COUNCIL OF APPLIED MASTER’S PROGRAMS IN PSYCHOLOGY
POSITION PAPER ON THE HIRING OF LICENSED PROFESSIONAL MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELORS BY THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION
The Council of Applied Master’s Programs in Psychology is pleased that the Department of Veterans Affairs has formally recognized licensed professional counselors as mental health specialists within the Veterans Health Administration. This is an important means of expanding the pool of mental health service providers available to meet the growing treatment needs of our nation’s veterans.
The new standards set criteria for employment within the VA as GS-101 series Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors. According to the standards as currently written, counselors must have a master’s degree in counseling or a related field from a graduate program recognized by the Council of Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). While we applaud the Veterans Administration for setting high standards for their licensed professional counselor employees, it is important to note that program accreditation by CACREP is not the only means of assuring quality standards in education and training, and this requirement unduly limits the number of licensed professional counselors, graduates of CACREP-accredited programs, eligible for employment at the Veterans Administration.
In 40 states, graduates of masters programs in counseling psychology are licensed to practice as mental health counselors. Many of these licensed professional counselors are trained to the highest standards and are graduates of programs accredited by the Masters in Psychology Accreditation Council (MPAC). Graduates of these programs receive education in the science of human behavior as well as the profession of mental health counseling. Programs accredited by MPAC are in sixteen states, and 50 VA Hospitals are within a 120-mile radius of an MPAC-accredited program. In two instances VA hospitals are within a 120-mile radius of MPAC-accredited program but no CACREP-accredited programs.
The Masters in Psychology Accreditation Council has recently expanded its mission to include accreditation of counseling programs through its analogous Masters in Counseling Accreditation Committee (under the re-named Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council). This accreditation process will support faculty and curricular diversity, and social justice in programs within the context of ensuring high standards for accreditation.
It is laudable that the VA seeks to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive only the highest quality mental health care, while expanding the number of service providers eligible to treat veterans. We would urge the VA to expand the eligibility requirements for licensed professional counselor employees to include graduates of programs accredited by the only other national professional accrediting body, the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.