Professional unification can help counselors with efforts to seek parity for the provision of counseling services within federal agencies. Significant movement has occurred in the last few years with great gains for the profession. Three United States federal agencies have made graduation from a CACREP-accredited program a requirement for independent practice in counseling with the citizens who receive or have services reimbursed from those agencies:
• Veteran’s Administration. In 2010, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released qualification standards that formally recognized Licensed Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselors who have graduated from CACREP-accredited programs as clinical mental health specialists within the Veterans Health Administration.
These counselors are referred to as Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors, and you can be very proud of that opportunity being there for you. As a veteran (Dr. Henriksen), I am so glad to have the opportunity to serve my fellow veterans in this role. Additionally, in 2015, the VA made the decision to make VA medical centers eligible for paid counseling interns—this is a first for counseling interns, making them parallel with other professional interns such as psychologists.
• TRICARE. TRICARE is a healthcare insurance system for military dependents and members of the military services that covers care not available through the usual U.S. military medical service or public health service facilities. The ability to provide counseling services to our uniformed service members and veterans in their communities has been a long-sought-after goal. The United States Department of Defense now requires a CACREP-accredited Clinical Mental Health Counseling or Mental Health Counseling degree in order to obtain the TRICARE Certified Mental Health Counselor credential, which grants counselors the authority to provide independent care to TRICARE beneficiaries after December 31, 2016. Prior to this legislation, mental health counselors could not practice independently in the TRICARE system. For more information see the Federal Register Listing (CACREP, 2016b, ^. 4). This is significant progress in our efforts to gain acceptance as mental health professionals within federal systems, and it comes in great part due to the efforts to ensure high quality training programs through the CACREP accreditation process. With this major milestone, counselors will continue to seek recognition in other federal agencies.
• Army Substance Abuse. Beginning in July 2011, only LPCs with a degree from a CACREP-accredited program may be employed as Fully Functioning Army Substance Abuse Program Practitioners. This requirement is waived for those already employed by the Army Substance Abuse Program and for those in the application process at the time the regulation was adopted (CACREP, 2016b, ^. 5).