How to Become a Counselor in Florida

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What is Counseling?


A counselor is a professional who works to help people change their lives for the better. While most think of this profession in the context of clinical mental health counseling and psychotherapy, there are many sorts of counselors. Professional counselors specialize in jobs such as helping students launch a career, rehabilitate from a trauma or injury, or sort out their finances.

There are also other counseling professionals who aren't part of the mental healthcare industry. They may work as guidance counselors in high schools who help students find an appropriate college or trade school. There are also genetic counselors who consult with couples who seek to have a baby and start a family. Counselors may also help people with their credit or other financial matters. In each case, the counselor seeks to understand their client and to help them achieve their best life. Thus, counseling does not have to involve deep psychoanalysis and facing horrible traumas. Those who wish to join a helping profession can thus consider one of these sorts of counseling careers as a way to help people.

This page is concerned with mental health counseling and the degreed, licensed professionals who work in this field. These professionals typically hold a master’s degree and work with clients one-on-one in psychotherapy. They may also work with groups that are focused on a specific problem, such as depression or grief, or groups who each have different issues but are gathered to provide support. Counselors also work with a variety of individual clients such as those who are coping with specific traumas, addictions, or age-related issues. Some counselors are licensed to work with specific clients, such as marriage and family therapists or school counselors.


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Counseling Education in Florida

Florida counselors are in demand now more than ever. Every day there are more people who are seeking to re-evaluate their lives and thus seek the assistance of a counselor. This can take the form of psychotherapy, or it might take other forms that help them achieve their best lives. While some counselors work with those who are in a crisis situation, such as substance abuse disorder, others are simply at a crossroads in their lives. Florida's counseling community has innumerable professionals who can help every client meet their needs.

Those who work with substance abuse disorder are finding that they have no end of clients who are seeking relief in the opioid epidemic. And those who work with non-addicted clients and patients quickly see that the stressors of modern life are driving ever more people to their door.

To meet this demand, Florida's colleges and universities have risen to the challenge with top-notch counseling degree programs. Those who wish to fight the opioid epidemic and other addiction issues can enter the field with a high school diploma or an associate degree in addiction counseling. Students with relevant bachelor's degrees can likewise pass an exam and attain Florida state licensure to counsel those who suffer from substance abuse disorder.

Since it's not always easy to decide what to do for a career, Florida's colleges and universities have risen to the challenge with master's degree programs in career counseling and guidance. These professionals help Floridians navigate a college degree and with a specific career in mind. They also help the wider student body with career fairs and other services that help students capitalize on their degrees. The students who benefit from these counselors find that their guidance is geared towards meeting the needs of Florida's economy.


Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

While most counselors we think of hold master’s degrees and state licenses to work one-on-one with clients in psychotherapy, there are counselors who work with associate degrees as well. Since the nation has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic, states have begun licensing those with associate counseling degrees that focus on addiction counseling. While this degree will not support one-on-one counseling or psychotherapy, an associate counseling degree in addiction counseling will allow people to start a career as a counselor.

This means that an associate counseling degree is a terrific way to start working in mental healthcare. With experience working in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, students can return to school for their bachelor’s counseling degree which will facilitate a higher-level addiction counseling license and more experience. By the time they've completed their master’s degree those who start with an associate counseling degree will be well-seasoned counseling professionals.

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s counseling degree in Florida can help students launch a career in the field of addiction and recovery from alcoholism. A bachelor’s counseling degree will also help students enter in other counseling fields. For instance, they might work as admissions counselors for their alma mater or other colleges. This degree could also help them land work as career guidance counselors, though that field is generally left to master’s degree holders.

The state of Florida licenses students with a bachelor’s counseling degree as certified addiction professionals (CAP). The license allows holders to work closely with those who have been ravaged by addiction. While they may be able to conduct one-on-one counseling sessions with addicts and alcoholics, they will likely need to work under fairly close supervision and not in a private practice. However, this experience will be invaluable later on if they choose to achieve a master’s counseling degree.

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

A master’s counseling degree in Florida will facilitate the sort of career most people think of when they think of mental health counseling. That is, the state of Florida will confer a license that allows independent practice and one-on-one counseling with individuals or groups. When students consider a master’s counseling degree, they can also choose several different sorts of degrees.

There are master’s counseling degrees for marriage and family counseling, child therapy, addiction counseling, and even career counseling, for those who prefer to not work in mental health. Even students who choose a master's divinity degree can focus on counseling and become a pastoral counselor either in private practice or as part of their ministry. Thus, a master's counseling degree can open up many opportunities for licensure and counseling practice. Some master's level counselors work part time in facilities, such as mental hospitals or rehabilitation centers, while pursuing a private practice. Some even work in institutions such as colleges or corporations and provide mental healthcare services for the people there.

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

With a doctorate, also known as a PhD in clinical psychology, professionals can charge more for their services while also enjoying greater esteem in their professional community. Mental health counselors who achieve this level of academic greatness can call themselves psychologists rather than counselors They may also find that new opportunities arise for them.

The elevated status of a PhD can mean that they can hold higher administrative positions in rehabilitation facilities or hospitals. A doctorate can also mean that they will have an easier time forming a multi-party counseling practice or mental health clinic as the chief administrator. They can even pursue meaningful work as college professors. Their PhD degree will make achieving tenure in Florida colleges and universities all the more likely and they may even be able to work a research capacity through a university, though most in the counseling realm tend to stay there.

Become a Counselor in Florida


There are many different ways that people become a counselor in Florida. In fact, there are many different types of Florida counselors. However, most every counselor starts their career in their early life. This is not to say that early counselors start their careers by charging for services like Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip but that they show a certain interest in others coupled with a desire to do good in the world.

Budding counselors may initially show a love of literature and films that focus more on character development than plot twists. They may also show deep empathy for those in need. Future counselors may also have direct experience with counseling and use that as an impetus for choosing the career.

Once students decide to pursue counseling as a career path in Florida, there are a number of options for getting started. Some might choose to enter the field by way of addiction counseling. The state of Florida licenses people for this field with only an associate addiction counseling degree. While this license may not allow them to work one-on-one with clients, it does provide excellent experience in the mental health profession. Florida colleges and universities also confer bachelor’s and master's addiction counseling degrees that are acknowledged by the state of Florida with licensure.

Another option is to earn a master's of social work (MSW) that focuses on clinical social work. This degree opens up the option of working either in private practice as a counselor or for a social services agency as a caseworker or some other social work position. Naturally, others may achieve a master's in clinical psychology that enables counselors to gain licensure with the state of Florida and to work as independent counselors.

There are other sorts of counseling careers to consider, as well. For instance, many pursue career guidance counseling or student counseling as a career choice. It's also possible to become a pastoral counselor with a master's of divinity degree. On top of all of those options are the various subdivisions within mental health counseling such as marriage and family counseling, group therapist, child psychologist, and more.

Careers for Counseling Graduates


  • Career Counselor:
    While these counseling professionals don't work in a mental health capacity, they are able to effect great changes in the lives of the students they serve. Career counselors not only work with students or clients in a one-on-one capacity, but they may also arrange career fairs at their colleges or universities. Career counselors don't have license requirements, but many have master's degrees.
  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor:
    This is a rapidly expanding field that is struggling to tackle the nation's opioid epidemic, among other substance abuse issues. While it is possible to take the exam and earn a license with only a high school diploma, the best way to enter the field of addiction counseling is to earn an associate addiction counseling degree. Florida addiction counseling licenses are also available at the bachelor’s and master's level.
  • Counselor (Private Practice):
    To launch a career in mental health counseling as a private practitioner, it's necessary to first earn a master's counseling degree. During that process, Master of Counseling degree programs will help students prepare to earn Florida state licensure to practice as counseling professionals in the state. Note that to maintain a counseling license the state of Florida requires that counselors satisfy continuing education requirements each licensure period.
  • Genetic Counselor:
    These counselors operate outside of the social services realm and are more scientific than others. Genetic counseling involves analyzing DNA and family histories. These counselors use their knowledge and expertise to counsel couples who are considering children. They try to help couples understand if there is any risk of passing on a genetic condition that may impact their child.
  • School Counselor:
    School counselors must have a master's counseling degree or a master of education that focuses on counseling. They must also pass a PRAXIS examination much like any other educational professional. These counseling professionals work with students in elementary, middle grades, or high school to overcome troubles that may impede them from succeeding in school.
  • Social Worker:
    Social workers can pursue careers based on any level of college degree. In fact, some can work as social workers with only a high school diploma. However, with each subsequent degree they are able to achieve more in their work, while also earning more. Those who earn a master's of social work degree (MSW) can work as licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) who conduct one-on-one counseling with clients in psychotherapy.
  • Psychiatrist:
    These mental health professionals are perhaps the best paid of them all. To become a psychiatrist, students must complete medical school and then a psychiatric residency that will qualify them to pursue licensure in Florida. Psychiatrists these days spend most of their time analyzing patient's blood levels, discussing their lives, and prescribing medications.
  • Psychologist:
    These mental health counselors have completed a PhD in a Florida university and then passed the requisite examination and other requirements for licensure. They work as counselors, but their added academic background lends them extra authority that stems from the knowledge and experience they have in the field.

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