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Roles and Responsibilities of a Clinical Mental Health Counselor

In: Philosophy and Psychology

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The Roles and Functions of a CMHC

The clinical mental health counseling approach has been described as a continuum with healthy individuals on one end and severe mentally ill individuals on the other; consequently, everyone can benefit from clinical mental health counseling. The client-counselor relationship is one in which the client is led to identify strengths and challenges, and develop skills with the goal of independent problem-solving, long-term benefits and future prevention. This paper seeks to explore these domains further.
Clinical Roles and Approaches of the CMHC
The clinical mental health counseling approach has been described as a continuum with healthy individuals on one end and severe mentally ill individuals on the other; consequently, everyone can benefit from clinical mental health counseling. According to Hersehson and Poser (1987), the client-counselor relationship is one in which the client is led to identify strengths and challenges, and develop skills with the goal of independent problem-solving, long-term benefits and future prevention. Clinical mental health counselors (CMHC) are trained to treat their clients holistically and to use diverse approaches to address wide-ranging issues, diverse cultural backgrounds and life styles, and community settings (Gladding & Newsome, 2011; Myers & Sweeney, 2007).
According to Gladding & Newsome (2011) the CMHC will provide services in the following capacities:
Mental health counseling, treating people with mental health issues including depression, poor self-esteem, anxiety, anger management, PTSD, suicidal ideations, troubled relationships, etc.
Crisis management with clients who are in need of treatment because of a traumatic experience such as death of a loved one, a violent attack, etc.
Possibly addiction and substance abuse counseling by possibly helping the patient recognize triggers and change behaviors.
Life changing counseling for clients going through changes or decisions that cause stress and anxiety such as retirement, changing careers, divorce, etc.
Advocacy which can be at an individual, familial, institutional and/or societal level.
Additionally, the CMHC has the responsibilities to maintain records of confidentiality, treatment records and reports, federal and state required forms, collect information through interview, observation, and assessments to help develop treatment plans. The CMHC may find that it is necessary to incorporate the family and community members in assisting in the treatment process, and collaborate with other professionals such as psychologists, social workers, teachers, doctors to provide well rounded services for the client. The CMHC should also continue to seek personal development by attending classes or seminars and reading scholarly literature (Gladding & Newsome, 2011).

The CMHC and Multicultural Consicerations For Ryker and Kokotovic (2001) wrote “the multicultural perspectives in counseling and psychotherapy share the premise that no adequate understanding of a particular individual may be attained apart from an understanding of a larger context — family or culture, respectively — that shapes that person”. In this day and age, especially here in the United States, it is imperative that the CMHC consider the cultural background of his clients as the client’s culture influences the way in which he perceives and conveys his problems. This means that the CMHC must see the client’s bigger picture and his worldview. This can be a challenge because culture refers to more than just ethnicity or nationality. Culture also incorporates race, lifestyle, religion, beliefs, and other variables. As Tang (2003) points out, the counselor must continually prepare and seek knowledge and understanding as culture is very fluid. When working in a multicultural setting, the CMHC should be aware of his own belief system and worldview because they may contrast with those he serves.
Additionally, the CMHC must consider that the policies and ethical guidelines that counseling professionals adhere to and the context they were created in as they may not always be relevant or realistic for those who work in multicultural settings (Riker & Kokotovic, 2001).
The CMHC and Consultation
Moe and Perera-Diltz (2009) state that the role of consultant the CMHC interacts with another agent who is the consultee (other professionals, schools, businesses), with the intended purpose of benefitting a third agent (individual, family or community). The CMHC can also act as the consultee to better serve a third agent The consultant comes alongside the consultee, working in partnership with the consultee to improve the current condition (Moe & Perera-Diltz, 2009). The consultee may be seeking the CMHC’s counseling expertise, abilities, and approaches such as listening, reflection, and the understanding of multicultural issues as part of his interactions for success (Moe & Perera-Diltz, 2009). According to Baker, et. al., the consultant may also provide the following:
Sharing of expertise by presenting a plan of action based on observations of issues.
Engaging with the third agent directly in order to put into practice a plan of action.
Consultant and consultee collaborating to identify solutions for addressing the observed concerns.
Acting as a mediating agent in situations of dispute between consultee and third agent by fomenting open communication.

The CMHC and Professional Policies Policies at the professional and governmental level have been enacted to protect the client as well as the CMHC. These policies also promote the recognition and identification of the CMHC. One of the agencies overseeing that the policies are adhered to is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP). As per CACREP, all counseling students must require a minimum of 60 credit hours or 90 quarter credit hours (Gladding and Newsome, 2010). Also, the CACREP Accreditation Procedures Manual (CACREP, 2001) states that accredited programs must incorporate the following eight areas: professional identity, social and cultural diversity, human growth and development, career development, helping relationships, group work, assessment, and research and program evaluation.
It is also important that the CMHC be aware of his state’s requirements for licensure to practice and legal decisions since these differ from state to state. Failure to do so may result in malpractice or law suits (Gladding & Newsome, 2010).
The CMHC and State and Federal Policies The ability to receive health services (including mental health services) is directly affected by state and federal policies. National policy has been enacted to create federally funded programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, to make health coverage available to all individuals. However, there is a continual inequality in accessing services, specifically by those marginalized including the poor, certain ethnic or racial groups, and individuals with disabilities, among others. These individuals suffer more from poorer health and consequently suffer from more mental health problems. Additionally, the cost of health services continues to rise and private insurance plans limit health coverage. Because of this community programs, such as those dealing with housing, food and shelter programs and counseling have become very important. These programs are essential for improving the quality of life of those marginalized. The federal and state governments continually cut funding available for these programs, which increase the likeability of individuals with mental health problems, and also make treatment for these individuals less possible.

Baker, S. B., Robichaud, T. A., Dietrich, V. C., & et. al. (2009). School Counselor Consultation: A Pathway to Advocacy, Collaboration, and Leadership. Professional School Counseling, 12(3), 200-206.
Gladding, S. T., & Newsome, D. W. (2010). Clinical mental health counseling in community and agency settings (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.
Hershenson, D. B. & Power, P. W. (1987). Mental Health Counseling: Theory and Practice. New York: Pergamon.
Moe, J. L. & Perera-Diltz, D. M. (2009). An Overview of Systemic-Organizational Consultation for Professional Counselors. Journal of Professional Counselors, 37(1), 27-37.
Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. (2007). Wellness in counseling: An overview. American Mental Health Counseling Association. Alexandria, VA.
Standards for the Practice of the Clinical Mental Health Counselor. (2011). American Mental Health Counseling Association. Alexandria, VA.
Riker, J. R., & Kokotovic, A. M. (2001). Multicultural Issues. Mental Health Care for Child Crime Victims.. Retrieved from
Stormshak, E. A. (2002). Ann ecological approach to child and family clinical and counseling phychology. Clinical child and family psychology review, 5(3), 197-215.
Tang, M. (2003). Career Counseling in the Future: Constructing, Collaborating, Advocating. The Career Development Quarterly, 52(1), 61–69.

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