Why Use a Counselor?

Mental health counselors are uniquely qualified to provide high quality care that’s more affordable than other practitioners.


  • According to the report, "Mental Health, United States, 2002" published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 100,000 professional counselors are licensed or certified for independent practice in the United States.
  • The majority of national behavioral health managed care companies reimburse mental health counselors for services they provide.
  • The median cost per session for mental health counselors is $85, compared to a median cost of $100 and $145 for psychologists and psychiatrists respectively, according to the October 2000 issue of Psychotherapy Finances.
  • Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia license or certify mental health counselors for private practice.
  • Mental health counselors adhere to a rigorous code of ethics.

Mental health counseling is a distinct profession with national standards for education, training and clinical practice. The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) is the professional membership organization that represents the mental health counseling profession. Clinical membership in AMHCA requires a master's degree in counseling or a closely related mental health field and adherence to AMHCA's National Standards for Clinical Practice.

Graduate education and clinical training prepare mental health counselors to provide a full range of services for individuals, couples, families, adolescents and children. The core areas of mental health programs approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs include:

  • Diagnosis and psychopathology
  • Psychotherapy
  • 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 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 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.

Mental health counselors practice in a variety of settings, including independent practice, community agencies, managed behavioral health care organizations, integrated delivery systems, hospitals, employee assistance programs and substance abuse treatment centers. Mental health counselors are highly skilled professionals who provide a full range of services including:

  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Psychotherapy
  • 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, mental health counselors are uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of providing high quality care in a cost-effective manner. Mental health counselors 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.


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