What is Counseling Psychology?


Counseling Psychology is a specialty within professional psychology that maintains a focus on facilitating personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span. The specialty  pays particular attention to emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns.

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. With its  attention to both to normal developmental issues and problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders, the specialization holds a unique perspective in the broader practice-based areas of psychology.

Counseling Psychologists serve persons of all ages and cultural backgrounds in both individual and group settings. They also consult regularly with organizations seeking to enhance their effectiveness or the well-being of their members.

Interventions used by Counseling Psychologists may be either brief or long-term; they are often problem-specific and goal-directed. These activities are guided by a philosophy that values individual differences and diversity and a focus on prevention, development, and adjustment across the life-span.

Listen to what some graduate students and an early career professional have to say about counseling psychology:


Counseling Psychologists adhere to the standards and ethics established by the American Psychological Association. Recognized by the APA Committee for Recognition of Specialties and Subspecialties in Professional Psychology (CRSSPP), the most recent approved version of the Counseling Psychology specialty petition can be found here.

The Counseling Psychology Taxonomy was reviewed and redesigned by the Counseling Psychology Synarchy group,of which SCP is a member. It was chaired by Julia Phillips, and included SCP, ACCTA, CCPTP, and ABCoP.

Counseling Psychology CoS Taxonomy Template Grid 2021 (PDF)

A related entity is the Counseling Psychology Specialty Council (CPSC), an organization comprised of constituent organizations, which are stakeholders in the specialty of Counseling Psychology. Click here to learn more about the members of the CPSC. The Counseling Psychology Specialty Council is itself a member of the Council of Specialties in Professional Psychology, COSPP, the professional organization comprised of all recognized specialties in professional psychology. The CPSC revised the Counseling Psychology Education and Training Taxonomy which COSPP approved in December 2021. All specialties must have a taxonomy to guide institutions, which seek to provide education and training in that specialty, in their marketing materials. The taxonomies specify the types of training a program must provide at different levels across stages of training. The taxonomies will lead to greater consistency across programs so that there is “truth in advertising,” and trainees understand what type of training each program offers. For more information on the Education & Training Taxonomies, click here.