Tag Archives: Licensure

Revisiting 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling

By Bethany Bray August 28, 2020

In the world of ophthalmology, having 20/20 vision means that a person can see the letters on an eye chart clearly and sharply while standing 20 feet away. It is estimated that just 35% of adults have 20/20 vision without the help of glasses or other corrective aids.

Fifteen years ago, leaders from a wide range of counseling organizations embarked on an initiative to bring the profession and its future into sharper focus. Those leaders, representing 31 counseling organizations, met regularly between 2005 and 2013 to identify and forge a vision for the direction the profession of counseling should be heading — into the year 2020 and beyond. The initiative, co-sponsored by the American Counseling Association and the American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB), was ultimately named 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling.

What organizers initially intended to be a two-year endeavor stretched into eight years. Not surprisingly, the participants weren’t always in agreement, but simply having delegates from 30-plus counseling organizations — representing a broad range of specialty focuses and passions — in the same room was a watershed moment for the profession.

“The adage about herding cats applies here, but these cats were all dedicated professionals passionate about consensus building; seemingly disparate cats whose visions would contribute immeasurably to the establishment of a unified profession,” says Kurt L. Kraus, who facilitated 20/20 in the latter years of the initiative, succeeding Samuel T. Gladding, a past president of ACA.

“Prior to the work of the 20/20 [initiative], I believe that all of our partner organizations had worked tirelessly to establish themselves as free-standing and supporting pillars in a warehouse of counseling and related fields. But the project asked delegates and their organizations to look at the house as a whole,” Kraus says. “It was time in our evolution to answer the question of are we a profession? And the answer was a resounding ‘yes.’”

Steps toward unity

The 20/20 initiative was born out of a conversation focused on the future of the counseling profession that leaders from ACA and AASCB had over breakfast at ACA’s 2005 Conference & Expo in Atlanta. The group, which included the presidents, presidents-elect and presidents-elect-elect of both ACA and AASCB, in addition to David Kaplan, then ACA’s chief professional officer, eventually was established as the oversight committee for the initiative.

Kaplan recalls Gladding and Kraus as “world-class” facilitators who “knew just when to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Kaplan also gives credit to Gladding for coming up with the 20/20 title for the initiative.

The initiative got into full swing at the ACA 2006 Conference & Expo in Montréal. Gladding brought the first full meeting to order with delegates attending from each of the participating organizations. Lynn Linde, who is today ACA’s chief knowledge and learning officer, remembers the energy and buzz that filled the room as delegates took their seats.

“There was a sense of excitement that we were doing something historic — and confusion on how we were going to get there. … It was overwhelming but also exciting. The counseling profession had needed this, [had] talked about this, for a long time,” recalls Linde, who initially served as a 20/20 delegate for ACA’s Southern Region before joining the oversight committee as ACA president-elect and ACA president (2009-2010).

Across years of work and countless hours of discussion, the 20/20 initiative yielded several major accomplishments, the first of which was a document titled Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession.

Created and unanimously approved by the delegates as the project’s first milestone, the principles document identified seven critical areas that needed attention from the counseling profession:

  • Strengthening identity
  • Presenting ourselves as one profession
  • Improving public perception/recognition and advocating for professional issues
  • Creating licensure portability
  • Expanding and promoting the research base of professional counseling
  • Focusing on students and prospective students
  • Promoting client welfare and advocacy

When the delegates took the document back to their respective organizations, just one declined to endorse it: the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).

The creation and ratification of the principles document was historic, Kaplan says, because it marked the first time nearly all of the major stakeholders in the field recognized and acknowledged that they were part of one unified profession: the profession of counseling.

“Counseling organizations have tended to operate as a loose federation, with each tending to their specific focus. The Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession was the first time in history that professional counseling’s membership, training and certification organizations put in writing that they shared a common professional identity and are all part of a single profession,” explains Kaplan, an ACA past president (2002-2003) who retired in 2019 after 15 years on staff at the association. “The Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession acted as a catalyst for the change of status from ACA division to independent organization for both the American School Counselor Association and the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA). While the ASCA and AMHCA affiliation status change caused disruption … it was a healthy development for both the organizations and the counseling profession, as this was an acknowledgment of an evolution that had been occurring for many years.”

Adds ACA President-Elect S. Kent Butler, who served as a 20/20 delegate for the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD), “It was important to go through [the 20/20 process] so that counselors could unify and find one voice that we all could champion and use to successfully push our profession forward. The takeaway for me is the bonding that occurred, though contentious at times, because we were in this mission together. Across the 31 organizations involved, I was also able to build strong professional relationships with many of the delegates.”

Finding consensus

After participating organizations endorsed the 20/20 principles document, focused effort was put toward addressing two of the critical areas identified in the document: solidifying professional identity and forging a path toward licensure portability, or the ability for counselors to transfer their professional license when moving from one state to another.

One of the primary ways the delegates sought to strengthen professional identity was by developing a unified definition of counseling. The definition was meant to be an “elevator pitch,” something succinct that would easily explain what counselors do to the public and to other helping professionals. Ultimately, the 20/20 delegates reached consensus in 2010 on a one-sentence statement: “Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.”

“It was important that we define counseling and the principles on which it is built and not have outside groups try to define it for us,” Gladding says. “It was also crucial to establish that although counseling is diverse, there is a common core. As Maya Angelou writes in her poem ‘Human Family,’ ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.’”

ACA Past President Bradley T. Erford counts creation of a consensus definition of counseling as being among the initiative’s most meaningful achievements. “I am fond of saying that it took 31 counseling professionals 24 months to agree on a 21-word definition of counseling. But we did,” he says. “20/20 was a coming-of-age event in the counseling profession. We needed consensus on some of the most pressing issues of the day, including licensure requirements and professional identity.”

Erford initially served for six years as a 20/20 delegate for the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC) before moving onto the oversight committee when he became ACA president-elect and president (2012-2013).

Lack of portability has been a long-standing problem in the counseling profession, in large part because license requirements vary widely. License requirements for counselors were set up state by state over a period of decades — beginning with Virginia in 1976 and ending with California in 2009 — as the profession matured and pushed to establish itself. But in the process, significant disparities arose between counselor licenses across the United States, from the number of supervision hours required to obtain a license to the license titles themselves.

The 20/20 delegates hoped to spark movement toward license portability by developing and gaining support for a single overarching scope of practice for the profession and a single preferred license title. Both ideas emerged out of a subinitiative of 20/20 called the Building Blocks to Portability Project.

“We wanted to get to the heart of who are we as a profession, our professional identity. We spent hours locked in that room talking about this,” Linde recalls. “Everyone was amazed that we got there, that we trusted the process and were actually able to [reach consensus].”

The 20/20 delegates finalized the consensus licensure title — choosing licensed professional counselor (LPC) — and scope of practice in March 2013. (See the full text of the 20/20 scope of practice, a five-paragraph job description that defines the work of professional counselors, below.) Both items were recommended for use to state licensing boards across the United States in a letter co-written by the leadership of ACA and AASCB and sent in the summer of 2015.

The 20/20 delegates also debated but ultimately weren’t able to reach consensus on a third piece of the Building Blocks to Portability Project: uniform education requirements for licensure. Even so, as a whole, the 20/20 initiative stands as a large-scale success that moved the counseling profession forward and made it much better prepared to meet subsequent challenges.

“Until 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling, we allowed external forces to define what we could do,” Kaplan says. “Apart from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) training standards, this was the first time in history that the counseling profession told the world what our skill set is. As with the consensus licensure title, having one scope of practice promoted by professional counseling to licensure boards helps solidify counselor identity, leads to licensure portability, reduces confusion among the public, and facilitates needed legislation. [This initiative] was the mark of a profession that had reached maturity. Until 20/20, the counseling profession had focused on being reactive and responding to how others defined us — particularly psychology. … [The 20/20 initiative] was the first time in history that all of the two-dozen-plus stakeholders within counseling worked together for a sustained period of time to develop a road map for the advancement of our profession.”

A lasting legacy

In January 2019, ACA signed a contract with the Council of State Governments’ National Center for Interstate Compacts, embarking on a multiyear project to develop an interstate compact focused on counselor licensure portability. The project is still in the early stages, but its ultimate goal is to create a compact that states could adopt to accept the credentials of professional counselors who are licensed in another state. Individual state licensing boards would be allowed to impose additional requirements such as a jurisprudence exam or an FBI background check, but the compact could keep counselors from having to apply for a new license — in some cases, starting over virtually from scratch — when they move across state lines.

Getting this project off the ground has been made easier by the foundation built by the 20/20 initiative, says Linde, who serves as ACA’s staff liaison to the interstate compact for portability project. She notes that the cohort is using LPC, the 20/20 consensus licensure title, in its work.

“The 20/20 project made it much easier for the compact project to come to an agreement on who we are and what we do. We didn’t have to rehash years of work. It made it easier to get started and look at other issues around portability,” Linde says.

Kaplan agrees, saying that the 20/20 initiative “provided both background and energy for ACA’s national interstate compact project. Many ACA Governing Council members referenced 20/20 when they approved the substantial amount of money needed to fund this project. If all goes as planned, the interstate compact will go a long way toward solving both our long-standing licensure portability and cybercounseling [telebehavioral health] problems.”

(For more details about the compact project, search for the article “Interstate compact plan provides hope for licensure portability” at ct.counseling.org.)

20/20: In their own words

Counseling Today reached out to some of those who participated in 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling to reflect on the lasting impact of the initiative.


Now that the 20/20 initiative is in the rearview mirror, what reflections would you like to share?

“The elegant premise that change begets change is so visible when we look back at where we were to where we now are. … I remember approaching my role as facilitator — not to mention how daunting that role felt following Sam Gladding and being asked by the oversight committee to bring this ‘two-year project’ to conclusion before we actually reached 2020 — as that of an orchestra conductor. The 30-plus people gathered together were each soloists, and my task was to help them coalesce into an ensemble — an apt analogy for the mission of the project actually.

“The delegates had to see themselves as a cohesive group who could practice together only briefly before the individual members would travel back to their home symphonies to play. Home, they then had to present this vision for the future of counseling to their organizations/affiliations in order to garner 90% agreement [the majority needed for consensus approval during 20/20] and adoption. Conducting was an honor for me.” — Kurt L. Kraus, LPC, 20/20 facilitator and professor and director of the doctoral program in the Department of Counseling at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

“I’d like to emphasize that everybody — all 31 organizations — had the ability to be heard, and every voice carried weight. No one voice was more important than somebody else’s.

“Sometimes I see the [20/20] definition of counseling on someone’s email signature, and it makes me feel that we really did make an impact. It’s in textbooks, and we have a whole group of counselors out there who were trained using this definition. I have had those elevator speeches with people. It’s nice to have some prepackaged words to be able to answer the question, ‘What do you do?’” — Lynn Linde, past president of ACA and current chief knowledge and learning officer


Why was it important to go through the process of 20/20?

“In some instances, our profession was being left out of important legislative initiatives, insurance reimbursements and recognition of the efficacy of counseling due to our fragmentation as a profession. Bringing together all the players [the 31 participating organizations] allowed us to begin to speak with one voice to the public and government. More than this, it allowed us to break down fences between us and make the connections necessary to value each other’s contributions to the profession.” — Perry C. Francis, LPC, 20/20 delegate for the American College Counseling Association and professor and counseling training clinic coordinator at Eastern Michigan University


Now that we’re in the year 2020, do you feel the project hit the mark?

“Yes and no. Yes: We are seeing the fruits of our labor begin to take root as licensure laws are rewritten, cooperation between organizations increases, and the counseling profession is expanding into previously denied territory. CACREP and CORE eventually merged in part due to the 20/20 process.

“No: What I hoped would be quicker progress and greater unity has not come to fruition. For example, we are still fighting for reimbursement with Medicare, and the process of getting counselors hired into the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs systems is painfully slow. By the time we got to the end of the 20/20 process, many of the leaders moved on to other issues, and the momentum lessened.” — Perry C. Francis

“We completed the tasks that were possible to complete at the time. I was proud of our decision to end the project when we did because the work truly didn’t end then. Like a therapeutic goal that can’t fully be assessed as met, or unmet, from in the office, we had to let go, be patient and watch to see how the vision of the profession of counseling would be operationalized, to fully emerge in real time. In 2020, I have smiled every time I read some reference to the work done by everyone involved in the project. It was a cast of hundreds.

“The results are visible, the references to our work are plentiful, and the process resulted in a host of next steps. Inherent in the evolution of a profession is change — the work left undone arises from the work accomplished. As our profession is rooted in humanity and all of its complexities, it is probably safe to say our work will always be undone.”
— Kurt L. Kraus


What do you feel was accomplished by the 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling initiative?

“We have had several positive things happen during the last few years. First and foremost, all 50 states now have [counselor] licensure, the last one being California. Another advancement was the communication between states. There were times when states did not communicate with each other. Some states were more exclusive rather than inclusive. Now, there seems to be more acceptance between states.

“Another accomplishment is the uniformity of state requirements. More states are complying with the stricter requirements, such as requiring 60 hours in a degree program. … As one person put it, [prior to 20/20,] going from state to state was more like going from one country to another.” — Charles Gagnon, an LPC and supervisor, member of the 20/20 Oversight Committee and AASCB past president

“The project brought counseling groups together in a way that was nonpolitical and altruistic. We were all working for the good of the profession in what it could be. There were some disagreements, but there was [also] a lot of harmony, and when delegates were not together on a point, they worked constructively to reach consensus. I have never been in a better group in my life. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it.

“I wish we could have accomplished more, but given that we met in person only once a year, we did well, and the profession of counseling is better and stronger, I believe, for 20/20.

“20/20 was a proactive project. Too often, counseling has been reactive. 20/20 changed the mindset and made efficacy even more important professionally. I think the spillover from 20/20 continues.” — Samuel T. Gladding, 20/20 facilitator, ACA past president and a professor of counseling at Wake Forest University

“The project has yielded many things. For one, the consensus definition for counseling, which has helped in our quest to unify our profession. I believe that the project was also a slowly evolving start to conversations surrounding inclusion. This may have been undergirded in our conversations about unifying the profession.

“While it is many years later, [it is] funny how in 2020 we are able to engage in conversations that actually matter as they relate to unity. I stated in the past that there was quite possibly a breakthrough in which it seemed we ‘gave ourselves permission to engage in enriching conversations that will further unify our counseling community.’ I was able to chair a task force a couple of years back that provided a template for engaging in difficult dialogues. Amazingly, the current pandemic has forced our hand, and we are courageously engaging in that process now.

“Lastly, while we are not where we want to be in the battle for portability, we are strategically making progress in bringing this concept to fruition with our pursuance of an interstate compact. The vision gave us flexibility perhaps to find alternative ways to support counselors seeking to move or start a practice in another state.” — S. Kent Butler, ACA president-elect, 20/20 delegate for AMCD, and interim chief equity, inclusion and diversity officer and a professor of counselor education at the University of Central Florida


What work is left undone?

“The only thing on which 90% consensus was not reached [during 20/20] was educational requirements because CACREP and CORE had not yet merged. If we had extended the task force two more years, I believe adoption of the CACREP standards would have passed by consensus.

“There are many additional counseling issues that have been percolating under the surface for a number of years that a new multiorganizational task force should tackle. And many of these issues are international in scope. I suggested creation of a multinational task group [while I was ACA president] to address international counseling issues and priorities, [but it] never got prioritized.” — Bradley T. Erford, ACA past president, 20/20 delegate for AARC and member of the 20/20 Oversight Committee; director and professor in the counseling program at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University

“The profession of counseling is always changing, and so there is more to be done. Certainly, getting counselors to be considered core mental health providers and reimbursed by the military, the government and insurance companies is a next and continuous major step.” — Samuel T. Gladding


What’s next? Do you think the counseling profession should begin some kind of new strategic planning project to continue this work?

“One idea that has been tossed around for future strategic planning is in the area of focusing on prospective students [one of the seven points in the Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession]: developing an undergraduate major in counseling. Unlike other helping professions such as psychology and social work, professional counseling does not have any feeder programs. As a result, our students find us by happenstance. Many undergraduates who would thoroughly enjoy a career in professional counseling and would greatly benefit the clients they serve never hear about our programs. Exactly what an undergraduate major in counseling looks like and how it is implemented is for a future planning process that focuses on the counseling profession in 2030 and beyond.” — David Kaplan, 20/20 administrative coordinator and retired ACA chief professional officer

“I believe the profession needs to really embrace the momentum that has begun around dismantling systemic racism. To be true to our code of ethics, we must consciously and consistently make sure that professional counselors do no harm. A very important addition to our next go-around at strategic planning needs to be deliberate attempts to make our profession more inclusive, especially within every level of leadership across every ACA entity.

“Each of us is accountable and should be beacons for our students and colleagues, ensuring that they are adequately trained and/or held accountable for the work that they do with their clients. … We also must be accountable to society and work to break down barriers that prevent equity for all.” — S. Kent Butler

Thirty-one counseling organizations participated in the 20/20 initiative. This photo, courtesy of Samuel T. Gladding (kneeling at center), shows some of the delegates and other stakeholders who took part in the first full meeting in 2006 in Montréal during the ACA Conference.


Find out more

Additional details about the 20/20 initiative, its participants and accomplishments are available on the ACA website at tinyurl.com/2020InitiativeACA.

In addition, the project generated three Journal of Counseling & Development articles:


20/20 Scope of Practice for Professional Counseling

The independent practice of counseling encompasses the provision of professional counseling services to individuals, groups, families, couples and organizations through the application of accepted and established mental health counseling principles, methods, procedures and ethics.

Counseling promotes mental health wellness, which includes the achievement of social, career and emotional development across the life span, as well as preventing and treating mental disorders and providing crisis intervention.

Counseling includes, but is not limited to, psychotherapy, diagnosis, evaluation; administration of assessments, tests and appraisals; referral; and the establishment of counseling plans for the treatment of individuals, couples, groups and families with emotional, mental, addiction and physical disorders.

Counseling encompasses consultation and program evaluation, program administration within and to schools and organizations, and training and supervision of interns, trainees and pre-licensed professional counselors through accepted and established principles, methods, procedures and ethics of counselor supervision.

The practice of counseling does not include functions or practices that are not within the professional’s training or education.



Remembering J. Barry Mascari

Any mention of the 20/20 initiative would be remiss without acknowledging the important contributions of J. Barry Mascari, who passed away in May at age 71. Mascari was a part of the initiative from its start in 2005, participating in initial discussions and planning sessions as AASCB president-elect-elect. He remained closely involved throughout the entirety of the 20/20 initiative.

“Barry will always be known as the father of 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling,” says David Kaplan, ACA staff administrative coordinator for 20/20. “It was his brainchild, and he willed it into existence. Barry is greatly missed, but his legacy in catalyzing the growth of the counseling profession continues on.”

At the time of Mascari’s passing, ACA CEO Richard Yep acknowledged how instrumental he had been to the 20/20 project, as well as to numerous other advances in the profession, including co-authoring the counselor licensure law in New Jersey.

“His [Mascari’s] tireless work to advance licensure portability, mentor his students, and advocate on behalf of the profession was in part what led to his 2019 selection as an ACA Fellow,” Yep said.

Mascari, a licensed professional counselor and counselor educator at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, was co-author with his wife, Jane M. Webber, of the book Disaster Mental Health Counseling: A Guide to Preparing and Responding, published by the ACA Foundation.

Read more about Mascari’s life and legacy at counseling.org/aca-community/in-memoriam



Bethany Bray is a senior writer and social media coordinator for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org.


Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Interstate compact plan provides hope for licensure portability

By Laurie Meyers April 8, 2020

In an increasingly mobile society, it is not unusual for professionals in many fields to relocate for career or personal reasons. For those in professions such as human resources, information technology, publications and numerous other fields, moving to another area usually requires only a new employer. In fact, many professionals need not even seek a new office because they can telecommute.

But for professional counselors, moving requires obtaining licensure again in their new state. Because individual state requirements for licensure vary widely — particularly in the number of graduate semester hours, required coursework, number of hours of post-master’s supervised counseling experience, and examination requirements — it can be difficult and time-consuming for counselors to transfer their licenses. Additionally, most states also require that counselors be licensed in the same state in which their clients reside, which limits practitioners’ ability to provide therapy via telebehavioral health. Being unable to counsel from a distance doesn’t just limit counselors’ potential practice avenues but also often forces clients who move to seek a new mental health practitioner.

The American Counseling Association has long considered lack of licensure portability to be one of the most critical issues facing the counseling profession. The Building Blocks to Portability Project was one of the major initiatives to come out of 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling, a yearslong strategic planning effort co-sponsored by ACA and the American Association of State Counseling Boards that involved 31 major counseling organizations. In June 2016, the ACA Governing Council passed the ACA Licensure Portability Model, which said:

“A counselor who is licensed at the independent practice level in their home state and who has no disciplinary record shall be eligible for licensure at the independent practice level in any state or U.S. jurisdiction in which they are seeking residence. The state to which the licensed counselor is moving may require a jurisprudence examination based on the rules and procedures of that state.”

However, to allow for true portability, individual state licensing boards nationwide would have needed to adopt the ACA model. Based on input received from state licensing boards, ACA eventually decided that the most effective way to achieve portability was through the creation of an interstate compact.

The compact “won’t be ACA’s plan or any other group’s [plan],” says Lynn Linde, ACA’s chief knowledge and learning officer and staff point person for the interstate compact project. “What is being proposed is what we expect the licensing boards will agree to given their input. That’s why it’s the best option.”

How an interstate compact would work

What, exactly, is being proposed? According to Linde, states that join a compact would be agreeing to accept the credentials of professional counselors who are licensed in another state. Individual state licensing boards would be allowed to impose additional requirements such as a jurisprudence exam or an FBI background check, but the compact would not change professional counselors’ scope of practice, Linde explains. Individual counselors would be required to hold a valid license from the state of their legal residence. Counselors could then apply to the compact to be licensed to practice in other states that have agreed to participate in the compact.

Although the process sounds relatively simple, implementing the interstate compact for portability is a multiyear process. In January 2019, ACA signed a contract with the Council of State Governments’ (CSG) National Center for Interstate Compacts (NCIC) to conduct the work. NCIC has divided the project into three phases:

  • Phase I: Developing the compact. This involves creation of an advisory group, drawing up a draft compact and getting feedback on the draft from all of the groups involved.
  • Phase II: Implementing the compact. During this phase, an online compact resource kit will be developed, along with a legislative strategy, including a national legislative briefing.
  • Phase III: Establishing the commission that will oversee and coordinate the compact.

(For more detailed information on the interstate compact process, access a fact sheet at tinyurl.com/vlh3gk2 on ACA’s website.)

Where are we now?

In October 2019, the advisory group, composed of ACA members, representatives from state licensing boards, state legislators, and attorneys for state licensing boards, met in person. Follow-up phone meetings were held in November, December, January and February. During these calls, the advisory group members had an opportunity to further discuss how they wanted to handle specific elements of the compact and talk with representatives of other compacts, Linde says.

A drafting team, composed primarily of lawyers who serve on the advisory group, lawyers from NCIC, and several other professionals who have specific expertise in licensure requirements, has been created and was scheduled to meet in March, Linde says. The goal is to produce a draft compact by May or June of this year. The draft will go back to the advisory group for review and then enter the formal CSG compact stakeholder review — an eight-week process for gathering feedback from state licensing boards, state legislatures, and state and national membership organizations. The drafting team will review the feedback and make any needed changes. The updated draft will then be presented to the advisory group, which will either endorse it or make further changes.

Once the advisory group endorses the final version, the plan will be presented to the states and phase II, the legislative process of implementing the compact, will begin. (Visit tinyurl.com/unav9ta for more detailed information about the drafting and implementation process.)

Phase II is expected to run from September 2020 through March 2023. Phase III is projected to take place from April 2023 to September 2023.



For more details on the compact project, see the ACA webinar “Interstate Compacts for Professional Counseling: The Pathway to Licensure Portability


Laurie Meyers is a senior writer at Counseling Today. Contact her at lmeyers@counseling.org.


Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

From the President: Making progress toward portability

Simone Lambert November 30, 2018

Simone Lambert, ACA’s 67th president

Imagine being able to move to another state and seamlessly maintain your license as a professional counselor. Consider the possibility of providing mental health services via telehealth across the nation without having to maintain 50-plus licenses. Envision working in the offices of a practice that spans two or three border states in a metropolitan area and needing to maintain only one state license.

Although these scenarios will not come to fruition overnight, the American Counseling Association recently took a major step in that direction. On Oct. 17, the ACA Governing Council approved the initial endorsement and funding of a professional occupation interstate compact for professional counselors.
This monumental decision was the result of courageous ACA leaders and staff, across many years, examining the portability issue with various logistical concerns in mind.

What, ideally, will an interstate compact achieve? The hope is that within all the states that sign on to the compact, professional counselors will have the ability to move seamlessly, conduct telecounseling and practice across border states. Simultaneously, we as a profession will need to continue standardizing initial licensure requirements, thus allowing additional states to meet the criteria established by the interstate compact. This two-pronged effort will require much time, much energy and many resources so that we can achieve the end goal of national portability.

The interstate compact development is a multiyear process that ACA envisions being broken into three major phases:

  • Project research, the development and convening of an advisory group, and the drafting of compact language
  • Development and implementation of legislative strategy
  • Development of the commission of bylaws, structure, membership, budget and promotion strategies

This effort could not have gotten off the ground without the bold leadership of ACA Past President Thelma Duffey and the continued efforts over the past four terms of the ACA Governing Council, which has consistently prioritized portability as a goal for all counselors in good standing. The diligent work of this year’s ACA Portability Task Force and the tireless efforts of the ACA staff have enabled us to ensure that the needs of ACA members are taken into account with such an important decision.

The ACA Licensure Portability Model clearly emphasizes that if a counselor has met all of the state criteria and doesn’t have any violations, then we need to strive toward licensure portability. As a reminder, the ACA Licensure Portability Model (as approved by the ACA Governing Council in June 2016) states: “A counselor who is licensed at the independent practice level in their home state and who has no disciplinary record shall be eligible for licensure at the independent practice level in any state or U.S. jurisdiction in which they are seeking residence. The state to which the licensed counselor is moving may require a jurisprudence examination based on the rules and procedures of that state.”

A professional occupation interstate compact for professional counselors has the potential to operationalize the aspirational ACA Licensure Portability Model.

Today, we know that military spouses are challenged to remain in the counseling profession when having to move from state to state every few years and trying to get through the licensure endorsement process before the next move. We know there are mental health shortages, continuity of care issues and national crises that could be better addressed through telehealth counseling if state boundaries weren’t an obstacle. We know that professional counselors need licensure portability so they can be geographically flexible in seeking positions when they begin their careers and to remain actively engaged throughout their careers.

The step taken Oct. 17 will not help professional counselors today, but there is much hope that a professional occupation interstate compact for professional counselors can assist us in the realization of licensure portability in the foreseeable future.




Follow Simone on Twitter: @drsimonelambert 


From the President: The journey toward licensure portability

Simone Lambert August 1, 2018

Simone Lambert, ACA’s 67th president

From the Building Blocks to Portability Project, which emerged out of the 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling initiative, to adoption of the ACA Licensure Portability Model in June 2016 by the ACA Governing Council, the counseling profession continues to further the licensure expedition. These ardent efforts began in 1976, when Virginia became the first state to license professional counselors.

Much has changed in our society over the ensuing 42 years. There has been a transformation in how we live, work and communicate. Technology is advancing far beyond what many of us could have imagined. Telehealth, distance counseling and online counselor education programs are on the rise. Another major societal shift is the growth of metropolitan regions that traverse state lines. Counselors often work and live in two different states within one of these regional areas. As counselors become more mobile and interconnected, issues emerge concerning their ability to practice beyond the confines of their own state. Because of these modern developments, licensure portability is a more relevant and pressing concern for counselors.

Then there are other scenarios that counselors must sometimes navigate. For instance, families relocate to serve as caregivers for other family members, or couples balance dual careers, which may lead to one partner being professionally disadvantaged when a job relocation occurs for the other partner. A prime example of this is military spouses who often relocate. They may be confronted with completing their counseling degree, obtaining licensure and transferring their license to a new state on a timetable over which they have little to no control.

Many licensure laws have remained stagnant since their inception. This is in part because when counselor license laws are open for modification, other groups or legislators can position themselves to limit counselors’ scope of practice. If updating these laws were easy, the issue of portability would have been solved years ago. However, states vary with respect to graduate curricula, post-licensure hours and supervision requirements.

Some states have reciprocity whereby transfer applications are reviewed on an individual basis. State licensing boards typically do not have large staffs, thus this individual review can add months to the process. Sometimes this delay prevents applicants from accepting employment opportunities. This is a challenge for counselors at all stages of their careers.

However, new professionals navigating the licensure process in one state when the need arises to take a position in another state face particular challenges. These new professionals are sometimes told that their supervised hours will not count toward licensure or that they need to accrue more supervised experience. They may be required to take additional coursework at a time when they are not making a livable salary due to their prelicensure status. Or, as they start to pay back student loans, new professionals may be required to pay additional licensure application fees, supervision costs and testing fees. The barriers to launching or sustaining a career in counseling can seem overwhelming.

We must continue to expand on our professional groundwork and make strides to help counselors create and sustain productive and rewarding careers in counseling. We can do this while maintaining standards that protect the public. We can do this while addressing both the shortage of mental health providers and increasing service access for clients. We can do this by including telehealth as a viable modality to meet the needs in rural and underserved communities. We must do this to assist counselors who take positions across state lines.

Collectively, we can collaborate with states and advocate for state licensure to be compatible between and among states. We can endeavor to have a mechanism in place for true portability. We are focused on bringing licensure portability to fruition. Learn more about the ACA Licensure Portability Model in preparation for the next part of our licensure journey: counseling.org/knowledge-center/licensure-portability-model-fact-sheet



ACA continues push forward for licensure portability

By the Counseling Today staff June 6, 2017


Summer 2019 update: The American Counseling Association has created a state-by-state guide with updated information on licensure requirements across the country. Go to counseling.org/knowledge-center/licensure-requirements for information on licensure in your state or U.S. territory.



The American Counseling Association Governing Council has endorsed a plan that would allow counselor practitioners who are licensed and in good standing in one state to become seamlessly licensed in other states should they move.

The lack of licensure portability — being able to transfer a professional counseling license when a practitioner moves to a different state — has long been an issue within the profession and is frequently cited as one of the top frustrations of professional counselors. Counselor licensure titles and requirements vary from state to state across the U.S., sometimes forcing even the most veteran of counselors to obtain additional supervision hours or meet other requirements before securing a new license after moving across state lines.

The ACA Licensure Portability Model, passed by the Governing Council in June 2016 and reaffirmed this past March, calls for counselors who are licensed in one state and have no disciplinary record to become eligible for license “in any state or U.S. jurisdiction in which they are seeking residence.” The model allows that states may require these counselors to take a jurisprudence exam to verify that they are knowledgeable about the laws in that particular state.

To become a reality, the ACA Licensure Portability Model must first be adopted by individual state licensing boards across the U.S. The procedure for taking this action varies from state to state. Some licensing boards possess the ability to change regulations on their own, whereas others must first petition their respective state legislature.

“I was amazed to see the progress that last year’s Governing Council made and how this year’s board has been so supportive of our rolling out the model that was adopted,” comments ACA CEO Richard Yep. “We look forward to working with licensing boards across the country in order to ensure that qualified professional counselors have the ability to practice in the jurisdiction of their choice.”

During her year as ACA president (2015-2016), Thelma Duffey helped to guide the discussion as the Governing Council considered the portability model motion. She calls the adopted model aspirational and forward thinking, and terms the plan a form of advocacy in and of itself.

“One of our goals in endorsing the model for consideration by states was to enthusiastically promote ACA’s position on portability while working with stakeholders who shared our interests and visions. It was also important to the Governing Council that we alert the membership of our vision and mission to make licensure portability a reality,” says Duffey, professor and chair of the counseling department at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “Much like ACA’s aspirational goal of seeing counseling licensure reach every state years ago, we once again are aspiring to establish a national standard, and our goal is to see this realized in the future.”

As for next steps, Duffey says, “ACA is engaging in communication and advocacy efforts that involve informing the membership and other stakeholders about the ACA Licensure Portability Model … and communicating the challenges to portability, particularly as they relate to differences in initial licensure requirements across states. The Governing Council also approved an advocacy plan that highlights the trend toward standardization and provides a rationale for why the ACA portability model is a well-suited aspirational goal. The ACA plan is, of course, grounded in respect for state sovereignty and recognizes that each state licensing board has the ultimate decision on whether to participate. Next steps involve ACA working with states to facilitate support for standardization and the ACA Licensure Portability Model.”

“This model is, from my perspective, visionary in that it takes into account the increasing standardization of training and postgraduation supervision requirements,” Duffey continues. “It is also inclusive of all independently licensed professional counselors, and it is respectful of the training that counselors undergo. Moreover, it is designed with the intent of protecting the public. A criteria of the model stipulates that portability is contingent upon a violation-free practice.”

Multiple ideas, one goal

The ACA Licensure Portability Model joins another initiative that is being floated across the profession to address this issue. A plan co-created by the American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB), the National Board for Certified Counselors, the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, and the American Mental Health Counselors Association endorses allowing licenses to be transferred between states for counselors who have “engaged in ethical practice, with no disciplinary sanctions, for at least five years from the date of application for licensure endorsement” and “possessed the highest level of counselor licensure for independent practice for at least three years from the date of application
for licensure endorsement.” Licensees would also have to comply with one
of the following:

  • Hold the national certified counselor credential in good standing
  • Have a graduate-level degree from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  • Meet all of the academic, exam and postgraduate supervised experience standards as adopted by the respective state counseling licensure board

Prospective licensees would also have to complete a jurisprudence exam if required by the state’s regulatory board. As with the ACA model, this plan would first have to be adopted state by state to come to fruition.

“A set of guidelines, as with the ACA Licensure Portability Model that Governing Council embraced in June 2016, is a positive and necessary gesture in support of the standardization of licensure to enable licensed counselors to move from state to state with a maximum of ease,” says 2016-2017 ACA President Catherine Roland. “The operative word in that sentence is guidelines, because any portability model … is at best [a set of] respectful professional suggestions to state boards. So while portability is a priority for all of us, the state boards would need to be willing to work to create a similar template for all, and that I feel is aspirational.”

“I also believe it is an attainable goal in the future,” Roland continues. “That goal may be reached, however, and still not ensure the actual ability of an individual to be licensed in a particular state. It’s important to realize that each state board will continue to carefully check each and every applicant, in much the same way as they do now. If someone doesn’t have the requirements of academic or practice rigor, it is very likely that no license will be granted. Portability doesn’t guarantee a license.”

A vision for the future

During her presidency, Duffey created a task force focused on counselor license portability, led by 2014-2015 ACA President Robert Smith. Duffey says she directed the group to evaluate other portability plans circulating within the profession “for potential ACA adoption of those models. If the task force did not see a compatible fit between those existing models and ACA’s strategic vision, the task force was given the latitude to create a model that more closely aligned with our vision for the future.” The task force decided to create a separate ACA model, which was ultimately passed by the Governing Council.

As Duffey explained, “The portability task force was charged with developing the model that considered the extensive training and supervisory experiences of counselors, and the great needs for mental health counseling. They also recognized the strong trends toward licensure standardization with regard to education and experiential requirements. The task force believed that the ACA portability model would meet the needs of counselors as the requirements become more uniform across the country. It would be very unfortunate for states to adopt a portability plan that involved additional post-licensure years of experience only to have this requirement unnecessary in the near future.”

Duffey says she views the ACA Licensure Portability Model as addressing the problem of state-to-state portability by providing states with “a visionary best practice promulgated by ACA. Although this can be seen as a tall order in the short run, I believe it will be a wonderful accomplishment and form of advocacy in the long run. Most state licensing boards require 60 hours of course work and 3,000 hours of post-master’s-degree supervision at this point in time. We are making strides toward standardization. As a result, I believe we are well-positioned to move the ACA Licensure Portability Model forward for consideration by states. It may be that we begin this work through compacts, or states that share common requirements.”

Building on a foundation

In 2015, ACA sent letters to state licensing boards asking for the adoption of a uniform professional title — licensed professional counselor (LPC) — and a uniform scope of practice, a five-paragraph job description that defines the work of professional counselors. The letter was the culmination of the Building Blocks to Portability Project that was part of 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling. The yearslong strategic planning initiative, co-sponsored by ACA and AASCB, involved 31 counseling organizations. (For more information on 20/20, including the Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession, the consensus definition of counseling and the Building Blocks to Portability Project, see counseling.org/knowledge-center/20-20-a-vision-for-the-future-of-counseling.)

Counselor licensure requirements were set up individually by each state over a period of decades — beginning with Virginia in 1976 and ending with California in 2009 — as the profession matured and pushed to establish itself. In the process, significant disparities arose between counselor licenses across the United States, from the number of supervision hours required to obtain a license to the license titles themselves, creating many of the ongoing obstacles in licensure portability.

“ACA is committed to working through these obstacles,” Duffey says. “It is a real burden that licensure portability is not available for a very large majority of independently licensed counselors at this point. As counselors, we cannot move from state to state with any assurance that we can practice and do the good work of counseling. This is so even after investing countless hours in training and supervised practice. Should independently licensed counselors need or desire to move to a different state, they risk losing the opportunity to work within their profession. This is a real challenge that too many people must deal with. Therefore, I see licensure portability as an important need and promoting licensure portability as an important professional goal.”

Says Roland, “I do believe licensure portability is a goal we all have, and I believe eventually it will be a goal that is reached. Until then, we will continue to support our ACA Licensure Portability Model and uphold our ACA Code of Ethics while we remain loyal to the counseling profession.”




Text of the ACA Licensure Portability Model (as adopted by the ACA Governing Council)

“Whereas the mission statement of the American Counseling Association is to enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity; and

“Whereas advocating for licensure portability that allows professional counselors licensed at the independent practice level in one state to have the mobility to utilize their education and training and to serve the public by becoming licensed at the independent practice level in another state supports the mission of the American Counseling Association;

“Therefore, the American Counseling Association promulgates the following licensure portability model:

“A counselor who is licensed at the independent practice level in their home state and who has no disciplinary record shall be eligible for licensure at the independent practice level in any state or U.S. jurisdiction in which they are seeking residence. The state to which the licensed counselor is moving may require a jurisprudence examination based on the rules and procedures of that state.”




Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org




See ACA’s list of frequently asked questions on portability, as well as an email address you can contact with further questions, here: counseling.org/knowledge-center/aca-licensure-portability-model-faqs