Robert L. Smith, Ph.D., ACA 63rd President
Robert L. Smith, Ph.D., ACA 63rd President

The American Counseling Association’s professional staff and ACA elected leaders have intentionally collaborated with a number of sister associations, individuals and groups during the past year, including government agencies that are instrumental in decisions involving TRICARE, Medicare and hiring practices by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This collaboration takes place at individual meetings, group sessions, Skype sessions and through electronic communication. The focus is always on what is best for all professional counselors and the future of the counseling profession.

In this message, I am highlighting licensure and portability, areas of significant importance for counselors and the profession. There is reason to celebrate the fact that licensure for professional counselors exists in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This historic accomplishment took years of endless effort by professionals across the country. We are currently experiencing a parallel process regarding licensure portability.

The relevance of intentional collaboration was evident at the American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB) Conference this past January in Savannah, Georgia. AASCB, the body of governmental agencies responsible for the licensure and certification of counselors throughout the United States, has a major role to play in obtaining counselor licensure portability. One of AASCB’s mission statements is to “encourage and aid collaborative efforts among Member Boards in developing compatible standards and cooperative procedures for the legal regulation of counselors in the several jurisdictions toward the goal of simplifying the licensing, registration and certification process.” AASCB continues to work with state licensure boards toward the goal of nationwide portability. A significant number of state licensure board officials are also members of ACA.

It is essential for state licensure board regulators and affiliate organizations to collaborate if we are to reach licensure portability in the near future. The following things must take place for counselor licensure portability to become a reality.

  • Currently, more than 30 state licensure boards are members of AASCB. As many state licensure boards as possible need to become participants.
  • There needs to be an agreed upon set of core educational standards among licensure bodies.
  • Licensure boards need to have an agreed upon number of hours required from preparation programs (60 semester-hour programs compare favorably with other competing disciplines such as social work).
  • There needs to be a common set of direct contact hours required in practicum and internships.
  • There needs to be a common set of post-master’s supervision hours required for licensure.
  • There needs to be a common licensure title and a common scope of practice for counselors. The 20/20 Building Blocks to Portability Project, co-sponsored by ACA and AASCB, concluded this past year with widespread endorsement of both a single licensure title for counselors and a scope of practice for professional counseling.

At the AASCB meeting, I heard stories of problems confronting licensed professional counselors who try to move from one state to another. The obstacles mentioned most often included the number of hours required, course work requirements, testing requirements and post-graduation supervision hours.

Lack of uniformity among state licensure boards clearly exists, and it serves as a deterrent to the mobility of licensed professional counselors. It is our professional and ethical responsibility to correct the existing problem of limits to licensure portability for professional counselors.

Details of some of the recent efforts to move the counseling profession toward licensure portability will be featured in the April issue of Counseling Today.

All the best,

Robert L. Smith, Ph.D., NCC

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

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