Theory and Practice Submissions to the JMHC: Keeping the "Mental Health" in Mental Health Counseling

Article excerpt

It is an honor to be named as the new associate editor of the Practice and Theory sections of the Journal of Mental Health Counseling (JMHC). In assuming this role, I follow in the steps of the many distinguished associate editors who have influenced the development of this journal, and I thank them for their many contributions.

The Theory and Practice sections of the journal have historically been reviewed by different associate editors, and I will be the first associate editor to serve as the editor for both sections. As theory informs practice, and actual practice impacts and facilitates counseling theory, I believe that these two sections of the journal are intimately related, and I look forward to serving as action editor for all of the manuscripts submitted to these two sections.

Before discussing my thoughts on the theory and practice sections of the journal, I think it is important to acknowledge the recent history of these sections. Alex Hall (2002), in serving as the previous associate editor of the Theory section of JMHC, described her interest in "making audible the voices of the less visible" (p. 199). Hall described the importance of empowering the less visible, especially our youth, and making their voices audible. Bernie Jesiolowski (2005), the past associate editor of the Practice section emphasized the importance of understanding the multiple contexts in which mental health counselors function, as well as addressing "real world" practice issues when submitting to the Practice section. In the following sections I will build upon my predecessors' visions and will describe the importance of potential authors not losing sight of the "mental health" inherent in the term mental health counseling.

MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2001) describes mental health as being more than justan absence of disease or infirmity, but rather, "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being" (paragraph 6). At the root of this definition is the idea that all people have mental health needs--it is not just people who have diagnosable mental disorders who are in need of mental health counseling. The WHO also describes the importance of the relationship between mental, physical and social health, and describes mental health promotion as efforts aimed at individual, community, and societal-level change.

Associated to these ideas, the American Mental Health Counseling Association's (AMHCA) ethical codes indicate that mental health counselors are to encourage the growth and development of the clients they counsel (Preamble and Section A, Introduction; AMHCA, 2000, 1.A.1.). An assumption of this perspective is the idea that people have the capacity to develop and grow, and that mental health counselors can help people to achieve optimal development.

Related to the issue of growth and development, mental health counselors also aim to facilitate client wellness (Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2001), rather than simply eliminate pathology. For instance, within the counseling process, mental health counselors identify clients' strengths, and build upon these strengths.

In a time when a focus on psychopathology and mental disorders is required for third-party reimbursement (Eriksen & Kress, 2005), it is increasingly possible that we may lose our identity as mental health counselors; mental health professionals who focus on facilitating human growth and development, conceptualize peoples' situations from multiple perspectives, and use varied contextually sensitive theories and practice interventions in helping people to live healthy, full lives. …