I emphasized the importance of portability for licensed professional counselors in last month’s From the President column. This month, I want to discuss counselor identity, which is closely related to

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

licensure portability. It is my belief that having a consensus identity is not only important for counselor licensure portability but also essential to the future and sustainability of the counseling profession.

A clear understanding of counselor identity is the vehicle that can unite and sustain the profession of counseling. Intentional collaboration, the theme of this presidential year, focuses on the counselor identity of practicing counselors, students, new professionals, counselor educators and counselor preparation programs. Through the 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling initiative, ACA and the representative delegates have taken the lead in strengthening our profession by establishing a consensus definition of counseling. ACA continues to collaborate with the American Association of State Counseling Boards, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, the National Board for Certified Counselors and sister professional organizations to further enhance our profession.

The definition of counseling in large part states who we are while also highlighting how counseling differs from other professional groups. The following words and phrases from the definition of counseling punctuate who we are and what we emphasize: “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.” We are proud of the bedrock principles of the counseling profession that emphasize: the relationship in working with others, prevention as well as remediation, wellness, the normal human development process and health rather than pathology.

Beliefs, values and actions define one’s counselor identity. The following questions are frequently asked when discussing counselor identity:

  • Do you proudly introduce yourself as a professional counselor, counseling student or counselor educator?
  • Are you a member of professional counseling associations such as ACA, the divisions of ACA and state organizations? Do you participate, attend conferences and present?
  • Are you aware of, and do you adhere to, the ACA Code of Ethics?
  • Are you seeking or have you obtained counselor licensure or certification?
  • Do you read professional counseling journals or publish in counseling journals?
  • Do you advocate for individuals and groups of individuals, as well as for counselors, at the state, national or local level?
  • Are you aware of the history of the counseling profession and how it differs from that of other professional groups?


As a way of becoming more involved in and informed about our profession, it might be interesting to discuss some of those questions with your colleagues or fellow students. ACA professional staff, elected leaders, members and related stakeholders are currently discussing the numerous listings that cite indicators of professional counselor identity. I look forward to a consensus of indicators in the near future as we continue to strengthen the counseling profession.

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.