What is Counseling?
There is no such thing as a stress-free profession. Even those who are passionate about their careers can need help from time to time. Also, we are not machines. Our environment and the people around us can play into our overall mental health and attitude. Counseling is a way to get help with issues, so they don’t take over and put our lives in jeopardy.
Counselors are trained professionals that assist individuals, families or groups work through personal issues. A person can need counseling or therapy for a variety of reasons, so counselors are often trained in specific areas. People struggling with substance abuse issues often need different counseling services than someone experiencing loss or having a mid-life crisis. Also, the skillset needed to do family counseling is different than a counselor who helps veterans with PTSD. While still in school, those who desire to become counselors can choose an area where they want to work and then tailor their advanced education to match this. For example, three people might all major in psychology or sociology, but one might want to work with kids, one might prefer substance abuse, and another might want to work with married couples or families. These specializations will be the focus of their graduate studies.
All therapists and counselors learn the tools and methods needed to help people work through their issues. Some states allow a person with just an undergraduate degree to work as a counselors in various capacities but, for the most part, a graduate degree is required.
Counseling Education in Colorado
Since no industry is immune, people in all industries could be potential visitors to counselors and therapists in Colorado. The Boulder State employees more than 41,000 in professional counseling services. If this is an area you are interested in studying, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for counselors in all areas is expected to increase faster than average between 2019 and 2029, so you have time to enter the industry and provide the help and guidance people need.
It should also be noted that there are many kinds of counselors, and not all of them work within the realm of mental health. People can need help in a variety of different areas of their lives such as their career, weight management, and social service programs, so you don’t have to have a hyper focus on the mental health aspect if you would like to help people in other ways. Whether you want to help someone navigate a career change or assist a family deal with grief or conflict, there is a career for you in counseling in Colorado.
Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)
With an associate degree, a person can be a support specialist but will not be allowed to offer any sort of counseling services to patients. With some training, they might be allowed to work as an intake specialist but, in most cases, these people will be relegated to administrative work only. For example, a person with a two-year degree in psychology could work in a facility ensuring patients personal items are secured, clean, and in their proper location. Or they might be able to work as a support person for a group home in the capacity of making sure all patients are always accounted for.
Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)
A four-year degree could earn a person a job, not as a full-blown counselor, but as a case worker who works with a counselor. For example, an organization that offers counseling for veterans might employ a person with a bachelor’s in counseling as an intake specialist or as a community liaison. In some organizations, those with bachelors can offer limited counseling advice while working under a more experienced licensed counselor. The capacity in which a person with a four-year degree can find counseling employment will vary by organization and will be based on the licensure requirements of the state. State agencies often have even more stringent requirements than a private organization. Most licenses for counselors require an advanced degree to quality to take the licensing exams.
Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)
Attaining a masters degree in counseling is the first step in gaining either a License of Professional Counseling (LPC) or a License of Professional Clinical Counseling (LPCC). Those who want to work in the mental health field tend to get LPCCs because that includes a mental health element that the LPC license does not. With either license, a master’s degree is required. The degree can be in any discipline within the counseling or social work areas. To attain the LPCC, candidates have to complete 600 hours of clinical work under licensed counselors as well as complete a master’s degree. The LPC doesn’t require as many clinical hours, but there is a requirement that varies by discipline.
PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)
A doctorate not only allows a person to work as a counselor after passing the required licensure exam, but it also opens the door to formal teaching and training opportunities. Whether the teaching or training takes place for an organization or an institution of higher education, those who possess a terminal degree in counseling can work in practically any capacity. This also includes working as directors, CEOs, and other department heads that are in charge of entire organizations and programs.
Become a Counselor in Colorado
To become a counselor in Colorado, ultimately a person must attain a license. Most licenses require candidates to have graduate degrees as a minimum, so getting the required degree is a good first step. But, to get to an advanced degree level, a person must first complete an undergraduate degree. Choosing a school that has regional accreditation is a good way to build a solid educational foundation. The undergraduate degree is usually in a behavioral science area such as psychology, sociology, or social work, though other programs can also serve a solid foundation, such as biology or political science. Students will study different areas of psychology, as well sociology, ethics, social work, and other science and data-driven subjects. Internships are also often required. Your school should have working relationships with social service programs in your area.
Once a person has a four-year degree, choosing an accredited and respected graduate program is also important. The school has to meet the strict criteria of licensing board for both the Licensed Professional Counselor as well as the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. If the school doesn’t meet the criteria of the licensing boards, then a graduate will not be able to sit for licensure exams. There are also work hour requirements that have to be met before a person can sit for licensure, and the number of hours varies by discipline. Clinical hours and internships might also be needed. It’s best to check with your advisor to make sure you are meeting the educational requirement, and then with your employer to ensure you’re getting proper clinical and work hours in the required areas.
Careers for Counseling Graduates
- Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor
Substance abuse/addiction counselors help those who are struggling with addiction issues. They keep tabs on their patients, offer advice, encouragement and guidance and report to any authorities they are required to report to. These people can also help those seeking help find the services and agencies that can help them rebuild their lives, such as career help, housing assistance, and medical assistance.
- Community Health Worker
Community health workers are involved in keeping communities as healthy as possible. They pay close attention to the health needs of a particular community and implements programs to deal with these issues, as well as raise public awareness of the issues. For example, if a community worker sees a trend in obesity in a particular neighborhood, this person might implement a walking program or free screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol so people can get a better handle on the issue before it becomes life-threatening.
- Social Worker
social workers help people find the help they need from social service organizations. They do intake questionnaires to get an idea of what a person needs and then matches these people to the proper agencies. They also monitor the situation of their clients and intervene when necessary. Social workers can work with adults, children, the elderly, veterans, and a host of other people who might need assistance in some aspect of their lives.
- College Counselor
College counselors assist students in making decisions about their college education. They help students pick the right major, select the courses they need to fulfill their requirements to graduate, and even look for internships. If a student wants to continue their education, a college counselor can also assist in finding out program requirements and choosing the right advanced degree that will match what the student wants to do.
- Family Therapist
Family therapists work with individuals and entire families to help the members understand both themselves and each other. A family counselor will often meet with each member of the family to get a general idea of the family makeup and then also meet with the entire family to get an idea on the family dynamic. Using this information, a family therapist can give the family tool to help with communication and hopefully enable to family to strengthen its bonds.
- Group Counselor
A group counselor meets with a group of people, generally not related to each other and offers counseling in a certain area. For example, a group therapist might meet with people who are fighting addiction of some sort, such as drugs or alcohol. Grief counseling is also often conducted in a group setting. The counselor has to learn about each member of the group and take note at how their members interact with each other. Through experience sharing, activities, and other methods, the counselor helps the group navigate through their issues.
- Child Counselor
Child counselors work with children who are experiencing emotional and/or behavioral issues. Using skills and techniques created specifically for children, these counselors can pinpoint the issue and create a therapy or treatment plan to help the child learn to navigate their environment in a more positive manner.