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What is Counseling?

Not only do citizens need help addressing the stress of ordinary life, but there is an ever-growing need to fight substance abuse disorder. Addiction is spreading like wildfire throughout the nation thanks to the over-prescription of opioid pain medications. The problem is also fueled by methamphetamines, which are cheap, easy to make, and increasingly prevalent. Both opioid drugs and methamphetamine can create addicts within the first few uses.

A counselor is a professional who seeks to help their clients achieve a better life. We typically think of counselors as mental health workers who help people with personal and emotional difficulties. That definition is the focus of this page, but we'll may also look at other sorts of counselors as well, such as guidance counselors. Regardless of their specialty, all counselors aim to help their clients make better decisions and achieve a better, healthier life for themselves.

Most counselors are professionals who work from offices. Those who hold a master’s degree and a state license can also form their own, independent office where they see clients. While it may be more common for counselors to see individuals, there are many counselors who conduct group therapy sessions with an assembly of non-related clients. Some counselors conduct sessions with whole families or just a married couple.

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Counseling Education in Georgia (AS, BS, MS, PhD)

Georgia, like many other states, has its fair share of social challenges. These challenges may be addressed on the macro level through social policies that seek to alleviate the suffering of citizens. Problems may also be addressed on the local and individual level, too. Thus, the state of Georgia needs a constant and growing population of counseling professionals to work with citizens on all parts of the social spectrum.

To help address the substance abuse issue, Georgia has begun licensing addiction counseling professionals who have a minimum of a high school diploma. An associate degree in addiction counseling would be optimal and result in the best prepared professionals, and Georgia's community colleges have risen to provide degree programs for those counseling professionals. The state also licenses addiction counseling professionals with bachelor’s and master’s counseling degrees.

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Meanwhile, Georgians still suffer from all sorts of mental health disorders that must be addressed by counseling professionals. To help many of these people, Georgia's universities have created master’s counseling degree programs in their social work schools. Once they've earned their MSW, these professionals enter the Georgia economy to work both at the larger, macro scope and on the individual, one-on-one level with citizens who need counseling. Georgia students who earn an MSW can work within the Georgia social service infrastructure or work independently. In fact, some work in both private practice under their LCSW credential and also for a state or other non-profit organization.

Georgia's diverse selection of counseling degree programs can launch a career into any sort of counseling practice a student can imagine. The state's university system alone offers a wide variety of programs all across the state. Then, there are also many top-notch private universities that offer their own spin on counseling and mental health. Whether students are up north in Rome or down along the coast in Savannah, there is sure to be a counseling degree program nearby.

Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

For most mental health counselors, an associate counseling degree may not be sufficient. However, Georgia allows those with an associate counseling degree to work as addiction counselors in mental health clinics throughout the state. In fact, the state will confer a CACI license to those with only a high school diploma. Thus, those with an associate counseling degree that focuses on addiction counseling should have an advantage. Further, a two-year college diploma from a Georgia community college has other advantages.

A community college degree is cheaper on a per-credit basis than most four-year Georgia colleges and universities. Those institutions also tend to be smaller and with more favorable student-to-teacher ratios. Since a two-year associate degree also fulfills the core requirements for a full bachelor’s degree, the cost and overall educational value make this a terrific option for an aspiring counselor. Thus, students who start gaining experience with their associate counseling degree should reap great rewards that will pay off for the rest of their career.

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

For many fields in the business world, a bachelor’s counseling degree is often sufficient to support a long career. However, for mental health counseling professionals, the degree won't help launch the sort of career they desire. However, there are other counseling professions where a bachelor’s degree can be helpful.

In Georgia, addiction counseling professionals can launch a satisfying career with a bachelor’s degree. The state even licenses these professionals with a CACII credential which enables them to work with clients who suffer with substance abuse disorder, a service that is sadly in high demand.

A bachelor’s counseling degree can also take other forms and support other types of career. Those with four-year baccalaureate degrees may work with populations other than those in need of mental health counseling. For instance, they could work as rehabilitation counselors, career counselors, or college counselors, among other options. Each of these careers can be helpful for those who decide to pursue a master’s counseling degree and become licensed counseling professionals.

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

A master’s counseling degree is generally seen as the gold standard for counseling professionals. With a master’s degree, counselors can receive a top license from the state of Georgia. That credential will enable them to work in private practice and conduct psychotherapy with the population their specific license supports.

During the course of a master’s counseling degree program, students are steeped in counseling theory and practice. They also have to undergo counseling on their own. The internships that are included as part of the degree are usually counted towards the supervised hours the state of Georgia requires for licensure as an independent counseling professional. After graduation, counselors will have to complete the state licensing requirements, which include an examination and more supervised counseling hours.

There are other options, however. Students can pursue a master’s counseling degree that enables a career as a genetics counselor, a rehabilitation counselor, or a career counselor. Many of those options don't require a license, but they also don't provide the same sort of independence a licensed mental health counselor enjoys.

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

With a PhD in counseling psychology, a professional can consider themselves a psychologist. After the intensive training and deep study involved in a PhD program, a counselor will have earned the right to higher pay and elevated professional status. Those with a PhD can of course work in private practice, assuming their Georgia license is valid.

The elevated professional status afforded by a doctorate degree in counseling psychology can mean many things. Those credentials may be very helpful for those who want to open up a practice with other counselors. That is, the PhD status can serve as a terrific anchor that lends credibility to the practice. A PhD might also be able to head up other organizations, such as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Finally, a PhD will be useful for those who desire a teaching position with a Georgia college or university. A doctorate can also help them earn tenure and all the benefits that come with that.

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Become a Counselor in Georgia

They say that Georgia counselors are born more than made. Certainly, the inclination to become a counselor may arise from inborn talents more than training and education. Naturally, the training and education are required by the state board in Georgia, as elsewhere. Prior to college, however, youngsters may start to show signs that a career in counseling is for them.

These signs may include a heightened sensitivity and empathy for others, including animals. Youngsters who have counseling in their future may also be voracious readers and generally have a fascination with human nature. They may constantly ask why people are motivated to do the things they do. Some are even motivated toward the counseling profession when they seek counseling themselves. Many are also inspired to the profession when they see others achieve heightened insights and awareness through the psycho-therapeutic process.

In high school, budding counselors may start to take the role of confidant for their friends. These listening skills will be immensely helpful later on, especially if they make keen observations. These students might also become involved in social clubs that focus on service work in the community. Some high schools may also provide courses in psychology or sociology which may spark an interest in the more scientific and theoretical aspects of counseling.

During college, students who wish to become counselors should dive into a psychology degree program. They should endeavor to inform their major degree studies with electives and minor concentrations that inform their primary interest. Some minors that may be helpful include sociology, economics, statistics, and even biology.

After graduation with a bachelor’s degree, students might decide to earn a license to work as addiction counselors. This can be a terrific way to jump into the mental health field prior to enrolling in a master’s degree program as students who choose to work in the field for a year or more will be better informed as to their true long-term goals. After all, some will decide that they prefer the research side of psychology more than the counseling. Once this decision has been made, future psychology professionals can enter the most appropriate Georgia counseling degree program and earn the required degree, complete the required exams, and spend the required time working under another counselor’s supervision.

Careers for Counseling Graduates

  • Career Counselor:
    A career counselor is a counseling professional who works with students to help them take the right courses that will lead to their dream career. They may help students with various sorts of tests to determine what career is the best fit for them and discuss their true talents and motivations. While there is no licensure required for this position, most career counselors hold a master’s degree.
  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor:
    Since the state of Georgia confers licenses to substance abuse and addiction counselors with as little as a high school diploma, this is a terrific way to start in the mental health field. However, it may be optimal to start counseling substance abuse victims with an associate counseling degree, if not a bachelor’s counseling degree.
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  • Counselor (Private Practice):
    This is often the end goal of aspiring counselors. To work in private practice, the state of Georgia requires that independent counselors hold a master’s degree. Once a counselor has a master’s counseling degree, they must also pass an examination and complete a set number of supervised hours. Counselors who earn a PhD in counseling earn the title psychologist.
  • Social Worker:
    Workers can enter the social work field with a high school diploma. However, those who earn a master of social work (MSW) can work as counselors. These professionals, licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), can see clients in a one-on-one capacity, just like those with psychology degrees. The advantage of an MSW is that those social workers have the option of applying their degree in a social services agency.
  • Family Therapist:
    This is a subset of the counseling profession that often requires its own set of credentials. These therapists work with couples to help them mend rifts and can also work with the entire family unit. Sometimes family therapy focuses on a family member who suffers with substance abuse disorder, but it can also help families through tough teenage years.
  • Group Counselor:
    While any licensed clinical psychological counselor can gather a group for therapy, this is seldom the focus of their practice. Rather, it's more typical for an individual counselor to decide to form a group counseling session for clients who seem to share common difficulties or who may particularly benefit from working with peers. Many counselors seek special certifications for group counseling as part of their continuing education.

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