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What is Counseling?

Students who are considering entering a counseling field need to know the wide range of counseling specializations that are available. Students who are interested in a counseling career have a huge variety of career paths to consider. They range from mental health and substance abuse to marriage and family, career, and school counseling. In general, counselors aid clients in finding solutions to stressors, psychological and emotional issues. School and career counselors work with people who are weighing their school options and new career steps. While some counselors may specialize, others may choose to work as generalists. Counselors usually choose this field from a desire to help others to understand how their psychological or emotional outlook affects their worldview, but they also can look forward to making a decent income if they make it to the highest levels of the field.

Depending on educational level, students may consider earning an associate degree in counseling. However, in this field, the higher the degree level, the more responsibility a counselor holds. For instance, earning an associate degree gives the graduate the option to work in an entry-level position, assisting the counselors. At this level, graduates have learned the foundations of counseling. They will be able to transfer to a university where they can earn their bachelor’s degree in counseling. They may qualify for an entry-level position as a psychiatric technician in one of several settings, as they prepare to become a counselor in Arizona. Graduates who hold an associate degree in addictions counseling will be able to begin working in this field as a substance abuse technician. After earning more advanced degrees, students are ready to begin working in this field. Once they have begun their bachelor’s program, they may begin their internship hours.

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Counseling Education in Arizona

Counseling degrees in Arizona are available for college students at all levels, from an associate degree up to the PhD/doctorate level. Once they have entered the degree program of their choice, students should visit the Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, where they can learn about the requirements for licensing. The Board works to maintain high standards of qualifications and performance for counselors and behavioral health professionals in marriage and family therapy, counseling, substance abuse counseling, and social work. This Board is responsible for regulating the practice of licensed counselors within the state.

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While they are still in their degree programs, students are likely to be trying to choose which field of counseling they wish to practice or they may know they want to offer family counseling/therapy, career counseling, clinical mental health counseling, or school counseling. No matter their choice, most students will need to continue through the master’s level in order to perform as a private counselor no matter their specialization. While students may begin at the associate level, they may have plans to actively offer counseling. This requires, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree.

Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

Students at Arizona community colleges should be able to earn their Associate’s in Counseling and Applied Psychological Science. This two-year degree focuses on counseling psychology for those students who plan to enter the field of counseling and continue their schooling. However, all students should be aware that graduates of an associate counseling program won’t yet be eligible to earn their licenses as professional counselors.

However, graduates may be eligible for entry-level positions working in community agencies, rehabilitation centers and hospitals as psychiatric technicians. They will also be able to work in other behavioral health settings, helping to support counselors and mental health professionals. If students study the course curriculum, they’ll notice that, throughout the four terms, they will receive exposure to different areas of psychology, human development, counseling, counseling skills, and elective requirements.

Counseling Admissions and Career Options for Associates

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

At the bachelor’s level, students gain exposure to the academics that help them prepare to meet licensing requirements. In an online counseling degree program, students receive the same high-quality education and preparation for their first licensing exam. Most Arizona colleges and universities offer similar programs - depending on the specialty, an online psychology degree may be an option.

It’s also at this level that counselors are able to work with clients who have been affected by several issues, from social and psychological to emotional and behavioral. At this level, students are preparing themselves for graduate school, if this is their goal. This is also an excellent point to start looking for an internship that can give you greater experience working under a fully licensed psychologist or counselor.

Counseling Admissions and Career Options for Bachelors

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

At the graduate level, students are immersed in clinical mental health and prepare to earn a professional counseling degree.

At one Arizona university, graduate students are able to choose from four counseling emphases:

  • Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
  • Christian Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Addiction Counseling

Graduates at this level are ready to work with and help people from diverse backgrounds, helping them find emotional healing and mental health. Counselors working with children help them and adolescents find treatments that work for their needs and may work with them and their family as a group. Or they may counsel families who are struggling with relationship or family issues so that they can address them and work toward healthier relationships.

No matter what specialization you are looking to enter, earning a master’s degree is the best way to ensure that you can counsel the group you are most interested in. Not to mention, a master’s degree is usually required for those who wish to build their own private practice.

Counseling Admissions and Career Options for Masters

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

An Arizona university offers a doctoral program that helps students prepare to become scientist-practitioners in counseling psychology. After graduation, they will be eligible for licensure in Arizona and other states with similar licensure requirements. This program focuses on multicultural competence and social justice as it helps students to learn about carrying out empirical research and developing the clinical skill they need to promote the health of groups, families, individuals, and organizations in a culturally mixed society.

This program focuses closely on a scientist-practitioner training model. This helps to prepare PhD graduates for employment in two settings—service-delivery or academic. Or graduates may choose to focus on both fields. Graduates are ready for licensure in several states—while requirements vary by state, graduates should study the requirements of the state where they plan to live and work.

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Top College Programs in Arizona for Counseling

  • Arizona State University
  • Northern Arizona University
  • University of Arizona
  • Prescott College
  • Grand Canyon University

Become a Counselor in Arizona

After students have graduated with their degrees in counseling, they need to study and apply for licensure in Arizona. Every state requires its counseling professionals to hold a license to practice. Licensure requirements focus on counselor education and supervision.

Counseling license types in Arizona include Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Applicants are required to submit a verification of clinical supervision and a supervised work experience. Supervision for professional counselor licensure consists of clinical practice with at least 100 hours of clinical supervision. This applies to licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed psychologists, or an individual who obtained an exemption.

For marriage and family therapists and substance abuse counselors, the clinical supervision requirements are similar. Licensure testing is provided by the state licensing board and counselors are notified when they are authorized to take their exam.

In marriage and family therapy, the licenses include those for Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapists (LAMFT), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT). These licensures also require supervised work experience. The supervision rules are similar to those for licensed counselors. The licensure testing requirements for marriage and family therapists are the same as for licensed counselors.

Substance abuse counseling includes licensure for the Licensed Substance Abuse Technician (LSAT), the Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor (LASAC), Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselors (LASAC), and Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselors (LISAC). Each one of these counselors are required to provide proof of their supervised work experience and clinical supervision.

Arizona school counselors must earn certification in school counseling. If they are beginning their graduate degree program in counseling at an accredited university, they must earn their master’s degree in school counseling and, after graduation, acquire two years of verifiable full-time experience as a school guidance counselor. They must also complete a supervised counseling practicum (internship experience) while they are enrolled in a school counseling program.

After they have gathered all official transcripts from post-secondary schooling to verify each credit and their Arizona Fingerprint Clearance Card, they download an application for certification from the Arizona Department of Education.

Careers for Counseling Graduates

  • Addiction Counselor
    An addiction counselor works with people who are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Their responsibility is to help their clients enter recovery from their addiction. While they may focus mostly on the addiction, counselors also help their clients begin to address related (co-morbid) issues such as depression, anxiety, social anxiety, or emotional disorders.
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  • Child Counselor
    A child counselor works with children who are struggling with emotional, developmental, and/or mental issues. They may work with children who are dealing with difficult life or family circumstances. They will have learned a variety of counseling techniques specifically meant for this age group along with others that can be very effective, such as play therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a specialist role in counseling.
  • Marriage and Family Counselor
    A marriage and family therapist works with couples and families addressing unexpected illness, relationship issues, job loss, and other things which can cause distress within a family unit. They offer guidance to families and couples dealing with problems that may affect their well-being and mental health. Therapists use the “wellness” model, which focuses on the strengths of the clients.
  • Mental health Counselor
    Mental health counselors often offer individual, group, and community services. They help their clients to address issues that are affecting their mental health. Again, these specialists often focus on the wellness model. They may ask their clients to discuss their emotions, help them to define goals and develop a plan of action. If necessary, they may refer clients to psychologists for diagnosis or medication.
  • School Counselor
    School counselors work with students and help them to develop social and academic skills. As the students are readying for graduation, they may also help them to make plans for after graduation from high school. They may analyze student data to identify issues that negatively affect academic performance. They also collaborate with families and teachers to help students plan their futures.
  • Educational Counselor (Teacher)
    An educational counselor offers personal, academic, and therapeutic supports to students. They may offer individual counseling or group sessions through campus outreach activities and workshop programs. This counselor intervenes and encourages students who are dealing with difficulties (personal, emotional, or academic). They may collaborate with psychologists, school staff, and teachers.
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