The discipline of mental health has had a long history of challenges and controversies. In the past decade we have seen an active progress in the way mental health professionals have been recognized and clearly identified as a separate discipline from psychiatry or clinical counseling. Moreover, legislations to promote the welfare of mental health counselors have been lobbied for as well as setting up standards for education, training, certification and practice of the profession.
One of the most active proponent for the professionalizing of the mental health discipline is the American Mental Health Counselors Association, the organization have enabled the setting up of a professional organization exclusively for mental health counselors, the setting up of a national certification program for mental health counselors, the accreditation of educational institutions that provide training in mental health education and the setting up of a national system of state licensure (Messina, 1999). The AMHCA have become the primary voice of all mental health professionals in the country and it continues to work for the betterment of the profession and to protect those who are engaged in the counseling profession.
As a mental health student, I realized that it is important to join professional organizations not just for certification or to meet licensing requirements. I believe that professional organizations are like the federal government that oversees the conduct of the profession and sets ethical guidelines and standards of practice much in the same way that the government upholds the constitution.
Becoming a member of a professional organization would give me a clear direction of what my professional responsibilities are and what limitations I need to be aware of, it would also help me delineate the services that I can offer to my clients given the kind of training and education that I have. It also would keep me abreast of the recent developments in the mental health discipline; it provides trainings and workshops, research funding and a stable support group for the mental health counselor.
One of the objectives of the AMHCA (2004) is to work with educational institutions that provide mental health counselor training and to make sure that the curriculum is aligned with the core competencies and skills that a mental health counselor should have even before seeking professional recognition. This is important because it would ensure the standardization of the counselor education and thus makes it possible that all mental health counselors are equipped with the necessary skills to give quality services to their clients.
According to Messina (1999), only a small proportion of educational institutions have been accredited by the organization, in the long run this would mean that few mental health graduates would be qualified to become mental health counselors as required by AMHCA. If fewer counselors seek to be accredited or certified, then the professional integrity of the practitioners will deteriorate. This is an important issue to look into since the kind of services and the quality of the client-counselor relationship is dependent on how well-trained and equipped the counselors are to meet the needs of the client.
We all know that the efficacy of the counselor in helping the client resolve his/her issues is dependent on the counseling plan that counselor draws up for the client. It takes a certain degree of skill and theoretical knowledge to be able to deal with different clients and it is the responsibility of the counselor to always uphold what is best for the client. It is therefore important to come up with a legislation that would require all educational institutions to seek accreditation from the AMHCA (2004) to further the mental health profession.
American Mental Health Counselors Association found at http://www.amhca.org/
Messina, J. (1999). What’s next for the profession of mental health counseling? Journal of
Mental Health Counseling, 21; 3, 285. Retrieved on October 17, 2007 from Academic Premier Search database.
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