ERIC Identifier: ED347474
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Richmond, Lee J. - Remley, Theodore P.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Counselor Membership in ACA. ERIC Digest.
Counseling is a relatively new profession. When compared to the three most
established professions in the Western world--medicine, law, and the
clergy--counseling has only recently emerged as a unique profession recognized
by members of our society as different from other similar professions. The last
50 years has witnessed the transformation of counseling from a vague concept or
interest area to a profession, complete with all the rights and responsibilities
After decades of soul searching and political activity, counselors finally
are enjoying the privileges that public recognition as professionals has
bestowed upon them. Once society acknowledges a professional group as holding
specialized skills that can only be evaluated and monitored by others in the
profession, a public trust is implied. The consumers of professional services
depend upon individual members of a profession to practice according to ethical
standards. Consumers also depend upon other members of the profession to monitor
individuals within the profession to ensure they are practicing in an
The public expects professional counselors to be properly educated, aware of
current knowledge in the field, and committed to practicing in a manner that
benefits, and therefore does not harm, the clients they serve. In short, along
with the many privileges recognition as a profession brings, comes a multitude
of responsibilities as well.
Because consumers of professional services are often not able to evaluate the
performance of professional counselors, then counselors themselves must accept
the burden of ensuring their colleagues are adequately educated, current in
their knowledge of the field, and practicing within established ethical
standards (Walz, 1991). Professional societies or associations have been
established as a means of helping professionals respond to their societal
obligations (Herlihy & Golden, 1990).
THE AMERICAN COUNSELING ASSOCIATION
society for counselors is the American Counseling Association (ACA). This
organization is concerned with the practice of professional counseling and the
advancement of the counseling profession. All individuals who offer or supervise
professional counseling services or educate counselors should be ACA members.
The 17 national ACA divisions offer counselors opportunities to receive
publications, attend conferences, and associate with other professional
counselors in similar work settings or who share similar counseling interests.
ACA members must belong to at least one division and most members belong to
ACA has 56 branches with one located in each of the 50 states, the District
of Columbia, Europe, Latin American, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the
Philippines. Membership in a branch is optional. ACA members usually affiliate
with the branch in the state or jurisdiction in which they live or work. Many
professional issues for counselors (including licensure and state job
classification systems) must be addressed at the state level. Branches include
divisions that parallel national divisions and also offer local chapters.
Chapters are made up of members who live close to each other and provide the
opportunity for important local networking.
NECESSITY OF ASSOCIATION MEMBERSHIP
For individuals who
identify themselves as professional counselors, professional association
membership is not an option; it is a necessity. Failure to be an ACA member
isolates counselors and deprives them of access to new information. In addition,
counselors who are not ACA members have not submitted themselves to the
oversight of their professional colleagues--something the public demands from
Not only do professional counselors fulfill societal obligations by holding
membership in their professional societies, they also reap many personal and
professional benefits that are not available to non-members. The mission of ACA
is to enhance human development throughout the life span and to promote the
counseling profession (ACA, 1992). ACA protects the public, establishes
counseling credentials, provides access to information for counselors, offers
professional services to members, and advances the counseling profession.
As a condition of membership, ACA
requires applicants to promise to adhere to the ACA Ethical Standards (1988)
that have been promulgated by the counseling profession. Members who are found
to have violated the Ethical Standards are required to submit to a
rehabilitation program or are expelled from the association.
Professional credentials benefit the counselors
who hold them in several respects. They also help protect consumers of
counseling services. Credentials provide a public indicator that individuals who
hold them have met standards agreed upon by the profession, and therefore are
Although counseling credentials are granted by boards that are independent of
ACA to avoid political influence, ACA has been responsible for creating and
supporting counseling credential granting boards. Credentials include
accreditation of university preparation programs (the American Counseling
Association Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational
Programs [CACREP] and the Council on Rehabilitation Education [CORE]), national
voluntary individual certification (National Board of Certified Counselors,
National Academy of Clinical Mental Health Counselors, and the Board for
Certified Rehabilitation Counselors), and governmental regulation of the
profession (state licensure, certification of school counselors, etc.).
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
The education of a professional
counselor never ends. Completing formal training programs in universities and
supervised practice experiences simply allow counselors to enter practice. To
continue their careers, counselors must keep current on new information being
developed within the field (Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 1993). The public
expects and demands that professional counselors use the most effective methods
of practice, regardless of how long ago their formal education and entry into
the profession occurred.
ACA provides members with access to new information in a variety of ways. The
scholarly journal, the "Journal of Counseling and Development," and the many
division journals offer new knowledge in the form of research and conceptual
papers. The new magazine, "American Counselor," updates counseling practitioners
in the field. ACA publishes professional books, monographs, and media for the
benefit of members. Professional conventions, conferences, and workshops bring
new information to members through lectures, discussions, and demonstrations.
"Guidepost," the association newsletter, and division and branch newsletters
inform members of events and news of particular interest to counseling
professionals. Professional meetings of all types encourage members to network
among themselves and learn from each other.
Members of ACA are offered services
they need or desire related to their professional counseling practices.
Professional liability insurance is becoming a necessity for all counselors and
is offered at reasonable rates as a benefit of membership. New professional
counseling products are announced to members, reviewed, and evaluated. ACA
members are given the opportunity to purchase services or products that will
assist them in their practices at discount rates or prices.
ADVANCING THE PROFESSION
ACA is a strong advocate for the
counseling profession. The association maintains an active government relations
program at national, state, and local levels. Legislators and governmental
agency administrators are educated regarding the positive contributions
professional counselors are making to our society and the needs counselors have
for continuing legislative and regulatory support. Actions or policies that
discriminate against counselors as a professional group are challenged and
opportunities are sought to promote the public recognition and support of
counselors within society.
Counselors are achieving the recognition as
professionals they have sought within our society. With this recognition,
counselors have corresponding obligations. Membership in their professional
society--the American Counseling Association--allows counselors to continue
their education and discharge their professional responsibilities.
American Counseling Association. (1992). Bylaws.
Alexandria, VA: Author.
American Counseling Association. (1988). Ethical standards. Alexandria, VA:
Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Callanan, P. (1993). Issues and ethics in the
helping professions (4th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.
Herlihy, B., & Golden, L. B. (1990). Ethical standards casebook.
Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Walz, G. (Ed.). (1991). CounselorQuest. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC Counseling and
Personnel Services Clearinghouse.