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Professional Identity of Counselors
1. How do you respond when your friends and relatives ask you what you are studying
in graduate school?
Points instructors may want to make:
Defining counseling as a profession that is similar to another profession, such as
psychology or social work, is not helpful in educating the public about the profession
of counseling…or in helping counselors establish our unique professional identity.
It would be best to explain that you are earning a master’s degree in counseling,
which leads to a professional degree that allows graduates to provide professional
counseling and mental health services to the public.
It would also be appropriate to explain the wellness orientation of counselors which is
described below under question 2.
2. How do you think the wellness model of mental health espoused by counselors is
different from the illness model or medical model of mental health?
Points instructors may want to make:
In the illness or medical model of mental health, the first thing a mental health
professional does is diagnose a client’s mental or emotional disorder. Once the
disorder has been treated successfully, the client is discharged until another disorder
appears. Then the client returns to the professional again for treatment.
The wellness model of mental health is founded on the following beliefs:
o The best perspective for assisting individuals in resolving their emotional and
personal issues and problems is the wellness model of mental health.
o Most of the issues and problems individuals face in life are developmental in
nature, and understanding the dynamics of human growth and development is
essential to success as a helper.
o Prevention and early intervention are far superior to remediation in dealing with
personal and emotional problems.
o The goal of counseling is to empower individuals to resolve their own problems
independently of mental health professionals and to teach them to identify and
resolve problems autonomously in the future.
3. What are some of the major challenges facing the counseling profession today?
Points instructors may want to make:
Fragmenting into separate groups along the lines of specialties, instead of working
toward public recognition as one unified profession of counseling.
Working toward standardization of licensure requirements and school counselor
certification requirements across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and
possessions of the United States.
Ensuring that other mental health professional groups do not interfere with counselors
diagnosing and treating mental and emotional disorders or limit the testing practices
Establishing job classifications in state governments and at the federal level for
Title: Counselor Professional Identity in the 21st Century
Goal: To understand contemporary issues facing the profession.
Procedures: Convene a class forum concerning the current state of the profession of
counseling and challenges to the profession in the 21st century. Have students discuss
measures they personally can take to promote the counseling profession. Also have
students discuss what they would like to see happen in the profession in the short
term (10 years) and the long term (25-50 years).
Questions: What role can students play in the professionalization of counseling?
What do you believe to be the major obstacles facing the counseling profession in the 21st
century? Discussion topics may include problems with managed care, supervision provided by
professionals other than counselors (e.g., social workers, psychologists), and non-uniformity of
state laws concerning licensure and supervision requirements, or other problems.
Point/Counterpoint (Debate) Topics
Title: Is counseling a profession?
Goal: To consider the criteria for being considered a profession and to compare the
status of counseling to those criteria.
Procedures: Assign (or all Question for Self-Reflection/Journaling
Allow students to volunteer) 2 groups of students (preferably 3-5 students in each) to
each take one of the positions described below and prepare a 5-minute argument in
favor of that position. Have each group present its argument. Allow the groups to
confer for 2 minutes and then have each group present its rebuttal to the other group’s
argument. Have the class members who served as the audience vote for which side
was most persuasive.
Point: Counseling should be considered to be a bona fide profession.
Counterpoint: Counseling should still be considered to be a semi-profession.
Title: Is counseling truly a unique mental health profession that should have its own
Goal: To consider the differences and similarities between counseling and other,
related mental health professions.
Point: The counseling profession is unique and distinctly different from other mental
health professions; therefore, counselors should have their own specific licensure
Counterpoint: There are more similarities than differences between counseling and
other mental health professions and it would be more efficient and less
confusing for consumers if there were just one state license as a “mental
Outside Class Activity
Title: Becoming a licensed professional counselor, becoming a national certified counselor, obtaining
liability insurance, and joining ACA.
Goal: To begin taking the steps necessary to develop the identity of counselor.
Procedures: Ask students to visit the web site of their state licensure board to determine the procedures necessary to
become licensed or certified as a counselor in the state. Have students present a plan to acquire the
credential (how much supervised experience, who can supervise, what type of setting allows for hours
toward licensure, how to register and study for the licensure test). Have students visit the web site of
the National Board for Certified Counselors to learn about the National Certified Counselor credential.
Have students present a plan concerning the steps they must take to acquire the credential. Have
students visit the ACA web site and summarize the steps needed to become a member. Also have
students obtain information regarding the purchase of ACA professional liability insurance, both in
their status as practicum or internship students, and as working professional counselors after they
complete their degrees.
Question for Self-Reflection/Journaling
Question: What is my responsibility to advocate for my profession, and what are some actions I
will take, both
now and when I am a counseling practitioner, to fulfill that responsibility?
Mike is a newly hired counselor at your agency. He comes highly recommended and is an
LPC. After talking briefly with Mike you find out that he graduated from a master’s degree
program in clinical psychology and was “grandparented” as an LPC. You also discover that his
past clinical supervision has been with a licensed social worker.
Case Study Discussion
i. What issues are present that might possibly affect Mike’s identity and role as a counselor?
ii. How might Mike’s supervisor and co-workers help Mike develop a strong identity as a
Short Paper or Oral Class Presentation Topics
1. Present on the American Counseling Association and the specialty areas within the
association (e.g., ACES, ASCA, AMHCA). Have students discuss the advantages of being
a member of ACA and one or more specialty divisions. Why is becoming a member of
professional counseling associations important for one’s identity as a counselor?
2. Have students interview counselors and other mental health professionals in the community
or at their practicum site or a school or agency concerning their knowledge about the
differences among the various mental health professionals. Have students present their
results in class. Ask students to review current legislation issues in your state concerning the
counseling profession (e.g., third party reimbursement legislation, privileged communication,
funding of elementary school counselors, etc.). The state counseling association web site
will have information available on state legislative initiatives. Have students discuss what
they personally can do to get involved in the advancement of the profession.