What is a Child Counselor?
There are several levels of licensure for counselors in Alabama. These don’t necessarily correspond to your chosen nice in counseling, such as child counseling or school counseling, but they will affect the jobs you may be hired for, the income you can expect to receive, and what is required to renew your license each year. In Alabama, these licensure levels include Associate Licensed Counselors and Licensed Professional Counselors.
An Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) has a provisional license, a master’s degree in counseling, has completed the required national testing, and is presently working on completing the necessary clinical hours to achieve full licensure. An ALC could find work in a community agency, social services, mental health organization, government, or non-profit agencies. The average annual salary for this position is $34,757.
Licensed Professional Counselors, or LPC's, have received extensive training to work with individuals, groups, and families to help treat behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders. They make up a significant percentage of those working in community-based mental health facilities and typically are covered by health insurance. An LPC can work with service members and their families as well. A fair earnings projection for this position is $48,937 annually.
A master's degree in counseling is required by the Alabama licensing board. The program must include core credits and classes in the chosen specialty. Clinical hours are also required by the state board to become fully licensed. In addition to passing the national and state exams, a background check needs to get completed.Read More
Counselors have the flexibility to study in a different state than where they become licensed. Once licensed, a counselor could find themselves locked into that specific state. That is why some areas have signed reciprocity agreements allowing mental health professionals to qualify in more than one state for licensure.
In the future, there may be an interstate compact to offer greater flexibility in license portability. For now, you must check the requirements in the state that you plan to practice in, as each state has its own set of requirements needed to become a licensed counselor.
This article will focus on becoming a licensed counselor in the state of Alabama.
Child Counseling Education in Alabama
You can, of course, choose to earn a counseling degree with an emphasis on childhood counseling in Alabama. There are numerous associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate programs available to interested students. Depending on the specialty and the level you want to practice will determine which degree program you should pursue.
In order to start a child counseling career, you must start by obtaining a bachelor's degree in either child psychology, social work, or counseling. Childhood counselors can earn an advanced degree through a program at an accredited college or university.
When you decide to pursue a degree in child counseling, you can choose from an associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctorate in the field of psychology, though specializing in child psychology won’t be possible until you reach higher levels of education. What level you obtain depends on the type of counseling work you would like to do professionally and the state requirements where you plan to practice.
Associate Degree in Child Counseling (AS)
If you have a high school diploma or GED, you can apply for admission to the college or university you choose. Associate degrees are usually found in community colleges, though they are also available from some larger universities. Once admitted, you can pursue your associate degree in the psychology or counseling field. Some colleges and universities require you to obtain permission from the department to pursue this program, though this is less likely in an associate degree program.
Individuals who pursue this degree level have the option to take courses in the field of child counseling, but you are unlikely to find a program dedicated to it. An associate degree does not take the place of a bachelor's or master's degree, but it can prepare you to complete a bachelor’s degree more quickly once you decide to continue with your education. An associate better prepares those students to pursue their education in the field while having a broader knowledge of the specific topics in psychology and counseling.
With an associate degree in psychology or counseling, you could work as a counseling assistant, child advocate, family mediator, or human service assistant in private practice, school, or mental health facility.
Bachelor's Degree in Child Counseling (BS)
Child counseling careers are increasing, providing students many colleges and universities to choose from to pursue their counseling degree in this field. To practice as a child counselor, an individual must first earn at least a bachelor's degree in a related field like social work or psychology. It takes approximately four years to earn a bachelor's degree. The number of classes you take per semester and whether or not you are attending full-time will affect the duration of your program.
With a degree in adolescent or child psychology, there are numerous professional opportunities available. You could work as a human or social service assistant or oversee health programs in schools and community facilities. Some states, like Alabama, will require a master's degree to become a fully licensed child counselor with the option to work in private practice.
Master's Degree in Child Counseling (MS or MC)
To practice as a child counselor, you will need to first obtain a master's level degree. Many colleges offer this degree level in child counseling. And, when it comes to a master's-level program in child counseling, you must first have a bachelor's degree in hand. There may also be additional requirements before you are admitted into some programs, like maintaining a specific GPA and minimum test scores. A master's degree is what is required to become fully licensed in this field in the state of Alabama. A child counseling graduate degree accompanied by the mandated internship prepares students to become fully licensed child counselors. Upon degree completion, students will be eligible to take their licensure exam in Alabama and spend time working under a licensed counselor to fulfill the experience requirements.
At this degree level, you could obtain employment as a school counselor, clinical social worker, school psychologist, art therapist, guidance counselor, or child psychologist.
PhD Degree in Child Counseling (PhD)
After obtaining a master’s degree in child counseling, you can continue your education in a doctoral program. Earning a Ph.D. can further your career opportunities and help you become an expert in your specialization. It also allows you to pursue research and your theories in regard to child counseling.
You may be able to begin a doctorate program at the same college or university where you received your master's degree or find a new school with a program you are particularly interested in. If you decide to transfer, check with the new school's counseling department regarding requirements and prerequisites.
With a doctorate in child psychology, you would be able to work as a research psychologist, clinical psychologist, developmental psychologist, child and adolescent psychologist, open a private practice, or teach at the college level.
Become a Child Counselor in Alabama
A student wanting to become a Licensed Professional Counselor for children in the state of Alabama is required to obtain a master's level degree in the counseling field with a minimum of 48 graduate semester hours (72 quarter hours). Those hours must get completed by a regionally accredited college or university.
People seeking a fully endorsed license will also need to make sure that their master's degree is from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Commission on Rehabilitation and Education (CORE), or the educational equivalent.
The following are examples of the coursework content expectations:
Counseling theory covers the principles, techniques, and basic theories and how to apply them in a professional setting.
Human Growth and Development:
This course focuses on understanding the needs and nature of all individuals at the various developmental stages. It also delves into abnormal and normal behavior, theories on life span, personality, and learning within the context of culture.
Social and Multicultural Foundations:
Societal changes and subgroups, interaction patterns and social mores, human roles, and ways to relieve concerns within this structure are just some of the topics that are discussed in this course.
The Helping Relationship:
This course and other like it cover counseling theories as well as consultation theories and applications, self-understanding and self-development, helping processes, helping skills, and facilitating change.
Group Dynamics, Processing and Counseling:
A broader understanding of dynamics, development, leadership styles, approaches, and counseling methods within a group dynamic is taught in this course.
Lifestyle and Career Development:
Centering around career & professional development, this area focuses on decision-making, planning, evaluation, developing theories, and occupational sources.
Research and Evaluation:
Research development, program evaluations, assessing needs, types of research, ethics, and legal matters are all covered under research evaluation.
To hone your skills as a counselor in Alabama, you must undergo supervised counseling sessions. These must be done through a regionally accredited institution and cover a minimum of 100 clock hours. Forty of those hours must be working directly with clients in your specialty. Each week you must also participate in 60 to 90 minutes of group supervision.
As an intern, you will conduct all of the activities that a regular counselor on staff would execute. A minimum of six hundred hours must be clocked, with 240 of those hours being direct with clients in your specialized field. You need two and a half hours a week of supervision, and at least one hour must be one-on-one.
While you are completing your final education requirements, you can obtain a provisional license for one year. Only when you have completed the practicum and internship may you test for full licensure. Postgraduate certificates in child counseling are also available if you wish to add additional education to your master’s or doctorate.
Top College Programs in Alabama for Child Counseling
- Alabama State University:
Alabama State University offers a variety of counseling programs, including a degree as an Educational Specialist in School Counseling.
- Auburn University:
You can earn a Master of Education in School Counseling, among other respected counseling options, at Auburn University.
- Jacksonville State University:
At JSU, you can earn a degree in counseling education. Like all the schools on this list, the program meets the state requirements for accreditation.
- University of Alabama:
Earn your master’s degree at the University of Alabama with a clinical child psychology concentration.
- University of Montevallo:
The University of Montevallo has a Master of Education in Counseling and Guidance, School Counseling degree program to prepare you for state licensure.
- University of North Alabama:
There is a great Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program available at the University of North Alabama, in addition to the Clinical Mental Health Counseling (MA) and School Counseling (MAEd).
Careers for Child Counseling Graduates
There are many different career paths available for a Licensed Professional Counselor. The following are some of the jobs or positions you could hold with a degree in child counseling.
- Group Therapist:
A group therapist performs an array of tasks centered around child psychology. That includes sessions with children and their families to observe, diagnose, and discuss concerns relating to the child’s physical or emotional issues.
- Residential Youth Counselor:
A residential youth counselor supervises programs designed to help youths with developmental problems learn proper social interaction and provides individual therapeutic sessions.
- Mental Health Counselor:
A children’s mental health counselor typically is employed in schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, and juvenile detention centers. Sometimes they have a private practice where they counsel children at their office or in the child’s home.
- Grief Counselor:
Grief counselors for children help them understand their feelings through group or individual sessions. They provide coping methods to deal with the grief in addition to resources like support groups.
- Behavioral Child Therapist:
Behavioral child therapists help youths learn new behaviors while encouraging undesirable behaviors to stop and helping them learn how to control their behavior. Therapy varies depending on the disorder, its severity, and whether or not multiple disorders are present.
Psychology & Counseling Career Paths