The aphorism about there being strength in numbers is certainly apropos of membership in professional organizations. With support and advocacy being the most salient features, these organizations offer additional benefits as well. Opportunities for peer networking, for instance, facilitating discourse and professional camaraderie among those who practice the same type of counseling, are among the advantages as are professional development offerings, recent advances in research and trends in counseling techniques. To provide a sampling of the variety of professional organizations for counselors, the following five represent distinctly different counseling arenas.
The world’s largest professional organization for counselors, it represents counselors in all fields of the profession, according to Counselor-License.com. The wealth of resources provided include conferences with educational sessions, the publication of both print and digital professional journals and newsletters, webinars and podcasts as part of its continuing education program, and alerts regarding upcoming legislation pertinent to counselors, among other benefits. Serving as a source of professional support in terms of careers as well, the American Counseling Association provides job listings and a mentoring program. Their Knowledge Center, containing such varied resources as licensure requirements to DSM5 information, augments counselors’ daily practice.
Targeting practitioners who provide clinical mental health counseling, the American Mental Health Counselors Association offers leadership, collaboration, advocacy and education. In addition to promoting standards for the training, credentialing and licensure of clinical mental health counselors, the AMHCA works in conjunction with other professional organizations to advocate more effectively for clinical mental health issues. Research and education are key components of this organization’s efforts, with mental health counseling interventions being a central focus of the research and workshops and conferences, along with professional publications specific to this field, serving as the backbone of its educational endeavors.
A professional organization for counselors whose main thrust is the emotional support of families, the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors offers a combination of international conferences, publications tailored to family counseling matters and techniques along with information on obtaining state licensure as well as international certification. With a highly diverse membership, IAMFC emphasizes a multicultural approach to marriage and family counseling, with communication, assertiveness, conflict resolution and crisis management among an array of methodologies promoted. Overall, this organization’s purpose is to undergird family counselors in their practice and to be a resource to families and married couples currently in crisis.
Representing and supporting counselors whose practice encompasses the academic, social and emotional lives of students as well as offering them guidance in career choices, the American School Counselors Association provides resources, advocacy, professional development and professional assistance. An international organization despite its name, its resource center offers members a plethora of information, from lesson plans to job descriptions, all of it designed to enhance their professional capabilities. Additionally, the ASCA serves as a source of information to school administrators and to parents, apprising them of the role and function of school counselors and the multiple ways in which these professionals benefit students’ lives.
As the name suggests, this organization represents counselors who assist those seeking employment or seeking to change careers. Every aspect of this organization caters to the improvement of employability. From establishing employment guidelines and standards to counselor education and professional development, the NECA focuses on employment counselors and with whom the counselors work. Journals, newsletters and webinars are among the professional enhancements proffered.
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Just as counseling is available in a wide range of fields, so are the organizations representing these professionals. Finding the right one is simply a matter of selecting among those in the target area as well as the ones that offer the professional benefits most advantageous to the individual counselor.