Professional competence among practicing mental health counselors has not been resolved yet whether it is attained through a licensure or higher educational training of this field. As per many researches that have been conducted, it takes a lot of training and experience before one could get competence. Besides, counseling a person with a mental health problem requires adequacy and expertise because irrelevant referral may result to a more aggravated condition on the part of the patient. Thus, the issue of competence among mental health counselor requires a more rigid consideration for comprehensive trainings designed to develop competency.
Professional competency is not acquired easily after four years of education in college nor if someone practicing it finds counseling a less difficult one. Even highly experienced therapist may also seek professional help or doubt their abilities as counselors according to Gerald Corey, Marianne Schneider Corey and Patrick Callanan (p. 315). This is why; many experts recommend a kind of training for these counselors in order to meet criteria of a competent counselor especially in dealing with mental health problem.
There are practical ways in approaching difficult cases that requires good judgment. In the first place, a counselor must identify whether he can do something about the problem, and refer that client to another therapist long before the allotted sessions end and not at the last day of therapy. This only annoys the client and causes him to be disappointed further because of irresponsible referral.
Based on the common issues observed in counseling sessions, the therapist must understand two factors that may contribute to his effectiveness: his judgment of the case and adequate training.
Personal judgment of the case involves how a counselor evaluates the case and his own capability to handle it. This also engages whether the case needs referral and when or how to communicate that to the client. Referral is the last option when all the possible resources have been used up or exhausted.
Training on other hand, is one basic component of competence. Training must be comprehensive and organized in terms of selection of trainees, content, and best approaches to ensure desired results (Corey, Corey & Callanan, p. 319). Meanwhile, the kind of training to obtain licensure is under the jurisdiction of the accreditation committee; however, in most cases, licensure is given to those who obtained degree of psychology in college. Here, the necessary trainings to develop a student are incorporated in the curriculum. Generally, hands-on training is the transition point of students to have him acquire knowledge and skills.
The content of a training program should be structured around a specific theoretical orientation that revolves around challenges as seen by concerned groups such as schools and practicing practitioners. Corey, et.al. pointed out that content must be objective and practical enough to offer students a variety of therapeutic techniques and strategies that can be applied to variety of problems (p. 332). Training program then must provide theoretical explanation to given problems in order to help them formulate rationale for every situation.
Professional licensing may indicate that a person is competent as long as a comprehensive program is offered to students by the school and licensing department of the government. – stated,
“Licensing examination generally contains a written component which may be supplemented by oral examination or practicum exam (patient diagnosis or counseling). These examination are commonly written or administered by the state board which also provides for scoring them and determines what “passing” scores are (p. 132).
Also, on the part of the school,
“The supervision work experience or practicum is meant to ensure that during the initial years of practice, the professional has the guidance necessary to deal with the complexities of practice. It is a transition period between the intense supervision that is supposed to be part of academic training (p. 132).
Corey, G., Corey, M., & Callanan, P. Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions 7th Edition.
Smith, S. & Meyer, R. 1987. Law, Behavior, and Mental Health: Policy and Practice. USA: NYU Press.
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