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How To Become A Military or Veterans Counselor

How To Become A Military or Veterans Counselor

There is a paucity of literature in counseling and psychology that addresses how to facilitate therapeutic interactions with the military culture particularly in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of issues related to military mental health. The question becomes “How can I take what I know in counseling and psychology, as a civilian or community mental health counselor, and apply this to facilitating military mental health strategies and techniques?” This is a dilemma particularly for those who have had little or no opportunity to provide counseling and related-services to active duty personnel, veterans, veterans with disabilities, and family members. The following material describes credentials offered in the clinical military counseling area, occupational characteristics of different professions and settings that provide military counseling services, and our Clinical Military Counselor Certificate (CMCC) program.

Licensure, certification, accreditation, and certificate programs are distinct forms of professional credentialing and are often confused by professional counselors and consumers alike. Credentialing standards in the general counseling and psychology professions are developed by senior members of the profession who define and promote essential guidelines for practice, and offer the foundational knowledge and skills required to practice competently in a specialized area of counseling. There are distinct differences between certifications and certificates. Certifications are a more specific indication of professional expertise, typically created by professional organizations and groups to convey which counselors can competently and ethically provide specialty counseling services (e.g., National Certified Counselors (NCC) [administered by National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)]; Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) [administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certificate]. Whereas, certificates are an instructional training program that awards a certificate to recognize the mastery of a specific knowledge domain, set of skills, and participation in a training program (e.g., certificates in Motivational Interviewing (MI), Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR); Certificate Disaster Mental Health Responder- American Red Cross]. Much like certification programs, it is common for some certificate programs to have an evaluation component to assess and evaluate the mastery of the intended learning outcomes and competencies required to attain the foundational knowledge and skills within a specific discipline. The common core in all credentialing relates to consumer protection and establishing minimum standards of knowledge and skills for effective practice.
In recent years, the field of counseling and psychology has become specialized with a variety of therapeutic practice areas. However, few organizations offer a credential that recognizes counselors and psychologists to provide competent services to military populations. Counselors and Psychologists are typically recognized by a specialized area of practice. Also, most counseling professionals are recognized by their occupational setting (e.g., military bases, VA clinics, private practices, university research settings). Some insurance panels and employee assistance programs require a few hours of training within the clinical counselors’ specialty area (e.g., military family counseling, career counseling for veterans, clinical counseling within the military culture).
The Clinical Military Counseling Certificate (CMCC) is much like other professional “certificates of achievement” that practitioners earn in other specialties. Certificates such as the CMCC, offers professional development to facilitate therapeutic techniques, approaches, and strategies specific to the military populations. The intention is to acquire training and understanding of the military culture as it related to the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health conditions and provide competent treatment with optimal levels of professionalism.
The CMCC program promotes and achieves a high standard of excellence providing best practices for the competent and ethical practice of serving the military community across a variety of military branches and settings. The mission of the CMCC is to provide training and development for professional counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other behaviorally-licensed and certified professionals who serve, or want to serve active duty service personnel, veterans, veterans with disabilities, and family members across the different military branches in a variety of service-related settings. Participants will increase their knowledge, awareness, and skills of the unique cultural differences in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of military vs. civilian or community mental health and related services.
Five modules in the CMCC Program offer participants comprehensive material related to the service member and veterans’ medical, psychosocial, behavioral, mental health, family life, vocational, and career transition needs. Completion of the CMCC credential includes 12 contact hours of continuing educational credit in a Five Module training sequence. The CMCC credential can be earned all online (12 CEUs) or taken in either a one-day face-to-face workshop (6 CEUs) or as a 6-hour webinar spread across a two day period, with an additional 6 hours of online training to complete the total 12 hours of training. The Five Module all online training is a self-paced program and include didactic presentations by professionals that have extensive experience dealing with the medical, physical, psychosocial, behavioral, mental health, family life, vocational, and career transition needs of military cultures.
Overall, the military community has become an emerging and major priority for mental health counseling and related services. It is clearly a unique culture because of its language, rituals, organizational structure, values, mission, as well as the differences that exist within each of the various branches of the Armed Forces (e.g., Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reservists). All active duty service members will eventually transition to civilian-life and will require intensive ongoing medical, psychosocial, vocational, and mental health support. The CMCC approach will assist professionals in training-up for the mission of offering military counseling and related services.

Mark A. Stebnicki, Ph.D., LPC, DCMHS, CRC, CCM, CMCC

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