There are a number of professional disciplines that train students to help individuals, couples, and families who are struggling with mental health problems. Such disciplines include, but are not limited to, counseling, social work, psychology, psychiatry, and marriage and family therapy. To some extent, all members of these professional groups are trained to use talk therapy as one means of helping people work through personal problems. Beyond this similarity, there are also a number of important differences. These professional disciplines can differ a great deal in their training and licensure requirements, philosophical orientations to helping, and specific areas of expertise. On a surface level, it can be very confusing to differentiate one of these talk therapists from the next.
How does clinical mental health counseling stand out from the other helping professions? The short answer is that clinical mental health counseling is best defined by a professional orientation that emphasizes both treatment and what is commonly referred to as developmental counseling. First, with regards to treatment, clinical mental health counselors are specifically trained to assess, diagnose, and provide treatment services to individuals who are experiencing various mental disorders. As treatment providers, they provide individual and group counseling, develop evidence-based treatment plans, and complete diagnostic assessments. Second, and just as important, clinical mental health counselors also operate from a developmental counseling framework that recognizes that individuals and families often face tough challenges across the lifespan, such as parenting teenagers, adjusting to college, and caring for elderly parents. Many of the people who are struggling with these issues are not necessarily experiencing a diagnosable mental disorder. Yet, clinical mental health counselors can still often use their clinical skills to help individuals and families successfully navigate many of these challenging life situations. In short, a degree in clinical mental health counseling prepares one to work effectively with people who are experiencing diagnosable mental health disorders AND people who are struggling with more ordinary problems in living.
Because of the comprehensive focus of their training, clinical mental health counselors work in a variety of professional settings, such as community mental health centers, college counseling centers, family clinics, alcohol and drug treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals, integrated medical care settings, employee assistance programs, and private practice.
For more information about the unique role of clinical mental health counselors as treatment providers, please check out the website for the American Mental Health Counselors Association.
The 60-semester hour Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program prepares students for counseling positions in various community agencies, such as mental health centers, private counseling agencies, drug treatment centers, centers for counseling the elderly, child protective services, child counseling clinics, family counseling centers, pastoral counseling settings, as well as business and industry. This degree program meets Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana coursework specifications for state licensure as a professional clinical counselor, as well as licensure standards in many other states. Students need to work closely with their respective advisors to determine any additional requirements or course needs related to state licensure requirements.
The program also includes supervised clinical training experiences in a professional setting compatible with the student’s career goals. Clinical training provides an opportunity for students to perform, under supervision, a variety of counseling activities that a professional counselor is expected to perform. Students will be expected to carry professional liability insurance throughout their clinical training.