Credential FAQ

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Read our Credential FAQs or contact Rebecca Gibson, the Director, Office of Credentialing and Continuing Education, at rgibson@amhca.org

AMHCA Credentialing Certifications FAQ

Those who have previously earned the DCMHS may continue to use the Diplomate and Clinical Mental Health Specialist designation. They do not have to apply for either the new AMHCA Diplomate or the new AMHCA Clinical Mental Health Counseling Specialist (CMHCS) since they already have qualified for these certifications. As in the past, they may apply for more CMHC specializations. If they primarily work in graduate education and/or research, they may apply to become an AMHCA Fellow.

No. The certifications separately recognize distinct qualifications to be 1) an AMHCA Clinical Mental Health Counseling Specialist; 2) an advanced practice, generalist clinician Diplomate; or 3) an advanced educator or researcher Fellow. Because these are independent certifications, they may be earned in any order. An individual does not have to be an AMHCA Specialist to become a Diplomate or a Fellow. However, since members can apply for the Specialist certification after three years of independent practice, AMHCA anticipates that members might apply for it prior to submitting for one or the other two certifications, which require five years of independent practice.

An individual may earn each of the three certficiations. For example, a fully licensed CMHC might decide to become an AMHCA Diplomate after meeting the requirements of this certification. Later, this person may want to specialize in Trauma and complete the post-master's continuing training, supervision, and experience to qualify as an AMHCA Clinical Mental Health Counseling Specialist. After working in the field for some time, this CMHC may earn a doctorate and qualify to teach in a university clinical mental health counseling program. After teaching for a number of years, the individual might decide to apply for the AMHCA Fellow. You can have a Diplomate and Specialist at the same time or a Fellow and Specialist at the same time, but not a Diplomate and Fellow. A Diplomate credential requires 50+% of your professional time to be spent in advanced clinical practice, and a Fellow credential requires 50+% of your professional time to be spent in education and research – therefore it is not possible to hold both at the same time.

Qualified LCMHCs can apply for multiple Advanced Professional Certifications. Applicants can apply for more than one area of specialization as a Clinical Mental Health Counseling Specialist. For example, an LCMHC could apply to become a Specialist in Military Counseling as well as a Specialist in Substance Use and Co-occurring Disorders. This same LCMHC could also apply to become a Diplomate in Advanced Clinical Mental Health Counseling Practice or a Fellow in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Education and Research.

Yes. These are credentialing certifications because an AMHCA independent selection board of LCMHCs rigorously reviews each application and attests that the applicant has met the specified standards. Applicants who meet the standards receive an award certificate.

These new AMHCA credentialing options attest to "Advanced Professional Certification" as a Clinical Mental Health Counseling Specialist, Diplomate, or Fellow. They are in addition to any other certifications and were developed to recognize a high level of continuing advancement in our profession.

The mission of the AMHCA Credential Certification Board is: a) To promote and recognize advanced training and specialization by establishing relevant and contemporary standards for the AMHCA Diplomate, AMHCA Fellow and AMHCA Specialist, as well as forthcoming credentials approved by the AMHCA Board of Directors; b) To assess the applications and qualifications of Clinical Mental Health Counselors who apply for a credential; c) To assure that each candidate recommended to the AMHCA Board of Directors for credential status meets the requirements in post-graduate professional development, advanced clinical practice, ethical conduct, contributions to the profession, and (if applicable) demonstrates excellence in practice in the designated clinical specialty area.

Since 2012, AMHCA has recognized outstanding professional development through the Diplomate and Clinical Mental Health Specialist (DCMHS) program. Over the years, AMHCA saw that some CMHCs gain expertise and prominence by following professional development paths that do not always include specialization in a particular area. To recognize this, the AMHCA board of directors voted in 2018 to expand the DCMHS program beyond recognizing specialists in a specific area. The DCMHS program is now separated into three advanced-level credentialing certifications: Clinical Mental Health Counseling Specialist, Diplomate in Advanced Clinical mental Health Counseling Practice, and Fellow in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Education and Research.

No, a state mental health counselor license is issued to regulate the practice of counseling and protect the public. A state mental health counseling license is issued by and useful only in the jurisdiction where the holder plans to practice. An AMHCA credential/specialty certification signifies that the holder has met the highest standards developed in the clinical mental health counseling profession nationally in addition to having experience and supervision working with certain populations. All holders of AMHCA credentials agree to adhere to the AMHCA Code of Ethics and AMHCA Standards for Clinical Mental Health Counseling as well as standards for clinical mental health practice.

An AMHCA credential or specialty certification is a professional designation and does not take the place of a state license. AMHCA credentials and specialty certifications are used to enhance the state license. It signifies that the holder has additional training, experience, and supervision.

These new AMHCA credentialing options attest to "Advanced Professional Certification" as a Clinical Mental Health Counsleing Specialist, Diplomate, or Fellow. They are in addition to any other certifications and were developed to recognize a high level of continuing advancement in our profession.

You can apply for an AMHCA Credential online at www.amhca.org/career/credential/apply. When you have finished the application and have uploaded all your supporting documentation you will click submit and proceed to with the application fee.

The application for Diplomate and Fellow should take an hour or less. The specialist application takes a few hours as it is required to enter CEs earned.

From the time you apply, your application will go through these steps:
1) Confirmation on AMHCA website once the application is submitted
2) Confirmation by email when application has been assigned to reviewers
3) Confirmation by email that the application has been approved -OR- you will be contacted by a member of the AMHCA Credentialing Certification Board if more information is needed.
This process takes up to 6-8 weeks. 

Currently there is not a renewal process for AMHCA credentials.

Each credential has its own criteria. To learn more and see the specific criteria for each credential go to www.amhca.org/career/credential/apply.

You must be a member to apply for an AMHCA Credential. AMHCA does offer a combined membership+application fee rate for those who are not already members. If you are not a member, join first as a 'Guest' in our system and it will prompt you to pay the non-member rate when you pay your fee.

The number of continuing education hours varies depending on the specific credential you are applying for. To learn more and see the specific criteria for each credential go to www.amhca.org/career/credential/apply.

Yes, as long as the content of the continuing education program is directly related to the practice area of the specialty certification.

Going forward, AMHCA will indicate on all continuing education events that it holds what programs meet the requirements for an AMHCA credential.

AMHCA does not pre-approve any applicants. Please use the reviewers checklist provided to determine your eligibility.