New Army Directive: By Scott Barstow

The American Counseling Association, the National Board for Certified Counselors, and the American Mental Health Counselors Association are pleased to announce that on July 26, 2011, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh signed Army Directive 2011-09, Employment of Licensed Professional Counselors as Fully Functioning Army Substance Abuse Program Practitioners.

This directive authorizes “the Army Substance Abuse Program to employ licensed professional counselors and licensed mental health counselors as independent practitioners with a well-defined scope of practice.”

The directive also establishes credentialing and privileging standards for licensed counselors who seek employment through the Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP).  The criteria include:

  • Successful completion of a master’s degree in counseling from a regionally accredited college or university that has its counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs.  (Counselors who are already employed with ASAP or entered the application process for an ASAP counseling position prior to the effective date of the directive do not have to meet the accreditation requirement.)
  • Possession of a state license as a professional counselor or mental health counselor at the highest clinical level offered by their state licensure board
  • Passage of the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination

The directive became effective upon signature by the Secretary of the Army on July 26, 2011.

You may recall that the Department of Defense had been charged by Congress with issuing regulations by June 20, 2011 to let licensed professional counselors practice independently within the TRICARE program.  We have been told that the Army SAP directive is a temporary policy that allows counselors to practice independently until the TRICARE regulations are completed. The final TRICARE regulations may—or may not—include the same requirements as the Army SAP directive. ACA, NBCC, and AMHCA continue to urge the Department of Defense to adopt broad TRICARE regulations that recognize all qualified professional counselors.

Qualifying counselors who are interested in Army SAP positions should act quickly. The Army is in dire need of more counselors and recently launched a national hiring initiative described here:

ASAP vacancies are posted here for interested counselors: this webpage and the job announcements specifically reference social workers and psychologists, we have confirmed with Army SAP leadership that these positions are available to professional counselors.

Our organizations are pleased with this step forward, but continue to encourage recognition of all qualified professional counselors.  We welcome counselors to report back on any challenges or successes they encounter resulting from this new policy or employment opportunities.

By: Scott Barstow

Director of Public Policy & Legislation
American Counseling Association

ph 703-823-9800 x234 | 800-347-6647 x234

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