International Developments in Counseling Psychology

Clearly, the world is rapidly changing and becoming a global village with increased interdependence, communication, travel, migration, and trade between countries. This entry summarizes the international developments in counseling psychology in the United States and worldwide.

In the United States

The U.S. counseling profession has a long and distinguished history, evolving from the vocational guidance movement in the late 19th century to a strong counseling psychology specialty within the discipline of psychology in the 21st century. The specialty educates individuals through accredited training programs, generates knowledge from research, credentials members to function as professionals, and is regulated through organizations established for more than 50 years.

The profession made several early attempts to become internationalized. For example, after World War II, U.S. counseling psychologists consulted with Japanese education faculty about establishing counseling services. More systematic efforts to increase cross-cultural communication within the profession began in the mid-1960s with the creation of the International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling. In the 1980s, a few counseling psychologists were granted Fulbright professorships. In 1988, Bruce Fretz, then the incoming editor of The Counseling Psychologist (TCP), began a new section within this journal called The International Forum, publishing articles primarily by U.S. scholars about their experiences working abroad. In 1989, the Minnesota International Counseling Institute (MICI) was created by counseling psychology faculty at the University of Minnesota, namely Thomas Skovholt, Sunny Hansen, John Romano, and Kay Thomas. The MICI is a biennial gathering of international practitioners and scholars to advance the science and practice of cross-cultural counseling. In 1991, Paul Pedersen published a landmark article proposing that culture, defined broadly, is generic to all counseling. In essence, Pedersen broadened the conceptualization of culture to expand the growing multicultural movement to include cross-cultural counseling. For the next 15 years, Pedersen provided leadership in promoting the internationalization of the profession. However, by the mid-1990s, the internationalization of the profession was not widely accepted or even well understood.

In 1997, the incoming editor of TCP, P. Paul Heppner, renewed the focus on international issues by (a) assigning scholars who were leaders in the international movement in counseling psychology as series coeditors (Frederick Leong and Paul Pedersen, and later Joe Ponterotto and Dave Blustein) of the International Forum, (b) changing the review process to be more culturally sensitive for international authors submitting manuscripts, and (c) appointing the first scholar from outside the United States (S. A. Leung from Hong Kong) to serve as associate editor. Because of the work of the series coeditors, more international colleagues were encouraged to submit manuscripts, the review process was more effective, and more international scholars began to publish in TCP and in other counseling journals, resulting in a slow increase in communication around an international perspective in counseling psychology.

More important, between 1997 and 2003, a number of articles and books appeared by Pedersen, Leong, and other colleagues more fully articulating a strong rationale for internationalizing counseling psychology in the United States and emphasizing the pervasive role of culture in all dimensions of counseling. These publications increased awareness that culture affects behavior and thus is a very important context in which to understand the counseling process. In 2003, Louise Douce, as president of the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Division 17 (Counseling Psychology), created a forum at the annual APA convention for counseling scholars interested in international issues to discuss common goals. Two years later, Heppner, as then president of Division 17, expanded the international scholar’s breakfast and reception at the APA convention to welcome international guests, promote collaborative relationships across different countries, and give scholars an opportunity to learn from each other. He also initiated, in conjunction with Lawrence H. Gerstein, an international section within Division 17.

In 2006, there was a growing awareness of the utility of cross-cultural issues in counseling, and growing numbers of international graduates were joining the ranks of counseling professionals. The infrastructure of the international counseling movement also expanded as did the availability of outlets for publication. Consequently, communication among counseling leaders worldwide has increased, and the focus on international issues within counseling psychology in the United States has accelerated.

Around the Globe

The counseling profession is active worldwide. However, there are many differences in the identity of counseling psychologists, the credentials required to function as such professionals, and the presence and infrastructure of associations representing this occupational group.

The profession is blossoming more in Asia than in other regions of the world. In general, counselors and counseling psychologists can be found in Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, and to some extent, India and Pakistan. In only a few Asian countries is it possible for counselors (e.g., Japan) and counseling psychologists (e.g., Taiwan) to be licensed. There are, however, many organizations representing such professionals.

The counseling profession also can be found in the Southern Hemisphere. Counselors and/or counseling psychologists are available in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji, along with several organizations.

Counseling is not as popular in the Middle East, Eurasia, southeastern Europe, and western and central Asia. Although counselors can be found in countries such as Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinian territory, Turkey, and Iran, they are a recognized specialty only in Greece and can be licensed in only a few of these countries (e.g., Lebanon, Greece). A wide array of organizations is available along with a division of counseling psychology in the Hellenic Psychology Society in Greece.

The profession is growing in Africa. Counseling psychologists or counselors can be found in Uganda, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Botswana. There are a number of organizations for such professionals. Counselors and counseling psychologists can become licensed only in South Africa.

The counseling profession has a long history in Europe. There are counselors, for instance, in Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, Ukraine, Slovakia, Portugal, France, and Hungary. In Iceland and Germany, there is no counseling profession, but there are psychologists. Counselors can be licensed in Portugal but not in most other countries mentioned above. Counseling psychologists are licensed in Bulgaria and Ireland. Organizations for counselors exist in many countries. Counselors living in European countries where there is no credentialing may obtain certification from the European Association for Counselling.

Counseling psychology in Canada dates back to the 1950s. Since 1986, the profession has existed as a section of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA). The CPA accredits doctoral programs in counseling psychology. Various regulatory bodies recognize counseling psychology as a specialty in psychology. There is no law regulating the title of “counselor” (indicating persons with a master’s degree), but there is certification through the Canadian Counseling Association. Counseling psychologists can obtain a license.

There is little available information on the profession in South, Central, and Latin America. In El Salvador, the differences between counseling psychology and clinical psychology are not stressed. Similarly, counseling is not a separate field in Guyana. In Peru, to become a psychologist, one must complete 6 years of postsecondary education in psychology. Counseling is relatively new to the Bahamas. Only clinical psychologists are licensed.

Finally, a major development in the international recognition of counseling psychology as a specialty was the creation of Division 16 in the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP) in 2006. Frederick Leong was instrumental in the development of this new division. The IAAP is the oldest international organization of applied psychology. The 2006 international congress marked the first time counseling psychology had a formal voice in the IAAP.


Although the inclusion of international perspectives in counseling psychology began in the 1940s, it grew relatively slowly in the U.S. until the beginning of the21st century. Since 2000, there has been greater interest in international perspectives in counseling psychology in U.S. journals as well as changes in the infrastructure within U.S. professional associations, in the training of students in cross-cultural competencies, and in cross-national communication and collaboration to reach mutually beneficial goals. The profession is vigorously developing worldwide with differing identities, credentialing, training standards and accreditation, and a wide array of service delivery models to address various societal needs for diverse cultures. The profession is active globally and committed to strengthening collaboration among counseling professionals worldwide.


  1. Gerstein, L. H. (2005). Counseling psychologists as international social architects. In R. L. Toporek, L. H. Gerstein, N. A. Fouad, G. Roysircar-Sodowsky, & T. Israel (Eds.), Handbook for social justice in counseling psychology: Leadership, vision, and action (pp. 377-387). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  2. Gerstein, L. H., & /Egisdottir, S. (Eds.). (2005). Counseling around the world [Special issue]. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 27, 95-184.
  3. Gerstein, L. H., & /Egisdottir, S. (Eds.). (2005). Counseling outside of the United States: Looking in and reaching out! [Special section]. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 27, 221-281.
  4. Heppner, P. P. (2006). The benefits and challenges of becoming cross-culturally competent counseling psychologists. The Counseling Psychologist, 34, 147-172.
  5. Leong, F. T. L., & Ponterotto, J. G. (2003). A proposal for internationalizing counseling psychology in the United States: Rationale, recommendations, and challenges. The Counseling Psychologist, 31, 381-395.
  6. Pedersen, P., & Leong, F. (1997). Counseling in an international context. The Counseling Psychologist, 25, 117-122.
  7. Society of Counseling Psychology, Division 17 of American Psychological Association:

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