American Mental Health Counselors Association

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American Mental Health Counselors Association
FormationMay 1976[1]
FoundersJim Messina, Nancy Spisso[1]
TypeProfessional organization
Professional title
Diplomate and Clinical Mental Health Specialist (DCMHS)
HeadquartersAlexandria, Virginia
ServicesLicensing, education, and ethics standards for mental health counselors
Membership (2015)
Parent organization
American Counseling Association

The American Mental Health Counselors Association (abbreviated AMHCA) is an organization of licensed mental health counselors in the United States. Its activities include setting and enforcing standards for education, licensing, and ethics for American mental health counselors.[2] It also publishes the Journal of Mental Health Counseling (formerly the American Mental Health Counselors Association Journal).[3]


The American Mental Health Counselors Association was founded in 1976 by Jim Messina and Nancy Spisso of the Escambia County Mental Health Center in Florida. At the time, mental health counselors lacked a clearly defined identity or an organization to represent their distinctive interests.[1] The American Mental Health Counselors Association became a division of the American Personnel and Guidance Association (now the American Counseling Association) in 1978.[4] As of 2016, the AMHCA remains one of the American Counseling Association's largest divisions.[5] The American Counseling Association's Encyclopedia of Counseling credits the AMHCA's activities with significantly impacting "...the development of mental health counseling as a distinct and nationally recognized profession on several levels."[3]


In 1987, the AMHCA had about 12,000 members,[6] and as of 2015, its membership was just under 7,000. To become a member of the AMHCA, it is necessary to follow the organization's clinical practice standards, and to have a master's degree in counseling or a related field.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Colangelo, James J. (April 2009). "The American Mental Health Counselors Association: Reflection on 30 Historic Years". Journal of Counseling & Development. 87 (2): 234–240. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6678.2009.tb00572.x. ISSN 0748-9633.
  2. ^ a b Sperry, Len (2015-12-14). Mental Health and Mental Disorders: An Encyclopedia of Conditions, Treatments, and Well-Being [3 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of Conditions, Treatments, and Well-Being. ABC-CLIO. p. 55. ISBN 9781440803833.
  3. ^ a b Association, American Counseling (2015-04-15). The ACA Encyclopedia of Counseling. John Wiley & Sons. p. 22. ISBN 9781119025436.
  4. ^ "History of AMHCA". American Mental Health Counselors Association. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
  5. ^ Young, J. Scott; Cashwell, Craig S. (2016-07-27). Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Elements of Effective Practice. SAGE Publications. p. 15. ISBN 9781506305622.
  6. ^ Hunt, Morton (1987-08-30). "NAVIGATING THE THERAPY MAZE; A Consumer's Guide to Mental Health Treatment". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2018-08-03.

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