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History Of The Field

Mental Health Counselors have a lot in

common with Social workers and Psychologists, but Mental Health Counseling has its own history, development and

identity as a profession. Counseling originally started as vocational guidance in response to the Industrial Revolution

and social reform movement in the 1800s. After World War II there was a desperate need for counselors and

psychologists to help the government select and train specialists for military and industrial work placements. With

soldiers returning home and seeking vocational counseling, it quickly became apparent that career counseling could

not be done without addressing PTSD and other mental health conditions attributed to wartime exposure. The United

States Veterans Administration (VA) recognized the need for professional providers and funded the training of


In 1952, The American Personnel and Guidance Association was created as an attempt to unite and provide

counselors, who were now integrating mental health & vocational counseling, with a professional association.

By the mid-1970s increasing numbers of counselors found employment in a variety of

community and non-school settings. Meanwhile, the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA) seemed
predominantly to focus on counseling within school or academic settings, therefore not all community and agency

counselors felt represented. This is when the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) was

founded. While the American Psychological Association (APA) supported doctoral-level training, and APGA continued

as an association for school counselors, vocational counselors, college student development people, and

rehabilitation counselors, AMHCA applied to mental health counselors across all settings. People who were

community counselors, agency counselors, and so forth, quickly latched onto the title mental health counselor and

the idea that a unique professional group had been formed to meet their needs.

In 1976, the American Mental Health Counseling Association (AMHCA), sought out to define and promote the

professional identity of mental health counselors. Without credentialing, licensure, or education and training

standards, or other marks of a clinical profession, these early mental health counselors worked alongside social

workers and psychologists in the developing community mental health service system as paraprofessionals or

allied health professionals despite the fact that they held Masters or Doctoral degrees. By 1979, the early founders

of AMHCA had organized four key mechanisms for defining the new clinical professional specialty: 1) identifying a

definition of mental health counseling; 2) setting standards for education and training, clinical practice, and a code of

professional ethics; 3) creating a national credentialing system and 4) starting a professional journal which included

research and clinical practice content. These mechanisms have significantly contributed to the professional

development of clinical mental health counseling and merit further explication.

Today, with licensure laws in all 50 states, AMHCA seeks to enhance the practice of clinical mental health counseling

and to promote standards for clinical education and clinical practice which anticipate the future roles of clinical mental

health counselors within the broader health care system. As a professional association, AMHCA affiliated with APGA

(a precursor to the American Counseling Association [ACA]) as a division in 1978; in 1998, AMHCA became a

separate not-for profit organization, but retained its status as a division of ACA.

Source: https://www.bumc.bu.edu/mhbm/about-us/history-of-the-field/