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We Must Advocate for Our Profession! 
By Cheryl D’ La Rotta, RMHCI
Graduate Student Committee Chair

In the aftermath of the numerous mass shootings in the United States in 2012, it is more n the aftermath of the numerous mass shootings in the United States in 2012, it is more important than ever that clinical mental health counselors (CMHCs) develop our professional identity and advocate for social change towards the public’s perception of our field and the stigma associated with mental illness. 

Unfortunately, within the 2009–2012 fiscal periods, there has been a $4.35 billion budget cut in the area of public mental health spending due to the economic downturn, according to a report of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (2012).

This should be a definite “red flag” for all CMHCs and for those individuals who need mental health counseling, particularly following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December.

If budget cuts continue, this could jeopardize the mental health counseling profession, the mentally ill, and society. As CMHCs, it is our responsibility to advocate for our profession by becoming a member of a professional association, defining our personal and professional philosophy of counseling, and changing public perception through social change.

An example of how important it is for CMHCs to define our professional identities comes from my own experience of public perception. As a spouse of a veteran, I have been exposed to the mental health needs of today’s military, including 

Annoucing Our New

Student Facebook Page!

Take a look, post your comments on important issues, and make sure to “like” us and share us with your colleagues.

Our new student Facebook page was completed and launched in December. On behalf of the Graduate Student Committee, I would to thank Graduate Student Committee Chair-Elect April Krowel for her diligence in getting our page set up, as well as those who helped her in the process:

AMHCA Programs and Membership Administrator Renee Kreithen,

AMHCA consultant Peggy Hoffman, and

AMHCA Executive Director & CEO W. Mark Hamilton, PhD.

We hope to hear from all of you soon on our new AMHCA Facebook page!

— Cheryl, GSC Chair

the U.S. Army’s struggle with the high suicide rate within its ranks. I have repeatedly searched the job sites of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Army for mental health counseling positions within the Department of Defense, and I have found that the VA list of job requirements that would normally define a licensed CMHC are coded for a licensed clinical social worker. I can only assume that due to a lack of a shared professional identity among CMHCs, the perceptions of the government and the public are disconnected towards our abilities as counselors.

David Burkholder, PhD, notes in the October 2012 issue of AMHCA’s Journal of Mental Health Counseling that professional identity has been defined as “integrating professional training and personal attributes within the context of a professional community.” 

As CMHCs, how do we integrate both our personal attributes and the professional training into a professional identity expression (PIE)? 

Using the PIE model of Ernest L. Boyer, PhD, from his landmark work, “Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate,” here are some tips:

  • Application: applying the knowledge/training within a counseling environment, such as the counselor/client relationship.
  • Discovery: represents engaging in research, doing self-assessments, reviewing and assessing treatment research, and reporting this information to the professional community.
  • Teaching: educating others, such as educating clients through psychoeducation or training workshops within the community and professional environments.
  • Integration: collaborating with other professionals and integrating knowledge from other disciplines.

Combining these four types of professional behaviors, according to Boyer, can help CMHCs create awareness (conceptualization) of one’s professional identity and the ability to express this identity within various environments/contexts (contextualization), and enable CMHCs to possess an intentional picture of what their PIE will look like.

As CMHCs, we must go out into the world and create awareness in the areas of education, prevention, and wellness through advocacy activities that promote social change. If we don’t advocate for our profession, we will remain in the background while others take our jobs and minimize our profession.