Mental health counselors are the third largest segment of the behavioral health workforce and represent a profession that is projected to grow by 23% through 2026.14 Enumeration estimates place these counselors at between 134,000 and 166,000, depending on the source. According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association, clinical mental health counselors treat mental illness, address life distress, and facilitate wellness in individuals and families. Aside from standardized education and training requirements, little is known about the national mental health counselor workforce, such as demographic composition, practice characteristics, job functions, and settings where services are being delivered. This information can inform workforce planning efforts. The BHWRC has developed a minimum data set for mental health counselors, on which a national study can be built. The BHWRC has also researched the standard operating procedures of mental health counselors and produced a report detailing the licensure and education requirements, as well as the variability in permitted functions and reciprocity policies across the country.

This study seeks to build on the Center’s previous SOP, MDS, and workforce mapping studies to create the BHWRC’s most comprehensive profile of a workforce segment, including size, composition, function and location. The study will also test mechanisms for formalizing implementation of the behavioral health workforce MDS as a mechanism for providing consistent, reliable mental health counselor data over time.

A weighted quantitative online survey will be administered to 2,500 mental health counselors from a population of 65,000 counselors listed in the national board of certified counselors. Survey themes, consistent with the primary categories of the MDS, will include: demographics; education and training background; licensure and certification; area of practice; function/daily responsibilities; practice setting.