United States



Counselling Associations

Professional Bodies, National Associations (e.g. Mental Health, School, Guidance, Addiction, Faith-based etc.) and Accrediting Organisations

American Counseling Association (ACA)

  • Website: https://www.counseling.org/

There are currently 18 divisions of ACA:

  • Association for Adult Development and Aging (AADA)
    • https://www.aadadivision.org/
  • Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC)
    • http://aarc-counseling.org/
  • Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC)
    • http://acachild.org/
  • The Association for Creativity in Counseling (ACC)
    • http://www.creativecounselor.org/
  • American College Counseling Association (ACCA)
    • http://www.collegecounseling.org/
  • Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES)
    • http://www.acesonline.net/
  • Association for Humanistic Counseling (AHC)
    • https://www.humanisticcounseling.org/
  • Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD)
    • https://www.multiculturalcounselingdevelopment.org/
  • American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA)
    • http://www.arcaweb.org/
  • Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC)
    • https://aservic.org/
  • Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW)
    • http://www.asgw.org/
  • Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ)
    • https://www.counseling-csj.org/
  • International Association for Resilience and Trauma Counseling (IARTC)
    • https://www.iartc.org/
  • International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors (IAAOC)
    • https://www.iaaocounselors.org/
  • International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC)
    • http://www.iamfconline.org/
  • Military and Government Counseling Association (MGCA)
    • http://mgcaonline.org/
  • National Career Development Association (NCDA)
    • http://ncda.org/
  • National Employment Counseling Association (NECA)
    • http://www.employmentcounseling.org/
  • Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE)
    • http://saigecounseling.org/

There is currently 1 organizational affiliate of ACA (applying to be a division):

  • Association of Counseling Sexology and Sexual Wellness (ACSSW)
    • https://www.counselingsexology.com/

There are currently 4 regional divisions of ACA:

  • Midwest Region
    • https://www.counseling.org/about-us/divisions-regions-and-branches/regions/midwest
  • North Atlantic Region
    • https://www.counseling.org/about-us/divisions-regions-and-branches/regions/north-atlantic
  • Southern Region
    • https://www.counseling.org/about-us/divisions-regions-and-branches/regions/southern
  • Western Region
    • https://www.counseling.org/about-us/divisions-regions-and-branches/regions/western

There are currently 56 chartered branches of ACA, comprising nearly every U.S. state, plus international branches. Most of these branches have additional divisions or chapters, representing state or other branch divisions of the larger ACA divisions (e.g., Pennsylvania Counseling Association has 9 divisions plus 3 regional chapters across the state). Links for each of these 56 branches can be located on ACA’s website, and from there links to the individual divisions and chapters can be located.

  • https://www.counseling.org/about-us/divisions-regions-and-branches/branches


American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA)

  • https://www.amhca.org

American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

  • Website: https://www.schoolcounselor.org/

American Psychological Association (APA)

  • Website: https://www.apa.org/

American Psychiatric Association (APA)

  • Website: https://www.psychiatry.org

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)

  • https://www.cacrep.org/

National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)

  • https://www.nbcc.org/

Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes

There are currently 906 CACREP accredited programs in counselling across the United States, with more programs applying for accreditation. These programs comprise both master’s and doctoral programs in specialties including clinical mental health counselling, school counselling, addiction counselling, counsellor education and supervision, and other specialty areas. Current colleges and universities that have accredited programs can be located on CACREP’s website: https://www.cacrep.org/

Numerous other unaccredited programs exist in counselling across the United States.

Background & Context

Counselling in the United States has been a robust field for more than a century. Professional counselling began with a career counselling focus in 1908, when Frank Parsons founded Boston’s Vocational Bureau (ACA; Fuller, n.d.). Around the same time, mental health advocate Clifford Beers was working to expose and remedy the inhumane treatment of mental health patients. The National Vocational Guidance Association was founded in 1913, and published the first issue of the National Vocational Guidance Bulletin in 1915. This bulletin was eventually renamed the Journal of Counseling and Development, which is one of the most prominent counselling publications in the United States today (ACA; Fuller, n.d.).

Since the beginning of the 20th century, American counsellors including Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis, Virginia Satir, Murray Bowen, Erik Erikson, Lawrence Kohlberg, Jean Baker Miller, and other theorists have contributed to a rich professional field of counselling. Expansion of the counselling profession in the United States came about during the decades from the 1940s to the 1970s, when new associations were formed, including the American Personnel and Guidance Association, founded in 1952, which later become the American Counseling Association (ACA; Fuller, n.d.), as well as emphasis on increased counselling specialties, new theories, and moves into more practice areas, such as the development of school counselling, addiction counselling, career counselling, and marriage and family counselling, etc. (Leahy, Rak, Zanskas, 2015).

The decades from the 1980 to the 2000s, saw the counselling field solidify professional identities across a diverse range of specialties and the development and expansion of licensure, certification, and accreditation standards within the field across the country, as well as major expansions of professional associations (Leahy, Rak, Zanskas, 2015). More recently, efforts to expand the field even further, including working on counselling licensure compacts to make reciprocity of counsellors across state lines have been explored; today, counselling is a thriving and ever-growing field of helping in the United States (ACA, 2022).

Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition

Professional licensure is based on individual state requirements in graduate-level courses, training in specific professional areas such as suicide prevention, and a required number of supervised counselling hours after graduation from a counselling graduate program. Those interested in learning about specific U.S. state requirements for licensure should look of that state’s licensing board for information.

By example, for someone interested in counsellor licensure requirements in the state of Pennsylvania, they can explore the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors website:


Practice Settings

Counselling services in the United States are available in settings such as:

  • Online tele-counselling
  • University counselling centers
  • Private Practices
  • Government organizations (e.g., state or county agencies, U.S. Veterans Administration)
  • Community-based agencies
  • Family-based agencies (including mobile counselling services)
  • Faith-based centers
  • Marriage and family counselling centers
  • Hospitals and Mental Health Facilities
  • Primary & Secondary Schools
  • Substance abuse outpatient and inpatient facilities
  • Non-profit & Non-governmental Organizations

Challenges & Trends

Counselling is a thriving and evolving field in the United States, as new areas of treatment, such as counselling sexology and psychedelic assisted therapy, gain interest and new interest groups, divisions, and associations of professional organizations expand. Since the 1980s, licensure for counsellors in the United States has been a fractured, state-by-state process. Lately, counselling interstate compacts, made up of several states who agree that fully credentialed counsellors from one state can practice in another state, have been an expanding trend to address reciprocity of licensure across the country. To date, one such compact has gone into effect and other states are exploring legislation to follow suit (ACA, 2022). Though not guaranteed, hopefully similar compacts will roll out across the country, making it easier for counsellors to relocate and for clients to continue services with the same counsellor if they move out of state. Following the COVID 19 pandemic, the need for quality counselling, including telehealth services and expanded services for school and university students among other populations, make it likely the filed of counselling will remain relevant, cutting edge, and expansive in the United States for the foreseeable future.

Additional Information & References

For a deeper exploration of the counselling profession in the country, interested readers are recommended to read the following journal & website articles:

  • American Counseling Association: https://www.counseling.org/
  • ACA (2022). Florida and Kentucky become eighth and ninth states to sign interstate counseling compact into law. https://www.counseling.org/news/updates/news-detail/2022/04/12/florida-and-kentucky-becomes-eighth-and-ninth-states-to-sign-interstate-counseling-compact-into-law
  • Fuller, R.J. (N.D.) The history of mental health counseling: 1800s-present day. https://www.newyorkbehavioralhealth.com/history-of-mental-health-counseling-part-i/
  • Leahy, M.J., Rak, E., & Zanskas, S.A. (2015). A brief history of counseling and specialty areas of practice. In Marini, I., Stebnecki, M.A. (Ed.s). The professional counselor’s desk reference (2nd). Springer. https://connect.springerpub.com/content/book/978-0-8261-7182-5/section/seca/chapter/ch01?implicit-login=true


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