Counselor Identity - A National Imperative

By Spurgeon, Shawn L. | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview
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Counselor Identity - A National Imperative


Spurgeon, Shawn L., Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


The author presents evidence that supports Professional Counseling as a national, professional organization. The history of the profession will be briefly delineated followed by the component parts of professional identity relevant for professional counselors. The future challenges for the counseling profession will be discussed and implications for future articulation of the national counselor identity will be considered.

The search for an identity among the human service professions has been a rallying point for Professional Counselors and Counselor Educators (Hanna & Bemak, 1997). This search includes an understanding of the critical issues that help make the profession similar to and different from other professions. Some researchers believe that the counseling profession has established itself as a national profession (Feit & Lloyd, 1990; Ritchie, 1990); however, some researchers believe that the development of a professional identity remains one of the major struggles for the profession (Nelson & Jackson, 2003; Remley & Herlihy, 2010).

The essence of this paper is to argue for the relevance of a professional identity for the counseling profession. The author will present evidence that supports the development and establishment of a professional identity for the counseling profession. Also, information will be provided that relates to the challenges that come with the establishment of this identity as well as the implications for future work with counselors- in-training and with educators who are becoming increasingly aware of the significance of the profession.

Professional Counseling Defined

Counselors today are continually bombarded with questions about what they do and how they define themselves, In 2008, the American Counseling Association adopted a definition that focused on the counseling process and that incorporated mental health, psychological, and human development principles (Remley & Herlihy, 2010, p.51)

Consensus definition of Professional Counseling.

Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.

This definition serves as the impetus for the development of a broader understanding of the counseling profession. The American Counseling Association believes that the essence of the profession is the strengthening of its identity. As a result of this understanding, ACA participated in 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling with 30 other association and organizations (American Counseling Association).

20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling. Trie 20/20 conference was conceptualized as an avenue through which the counseling profession could articulate its understanding of its accomplishments and set a standard for future professional counselors (American Counseling Association, 2009). In response to its approaching 1 00th anniversary, individuals within the counseling profession believed that a unified counselor identity was important and served multiple benefits for professional counselors. As such, representatives met over a 3-year span to identify where the counseling profession wants to be in the year 2020 and to articulate the things it would need to do to get there. As a result of this meeting, seven essential principles were identified as important for develop- ing a long-term goal and towards unity and professionalism. The principles are listed in Table 1 .

This meeting also provided delegates an opportunity to clarify the roles and functions of professional counselors by developing a concrete definition for the counseling profession. This definition serves as a framework for helping professional counselors and other human service providers understand the underlying basic function of professional counseling. The representatives believe that this definition, along with the seven principles designed to promote unity, serve as the starting point for increasing the awareness and relevance of the counseling profession.

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