Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Paradise, Louis

Second Advisor

Herlihy, Barbara

Third Advisor

Romano, Dawn

Fourth Advisor

Watson, Zarus


A strong, distinctive professional identity is essential for the survival of mental health professions (Fall, Leviov, Jennings, & Eberts, 2000). Although the literature of the various mental health professions offers varying definitions of professional identity, differentiating their services from one another continues to be a problem (Remley & Herlihy, 2005). This uncertainty inhibits uniformity within professions, and causes confusion within the public as to what each mental health field actually does and does not do. Psychologists and social workers have dedicated years of effort to define their professions, providing extensive literature rooted in the history, values, beliefs, and the knowledge base of their respective professions (Gilbert, 1977; Gibelman, 1999; Westefeld, Altmaier, Pickett, & Dikes, 2004). Counseling, as the newest mental health profession, has had far less time for explicating its professional identity. Thus, the purpose of this quantitative survey was to examine counselors' attitudes towards their professional identity and to identify the components of professional identity, which they believe contributed to their own identity as counselors. Counselors' perceptions of differences between themselves and other mental health professions were also examined. Licensed counselors from select states within ACA's southern region were asked to respond to the Survey of Counselor Professional Identity online survey. Respondents identified membership in counseling professional organizations, supervision during training, licensure, and advocacy for the profession as components that contributed to the development of their professional identity. These results support literature from psychology, social work, and counseling (Clark & Harden, 2000; Kaplan, 2006; Nelson & Jackson, 2003; Remley & Herlihy, 2005; Spruill & Benshoff, 1996; Swickert, 1997) that examines components contributing to the development of professional identity.


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