What is a Counselor?



Like that person who does school scheduling?

Or a lawyer? Or a psychologist? A therapist?

In the context of this blog (and me!), a counselor refers to a professional who is a Master's candidate, has a Master's degree, a Doctoral candidate, or has a Doctorate in Counseling. These folks have letters after their names - in the State of Michigan, it's LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor).

Counseling as it is today originated in school and vocational counseling, but it has expanded into other fields. They are trained to provide individual, family, and group therapy, academic advising, vocational counseling, rehabilitation counseling, psychiatric diagnosis, and mental health education, the degrees of which depending on the Counselor's specialty. You can find these folks running around school systems, college advising offices, academia, public mental health and social welfare agencies, hospitals, corporations, and private therapy practices - again, depending on the specialty. Mental health counseling (e.g. therapy, which can range from Acceptance and Commitment to Transference-Focused Psychotherapy - sorry, nothing starts with the letter 'Z' here) provided by a Counselor is a reimbursable service through most insurance companies, just like mental health services provided by a Social Worker or Psychologist.

Counselors are known for an interest in providing services to those with general life concerns and those with psychiatric diagnoses, with an emphasis on preventing emotional difficulty in addition to providing treatment. We recognize the importance of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and spirituality in the counseling relationship and society as a whole - these issues are continually studied by counselors in academia and are addressed in all aspects of counselor training.

A lot of people don't know what a Counselor is outside of those who work in schools. There are also people who think Counselors are awesome and, in contrast, those who think their practice should be significantly limited. Managed care has made the differences between the various mental health professions murky. If you are looking for a mental health professional for whatever reason, make sure they have a state license and you like their approach to the profession.

Personally, I like mental health professionals in general and their degree is neither here nor there.