a real difference in their lives. 

Word-of-mouth publicity is perhaps the most effective promotion for each of us. Those with the DCMHS provide added reassurance that our profession has achieved greater endorsement in the field of psychotherapy. Added referrals, greater public recognition, and increased awareness by other professionals all increase the standing of our profession as well as our individual professional stature.

Do You Qualify?

If you are wondering if you qualify, here is a brief overview of requirements:

  • Fully licensed a minimum of two years

  • Completed 60 hour master’s degree program or four or more years of counseling

  • Meet at least two of the advanced clinical experience requirements:
    • Three years of additional experience (five or seven total)—OR
    • Complete CCMHC certification—OR
    • Complete regionally accredited doctoral degree—OR
    • Teach at least six post-graduate classes—OR
    • Serve as a supervisor for two years—OR
    • Document other professional accomplishments
  • Fulfill the requirements of a specialist:
    • 45 hours of training, including CE training in a specialized area (or nine semester hours)
    • 100 hours of applied specialist counseling experience
    • 10 hours of supervision by a specialist (this requirement may be waived before 1/1/2016)

As you can see, a great many clinical mental health counselors either have already met these requirements, or will do so as a natural course of their professional development. 

Whether you are seasoned clinical mental health counselor or just starting out as a 
student, I hope each of you will consider the importance of becoming an AMHCA Diplomate and Clinical Mental Health Specialist. It is an opportunity that no other association affords its members, and it is opportunity that is open to each of us.

Watch for the application opening announcement soon.