No matter their specific area of concentration, all counselors have the same overall goal: to help their clients accomplish their mental health, wellness, education or career-related goals.

Even though the underlying mission of the counseling profession is the same, the fact that there are so many different types of counselors — ranging from school counselors to couples and family counselors to addictions counselors — makes it necessary to provide clarification for those interested in learning more about the vast career opportunities within counseling.

That’s why the American Counseling Association was only too happy to assist when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) asked for its feedback in updating and expanding the counseling profession’s profile in the 2012-13 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is scheduled for release in late March.

BLS has published the Occupational Outlook Handbook, recognized as one of the top publications for career information, for more than 60 years. The handbook, which is coupled with the Career Guide to Industries, provides readers with information about working conditions, necessary training and education, potential earnings, occupational outlook and employment projections for hundreds of specific occupations. Both the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the Career Guide to Industries are released biennially, with the handbook being available online at the BLS website since 1998.

Colleen Teixeira Moffat, an economist and occupational analyst in the BLS Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, says counselors should notice a change in the content related to their profession in the 2012-13 handbook. “The counseling profession used to be covered in one profile, but this time they’ll be covered in four,” says Moffat, who researched and wrote the occupational profiles on counselors. “There’s going to be more space, so I can talk about [each specialty] a lot more. I can jump right to counselor education without having to read about rehabilitation counselors.”

The four profiles will cover 1) addictions counselors, 2) mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, 3) rehabilitation counselors and 4) school and career counselors. Moffat says dedicating more space to each type of counselor also allows for differences between the specialties to be explained in greater detail. “There are different educational requirements for each profession,” she says, “and with each profile, you can skip right to the [one you’re interested in].”

For example, the profile that spotlights rehabilitation counselors will provide greater focus on their work with military personnel and veterans, in part because the number of these clients has increased greatly since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under the school counselor profile, the roles of school counselors will be further defined, and the differences between elementary school, middle school and high school counselors will be made more distinct than in previous editions. There will also be an additional statement further explaining the multiple roles that school counselors play in the lives of students, says ACA Chief Professional Officer David Kaplan. “The statements in previous [Occupational Outlook Handbooks] typically focused on just the guidance aspect of what these counselors do,” Kaplan says, “but they also directly impact how a student performs in school.”

Kaplan and ACA have been integral in advocating for how counselors are presented in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees ACA as the organization that represents the counseling profession,” Kaplan says, “and as far back as I can remember, they have asked for our recommendations [for the handbook] … to help keep the profession’s profile current.”

Some of ACA’s previous recommendations for the Occupational Outlook Handbook as it pertains to counselors included changing the reference from “patients” to “clients,” noting that professional counselors can earn a doctorate in addition to a master’s degree, emphasizing multiculturalism as a component that is infused throughout all counseling specialties and identifying the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs as the educational accreditation body for counselors.

Keeping the counseling profession’s profile — now profiles — accurate and current in the Occupational Outlook Handbook is just one more way that ACA can advocate for the profession and help move it forward, Kaplan says. “The new OOH edition expands the presence of professional counselors in the national career database by providing an exponential increase in the details of specialties within our profession,” he says.

According to BLS, 2010-2020 employment projections for counseling and other occupations will be released Feb. 1.

For more information about the 2012-13 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, visit

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at