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

  •      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, clinical mental health counselors are uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of providing high-quality care in a cost-effective manner.  Clinical 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 centers.

The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) is the professional membership organization that represents the clinical mental health counseling professions.  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 clinical mental health counselors to provide a 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 

     Group Counseling

     Human growth and development

     Counseling Theory

     Social and cultural foundations

     Lifestyle and career development

     Supervised practicum and internship