Counseling is one of those terms that is applied across numerous mental health careers, encompassing everything from one-on-one therapy sessions, to group discussions, to those who work in schools and clinical settings helping children, parents, and individuals solve problems they can’t solve on their own.
It’s one of the most diverse occupations in today’s job marketplace, which is why individuals wanting variety, challenge, and ample opportunities enter the profession.
Because of its diversity, however, those who practice the art of counseling – or counselors – are typically hard to categorize. And it’s often hard for the public to distinguish the difference between counseling-based professionals. After all, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors are all professionals that provide some type of counseling services.
How does counseling differ among professionals and how do those who simply call themselves “counselors” distinguish themselves? In other words, what distinguishes the counseling practices from one psychology professional to the next?
The counseling field of Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) is one of the most marketable and practical ways to enter the counseling field. Those holding master’s degrees in psychology are eligible to become licensed to become what most refer to as professional counselors, or LPCs.
The American Counseling Association (ACA) website defines professional counseling as:
The application of mental health, psychological, or human development principles, through cognitive, affective, behavioral or systematic intervention strategies, that address wellness, personal growth, or career development, as well as pathology.
These counseling professionals differ from clinical or counseling psychologists who hold either a PhD or PsyD, having different licensing and certification requirements. However, some of the same services provided by LPCs overlap with the services provided by clinical psychologists.
Counseling positions overlap
According to the article “The Role of the Professional Counselor in the 21st Century” by Michael K. Altekruse, Ed.D, Northern Kentucky University and colleagues, mental health professionals overlap in their counseling services.
Licensed Professional Counselors
The practice of professional counseling includes helping clients with:
- Personal growth
- Decision making
- Stress management
- Career development
- School counseling
- Addiction and substance abuse counseling
- Prevention of mental health issues or self-care
- Family counseling
- Marital and relationship counseling
- Diagnosis of mental health disorders
- Treatment modalities for mental health disorders
“Historically, the term has been employed generically across mental health disciplines to describe a particular process. In general, counseling refers to a voluntary and confidential process which takes place in the context of a professional relationship, whereby individuals, groups of individuals, or members of a family attempt to gain an understanding of self and others to effectively solve problems and resolve conflicts in their daily lives. Coming from this process-based understanding comes the term counselor that is most often associated with and, therefore, is used to describe the individual who provides counseling services, ” writes Altekruse and coauthors.
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