A professional association (PA) is a network of people engaged in the same profession who share a common interest. Many such associations are organizations managed by a board of directors and have their own standards of practice and ethical codes, but membership is usually voluntary. Many PAs are nationally recognized and have local affiliations in cities throughout the country. Involvement with PAs can be beneficial for its members because of the networking and educational opportunities available through membership.
An important function of PAs is their role in setting practice standards in their industry. Many PAs are responsible for creating the examinations necessary for state licensure and ensuring a high standard of quality for continuing education through their sponsorship of continuing education providers. When a PA approves a continuing education provider, the continuing education provider is often assigned a provider number by the PA. This is important to demonstrate to state licensing boards that the continuing education provider is qualified by the PA to provide continuing education credit. Many state boards will accept continuing education credit which is offered by providers who have been approved by reputable PAs.
Below are examples of professional associations for mental health professionals.
- American Counseling Association
- American Mental Health Counselors Association
- National Board for Certified Counselors
- Association of Social Work Boards
- National Association of Social Workers
- Clinical Social Work Association
- School Social Work Association of America