Professional counseling is a broad profession with many areas of specialization. Counselors work in many settings such as:
- Crisis Lines
- Private Practice
- Community Mental Health, and so on…
Broad Job Duties
Counselors roles and job duties can go from very broad to somewhat narrow. For example: school counselors do everything from suicide risk assessments, child abuse reporting, and general crisis intervention to classroom guidance, career day planning, group counseling, academic guidance counseling and parent/family meetings. They also juggle other duties to support the general administration of their schools.
Narrow Job Duties
Other settings like hospitals have roles that are very defined or more narrow. More specifically, assessors don’t have an opportunity to follow cases and provide ongoing counseling services. Even though the position of an assessor requires a broad set of knowledge about mental health disorders and their presentations, they must also know what type of treatment/setting is most appropriate for the patient. They also have to have the relational skills to build rapport quickly. They must have the counseling skills to support people when they are having one of the worst days of their lives. Due to the setting and how systems that admit people for “in patient” or “residential services” function, the assessment department and job duties are separate from the treatment staff.
There are community settings that also have this division of duties including the service boards and in home/community counseling services like intensive family intervention and ACT service teams.
Changing Scope of Directed Experiences
In recent months, the licensing board that governs the practice of professional counseling has been examining job duties very closely. Directed work experience positions that are more narrow in focus – such as assessors – are being scrutinized. To my knowledge in several cases the plans for directed experience were not approved. It has been the determination of the board that the scope of practice as defined in the board rules is not being demonstrated. This constitutes a shift in the board’s historical view regarding the assessment position as a valid job for those pursuing their professional counseling license.
Scope of Competency
I don’t know what set in motion the shift in how assessor positions are viewed. However, I do recognize that counselors who work in broad directed experience roles and those who work in narrow directed experience roles may not be prepared by those work settings alone to practice independently in a setting like private practice. Not every person entering the field of professional counseling wants to work as a private practitioner. However, the issue is that once they obtain their LPC license then they will have the right to do so. In the counseling profession we have a responsibility to only practice within the scope of our competency based on education, training and supervised experience.
Protecting the Public
Counselors who have done their pre-independent licensure work in broad or narrow work roles often have a keen sense of awareness that they need adjunctive work experiences to expand their exposure while they have the support of a clinical supervisor. From an ethical standpoint it is critical that those who move in to a new area of practice or into a different practice setting have the continuing education and consultation/supervisory support to practice within the standard of care. It is vital that no harm is done to those seeking services from professional counselors. In fact, the purpose of licensure of any profession that has licenses issued is to protect the public.
A Shift for Better or for Worse
If you are supervising, employing others or working toward licensure it is important to take note of this shift in how directed experience settings are being scrutinized. Many LPC’s have come before them who obtained their directed work experience in the very setting for which they are now being denied. Perhaps this shift will be beneficial to our field. On the other hand it may present obstacles for counselors who are or would be great additions to our ranks.
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