What is a clinical mental health counselor?
Clinical mental health counseling is a distinct profession with national standards for education, training and clinical practice. Clinical mental health counselors are highly-skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy. They combine traditional psychotherapy with a practical, problem-solving approach that creates a dynamic and efficient path for change and problem resolution.
Clinical mental health counselors offer a full range of services, including:
- Assessment and diagnosis
- Treatment planning and utilization review
- Brief and solution-focused therapy
- Alcoholism and substance abuse treatment
- Psychoeducational and prevention programs
- Crisis Management
In today's managed care environment, clinical mental health counselors are uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of providing high quality care in a cost-effective manner. CMHCs have a foundational skillset that is distinct from those of other behavioral health disciplines. Their training in addressing the needs of the whole person and in wellness and prevention makes them well-situated to lead the effort in integrating health care.
Graduate education and clinical training prepare clinical mental health counselors to provide a full range of services for individuals, couples, families, adolescents and children. The core areas of mental health education programs approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) include:
- Diagnosis and psychopathology
- Psychological testing and assessment
- Professional orientation
- Research and program evaluation
- Group counseling
- Human growth and development
- Counseling theory
- Social and cultural foundations
- Lifestyle and career development
- Supervised practicum and internship
Licensure requirements for clinical mental health counselors are equivalent to those for clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists, two other disciplines that require a master's degree for independent status.
A licensed clinical mental health counselor has met or exceeded the following professional qualifications:
- Earned a master's degree in counseling or a closely related mental health discipline;
- Completed a minimum of two years post-master's clinical work under the supervision of a licensed or certified mental health professional; and
- Passed a state-developed or national licensure or certification examination.