The Professional Identity of a Mental Health Counselor


The professional identity of a mental health counselor is extremely important. When it comes to finding your professional identity, it is important to weigh out all options to make sure that the profession that is chosen, is what one would see themselves doing for a long time. It is more so of asking oneself if they feel they qualify for the career that they are about to take on. This paper will explain how to become an effective professional counselor, the roles and characteristics of the counseling professional, the different counseling associations, what is required to attain a state license and certification, how to assess your own professional development, and the rise of technology and how it may affect your clinical practice.

Key Philosophies of the Counseling Professional

The key philosophies of the counseling profession are wellness, resilience, and prevention. Wellness can be defined as a dynamic state of physical, mental, and social well-being; Resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands; Prevention is behavioral biological, or social interventions intended to reduce the risk of disorders, diseases, or social problems for both individuals and entire populations(2009 by the American Psychological Association).

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One of the struggles in making the case for a wellness effort among counselors is that often counselors do not practice what they preach (as cited in O’Halloran & Linton, 2000).

Roles and Characteristics of an Effective Professional Counselor

The roles and characteristics of a professional counselor will vary depending on the type of counselor a person may want to become.

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The two professional counselors that will be discussed are school counselors and mental health counselors. The characteristics of a professional school counselor are as follows, must have a master’s degree in school counseling, they must meet the state licensure and certification requirements, and like all jobs, they must abide by the rules of the state that they are employed in. School counselors have many roles when it comes to working with students. Sometimes the counselors can become a students go to person if they feel like they can’t talk to anybody else. School counselors help students improve and push students to greater successes.

School counselors are qualified to address the developmental needs of all students through a comprehensive school counseling program addressing the academic, career and personal/social development of all students (2014 American School Counselor Association). The characteristics and roles of a mental health counselor are they are highly-skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy (2013 American Mental Health Counselors Association). Mental health counselors can provide various services, such as psychotherapy, assessment and diagnosis, alcoholism and substance abuse treatment, and treatment planning and utilization review just to name a few.

Professional Counseling Associations

The two professional counseling associations are American Mental Health Counselors Associations (AMHCA) and American Counseling Association (ACA). AMCHA, their mission is to enhance the profession of clinical mental health counseling through licensing, advocacy, education and professional development (2013 American Mental Health Counselors Association). ACA’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity (2014, American Counseling Association).

These two associations both are based on counseling. AMCHA is only for mental health counseling and ACA represents numerous professional counselors. The ACA is a not-for-profit, professional and educational organization that is dedicated to the growth and enhancement of the counseling profession (2014, American Counseling Association). Both of these associations has the option to become a member of their associations. They both provide information on how to contact them, they have several options that are the same such as, careers and continuing your education. These two associations can help in a counselor’s professional development by providing the information that students may need to further their education.

State Licensure and Certification Requirements

It is required for all counselors to obtain a license and they must be certified in order to practice. There are several rules and guidelines that are to be followed depending on the state that the counselor is planning to practice in. In Georgia, the rules and regulations are not as complicated as they would be if one was to become a psychologist and wanted to practice. Simply put, the basic requirements to achieve a license and become officially certified, is to earn a master’s degree from a school that is accredited and recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation, the program that the aspiring counselor choose must include no less than six courses focusing on psychotherapy or counseling.

Here are a few of the courses that are required to be taken: human growth and development, psychopathology, career and lifestyle development, group dynamics and group psychotherapy, individual appraisal, and professional orientation(2011-2014 There are other courses that can be taken to count towards becoming a licensed counselor, but those are just to name a few. One that is anticipating on becoming a licensed counselor must also complete an internship of at least 300 hours. This internship must be supervised and the aspiring counselor must practice with supervision in order to achieve licensure as a professional counselor. In order to become licensed in Georgia, a test called the National Counselors Examination must be taken. Being that Georgia uses the computer version of the test, it can be taken on several sites and is also offered two weeks out of each month.

The course that this learner is currently enrolled in is very much similar to one of the courses listed above, human growth and development. This course also ties into the career and lifestyle development content that is required. Another content that is required, research methods and research statistics, which was not stated above, was obtained during the learners undergraduate studies. The planned coursework is in line for the learner to obtain a license and certification after graduate school. Once you have become licensed there are still requirements to maintain the license. It is required to complete 35 hours of ongoing education every two years.

Professional Identity

Professional development is a temporal process of transformation that can be described in terms such as progress versus regress, evolution versus devolution, and/or improvement versus decline’ (as cited in Orlinsky et al., 1999, p. 128). The key areas that I would look at would be making sure to have a good business background, the knowledge to attain the required information that is needed to become a professional counselor, and also to be able to communicate with any individual that I may encounter.

These areas influence my current professional development by allowing me to work on my challenges of communicating more effectively, learning more of what is needed to know to become a professional counselor, and to be able to handle certain situations that I may be faced with. In the future, I will be more advanced to be able to help my clients by having obtained the knowledge that is required to become a professional counselor and by conquering my current challenges. The Rise of Technology in Modern Society

The rise of technology is at an all-time high and the only way that it can go is up. There are so many advancements when it comes to technology. Technology might affect my clinical practice by it not being as hands on as it used to be. Being that it is the 21st century, it is more common to use technology over hands-on. The younger generations may prefer using computers or the latest gadgets, whereas the older generations are used to having a more hands-on experience. Technology can help in creating innovative solutions because things can be done quickly and more effectively. The trial and error count may decrease if everything was done by computer. Storing information in files can become a hassle because things can become misplaced or possibly end up the wrong clients file, whereas storing things on a computer can simplify things and everything the counselor is looking for can be all in one file on their computer.


All in all, it takes a lot to become a professional counselor. Finding oneself can either make or break a person. The similarities and differences between a school counselor and a mental health counselor are not far from each other but they do require different things. The requirements to obtain a state licensure and certification to become a mental health counselor requires diligence and patience, but once the license is received, it will be a start of a new career for us all. Technology is always improving daily and will get better as the years go by.


AMHCA Is a Growing Community of 7,000 Clinical Mental Health Counselors. (n.d.). American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA). Retrieved July 27, 2014, from APA college dictionary of psychology. (2009). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Grafanaki, S. GUEST EDITORIAL: ‘Counsellors in training’: Journeys of professional transformation. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 152-152. . (n.d.). . Retrieved July 27, 2014, from O’Halloran, T. M., & Linton, J. M. (2000). Stress on the job: Self-care resources for counselors. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 22(4), 354. Requirements for Counselor Licensure in Georgia. (n.d.). Counselor License in Georgia. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from Spotlight. (n.d.). American Counseling Association Online education resources CE ethics publications careers conferences. Retrieved July 27, 2014, from

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The Professional Identity of a Mental Health Counselor. (2016, Apr 24). Retrieved from

The Professional Identity of a Mental Health Counselor

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