Of the 238 participants, 204 responded to the question, “What is your definition of a professional counselor?” As expected, given the broad nature of the question, participants defined counselors in a variety of ways. In our analysis of the responses, three categories emerged: (a) counseling tasks and services provided, (b) counselor training and credentials, and (c) wellness and developmental focus. A description of each category is provided next, with the most commonly cited categories noted first. One interesting finding in the open-ended responses was that the majority (97%, ? = 197) of participants described professional counselors in general terms, with only seven people describing counselors as defined by their specialization. Three participants defined professional counselors as school counselors, and four defined them as mental health counselors.
Counseling tasks and services provided. This category emerged from the most frequently cited responses, in which participants (78%, n = 1 59) defined professional counselors by what they do on a daily basis and by the services they provide clients. One respondent wrote, “[A professional counselor] offers a variety of counseling and counseling-related services (e.g., psychoeducation, consultation, advising, coaching, advocacy) … to assist clients with personal and professional growth.” Another counselor summed up the responses of a number of participants by writing,
A professional counselor is a clinician who can demonstrate proficient knowledge and skill of those mental health, psychological, and human development issues that commonly occur in counseling through the competent display of cognitive, affective, behavioral, or systematic intervention strategies that address wellness, personal growth, [and/or] career development, as well as pathology.
The focus in this category was on providing a variety of counseling services to clients to help facilitate change in their lives. As one participant noted, “A professional counselor works with individuals, groups, families, and couples to help them identify and address any issues that may be interfering with or impairing their functioning.”
Counselor training and credentials. In this category, participants (49%, n = 1 00) defined professional counselors by their training and credentials, citing the importance of master’s-level training in an accredited program, earning the NCC credential and/or state licensure as well as other relevant state credentials, maintaining involvement in professional organizations, and participating in continuing education. As one respondent noted, “A professional counselor is an individual who has completed a graduate degree in counseling and has obtained state and/or national certification/licensure.” Within this category, a subset of participants specifically noted part of being a counseling professional was following a counseling code of ethics. For example, one respondent wrote, “A counselor [is someone] who has achieved a set standard of testing, clinical hours, and supervision. A professional adheres to ethical standards and continues with ongoing education.”
Wellness and developmental focus. The next category to emerge (12%, n = 25) defined professional counselors as using a wellness and developmental focus in their work with clients as opposed to using a medical or pathology-focused approach. As one respondent wrote, a counselor is “a helping professional with a wellness orientation whose connection with another allows that person to achieve greater selfunderstanding and adjustment to bio-psycho-social developmental milestones.” Another noted, “[Counselors] complete interventions to promote wellness and restoration of optimal levels of functioning.”