Counseling Psychology

The definition used to determine whether applicants/candidates have been functioning as Counseling Psychologists is the definition adopted by the Counseling Specialty Council, a member of the Council of Specialties, and adopted in some form by the member organizations of the Council at their annual meeting on August 6, 2022.

Counseling Psychology is a generalist health service (HSP) specialty in professional psychology that uses a broad range of culturally informed and culturally sensitive practices to help people improve their well-being, prevent and alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve crises, and increase their ability to function better in their lives. It focuses specifically but not exclusively on normative life-span development, with a particular emphasis on prevention and education as well as amelioration, addressing individuals as well as the systems or contexts in which they function. It has particular expertise in work and career issues.

Specialized Knowledge

Psychologists have an understanding of and capacity to engage in evidence-based and culturally informed intervention, assessment, prevention, training, and research practices. They focus on healthy aspects and strengths of their clients (whether they are individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations, or communities); environmental/contextual influences (such as cultural, sociopolitical, gender, racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic factors) that shape people’s experiences and concerns; the role of career and work in peoples’ lives; and advocacy for equity and social justice.

Problems Addressed

Counseling psychologists focus on normative developmental and mental health issues and challenges faced by individuals across their lifespan, as well as systemic challenges (such as prejudice and discrimination) experienced in groups, workplaces, organizations, institutions, and communities. They use strengths-based perspectives and practices to prevent and ameliorate emotional, relational, physical/health-related, social, cultural, vocational, educational, and identity-related problems.

Skills & Procedures Utilized

The procedures and techniques used within Counseling Psychology include, but are not limited to:

  • Individual, couples/family, and group counseling and psychotherapy.
  • Crisis intervention, disaster, and trauma management.
  • Assessment techniques for the identification or diagnosis of psychological problems and disorders.
  • Education and prevention activities.
  • Consultation and intervention in workplaces, organizations, institutions, and communities.
  • Interventions related to work and career issues.
  • Therapy process and outcome assessment and program/services evaluation. 
  • Training and clinical supervision.
  • Construction and validation of psychological instruments and assessment tools.
  • Scientific investigations utilizing a range of research methodologies.
  • Advocacy for equity and social justice for individuals, groups, organizations, institutions, and communities.

Populations Served

Counseling Psychologists serve persons of all ages and cultural backgrounds in individual, group (including couples and families), workplace, organizational, institutional, and community settings. They work with groups and communities to assist them in addressing or preventing problems, as well as to improve the personal and interpersonal functioning of individual members. Counseling psychologists also intervene in organizations, institutions, workplaces, and communities to enhance their effectiveness, climate, and the success and well-being of their members.

Counseling Psychologists facilitate personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span with a focus on individual, group, and community interventions for emotional, behavioral, vocational, and mental health problems using preventative, developmental, and remedial approaches, and in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychopathology. Counseling Psychologists participate in a range of activities including psychotherapy, assessment, teaching, research, supervision, career development and consultation. They employ a variety of methods closely tied to theory and research to help individuals, groups and organizations function optimally as well as to remediate dysfunction.

The practice of Counseling Psychology encompasses a broad range of culturally sensitive practices that help people improve their well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve crises, and increase their ability to function better in their lives. These activities are guided by a philosophy that values individual differences and diversity and a focus on prevention, development, and adjustment across the lifespan.

The American Board of Counseling Psychology (ABCoP) is one of the original specialties recognized in 1947 when the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) was founded. The ABCoP is responsible for establishing criteria related to the definition, education, training, competencies, and examination leading to certification as a specialist in Counseling Psychology. The ABCoP is governed by a board composed of members certified in Counseling Psychology who represent the specialty on a national basis.