April is Counseling Awareness Month! A series of informative pieces will be posted throughout the month of April. 

What is professional counseling?

In the state of Florida, mental health counselors (or professional counselors) work together with clients to identify concerns and goals, and work toward potential solutions. Counselors use a variety of techniques to help clients achieve their goals, which can range from affecting behavioral change, building coping skills, increasing effective communication skills, lessening stress and anxiety, addressing substance use, increasing self-awareness or self-management, and/or decreasing mental health difficulties (although, this list is not inclusive). While providing counseling services, counselors abide by applicable laws and a strict code of ethics to ensure appropriate professional and ethical care is given. 

How is mental health counseling different than other professions?

Mental health counseling is a supportive, dynamic, strengths-based discipline that draws upon a history of psychological theory and knowledge; this theory and knowledge is used to assist individuals who present a wide array of mental health concerns. Counselors conceptualize client cases in a holistic fashion, taking into account a variety of factors that may influence client concerns. Most commonly, counselors work from a wellness model (positively influencing imbalances in overall well-being) versus a medical or disease model (treating a specific abnormal condition).

Many counselors practice as generalists, assisting clients with a wide variety of presenting concerns. In addition to general practice, some counselors pursue specialization in certain areas, such as addiction, eating disorders, trauma, etc.

What type of training do mental health counselors receive?

To become a licensed mental health counselor in the state of Florida, individuals must have obtained a master’s degree or higher in a counseling-related field. Counselors must meet a variety of educational and clinical requirements to obtain full licensure in the state of Florida, and must maintain licensure requirements in order to continue practicing counseling in the state of Florida.

Do mental health counselors give diagnoses or prescribe medications?

Mental health counselors may diagnose mental health disorders. At Stetson University’s Counseling Center, however, diagnoses are not given so as to avoid stigma, although client concerns may be conceptualized in a diagnostic manner for treatment purposes. In the state of Florida, mental health counselors are not permitted to prescribe medications; however, some states are moving toward granting counselors the ability to do so after additional training and certifications are obtained.

For further information, visit the American Counseling Association (ACA) and/or Stetson University Counseling Center Web sites.