How to Become a Counselor in Hawaii

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What is Counseling?


Counselors are professionals who offer guidance to clients with distressing problems. They may work with people who are struggling with addiction, grieving the loss of a loved one, suffering from anxiety, or dealing with family issues.

Counselors use various types of therapy to assist their clients. These professionals can learn techniques in a wide range of therapies including cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, and humanist therapy.

During a typical day, a counselor may be expected to listen to clients’ problems, develop treatment plans, help clients cultivate coping skills, refer clients to additional professional services, and more. In addition, counselors help their clients resolve negative thought patterns, understand their emotions, and create achievable goals.

Counselors can work with a variety of people including children, teens, college students, family members, widows, widowers, and more. These professionals can provide individual counseling, family counseling, couples counseling, and group counseling.

The best counselors are patient, kind, and non-judgmental, and the majority of them have strong interpersonal skills. Counselors truly want their clients to reach their highest potential.


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Counseling Education in Hawaii


According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Hawaii has an extremely large stake in the education services, healthcare, and social assistance industry, contributing roughly $7.2 billion to the GDP. Since this state has such a big stake in these industries, many schools in Hawaii offer counseling degrees that focus specifically on mental health counseling, school counseling, and marriage and family counseling.

Students who pursue a counseling program in Hawaii will graduate with a locally useful degree. They should be able to obtain a wide variety of counseling positions such as mental health counselor, family therapist, school counselor, and many more. In Hawaii, there’s a big need for substance abuse counselors, which is why the state offers several licensing options for this counseling position. Prospective counselors who receive a college education and licensure in this state would definitely have many career in counseling opportunities.

Whether a person wants to be a support specialist or a fully licensed counselor, earning a counseling degree will definitely be necessary. Check out these counseling degrees in Hawaii.

Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

For students who want to gain experience in the counseling profession, they should pursue an associate degree that introduces basic counseling and psychology concepts. An associate degree will allow students to learn about counseling and psychology in a program that leads to positions such as addiction recovery support specialist.

These programs result in a degree and possibly also an academic subject certificate in psychology. Many students who complete this program eventually attend a four-year institution that offers a bachelor’s counseling degree.

Honolulu Community College is a great choice for students who would like to obtain an associate counseling degree in Hawaii.

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

In Hawaii, a bachelor’s counseling degree is nearly equivalent to a bachelor’s psychology degree. A bachelor’s psychology degree program is highly recommended for students who have always dreamed of obtaining an entry-level human services position, like a youth counselor or psychiatric technician.

The primary goal of this program is to introduce students to the hidden workings of human behavior. The program’s 120-credit curriculum offers many elective courses about counseling theory, which ultimately prepares students to receive a master’s counseling degree. Students will also explore extremely interesting topics like psychology of personality, social psychology, education psychology, human relations in organizations, human development and family studies, and abnormal psychology.

While they are completing this program, students are encouraged to participate in internship opportunities and community service projects. They can also conduct research with renowned faculty members. Students who earn this degree will be well equipped to pursue a career in counseling.

The best schools for a bachelor’s psychology degree are the University of Hawai’i-West Oahu, Chaminade University of Honolulu, and Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

A master’s counseling degree program is specifically designed for students who would like to become fully licensed counselors. Offered through a school’s Department of Psychology, this program focuses on preparing fully licensed counselors to make a difference in schools and communities.

A 60-credit curriculum, these programs are available in-person within the state and online from all over the country. A few online courses you might find include Life Span Development, Introduction to Counseling Skills, and Health, Stress Management, and Counseling. Most students complete the program in 18-30 months.

By the end of the program, students will gain the necessary skills to counsel multicultural populations through work, education, family, and mental health problems. They will also learn the importance of displaying cultural awareness during their work. A master counseling degree program guarantees a high-quality learning experience for students. Students will need to pass the National Counselor Exam to obtain a career as a fully licensed counselor.

Here are the best counseling colleges in Hawaii: University of Hawaii-Hilo, Chaminade University of Honolulu, or the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. The top master counseling degree programs are accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

While there aren’t any PhD/Doctorate in counseling degrees in this state, master counseling degree graduates who want to incorporate psychology into their counseling careers should still consider enrolling in a PhD/doctorate degree program.

A few Hawaiian schools offer a Doctoral of Psychology in Clinical Psychology. Students will learn all about psychotherapeutic interventions, psycho-diagnostic assessments, clinical interviewing, and much more.

Graduates of this program will be prepared to work as an extremely skilled substance abuse counselor at a community health agency. They can also work as a counselor in a hospital setting, outpatient mental health clinic, or even a military treatment facility. These programs generally take about four years to complete.

Become a Counselor in Hawaii


The path to pursuing a counselor involves several important steps.

Here is everything you need to know about how to becoming a licensed counselor in Hawaii.

  • Earn A Bachelor’s Counseling Degree

    While future counselors will ultimately need to earn a master’s counseling degree, they must receive a bachelor counseling degree first. In Hawaii, you can even transfer into the bachelor’s degree program from an associate degree program.

    During a bachelor’s counseling degree program, students will take basic social science and psychology courses. These courses will definitely provide students with a strong foundation. Students may also want to take advantage of mentorship and internship programs to increase their chances of gaining admission into a master’s counseling degree program.

  • Earn A Master’s Counseling Degree

    In order to become a fully licensed counselor in Hawaii, a master’s counseling degree is definitely needed. This master’s counseling degree program should be from an accredited school, and it must consist of in-person or online courses that cover key topics such as counseling theories and applications, human growth and development, and more.

    Students should ensure that this program is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.

  • Obtain Internship Experience & Supervision Hours

    Future counselors must also meet the internship requirements to become licensed in Hawaii. While students are completing a master counseling degree, or after, they must obtain several hours of internship experience in a mental health counseling setting. The internship experience can be completed in a couple of academic terms.

    After graduating from the program, future counselors must also acquire at least 3,000 hours of supervised professional counseling experience. For the most impactful experience, students should work under a fully licensed counselor.

  • Get A Counseling License and/or Certification

    One of the most important steps to becoming a fully licensed counselor in Hawaii is to obtain a counseling license by passing National Counselors Examination for Licensure and Certification. The exam is offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors and it features 200 questions. Prospective counselors must receive a master counseling degree before taking this exam.

    Hawaii offers a few additional licenses. Prospective counselors may pursue the following licenses:

    • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: Prospective counselors with a master’s counseling degree may take the National Marriage and Family Therapy exam.
    • School Counselor: Prospective counselors with a master counseling degree must pass the PRAXIS Basic Skills Test.
    • Certified Substance Abuse Counselor: Prospective counselors may take the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam if they have a high school diploma.

    Here are some additional counseling certifications in Hawaii: Hawaii Certified Peer Specialist, Certified Prevention Specialist, and Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional.

  • Obtain A Career in Counseling

    Once you pass the National Counselors Examination for Licensure and Certification, the next step is to obtain a career as a counselor. Before searching for a job in Hawaii, it’s a good idea for future counselors to review the counseling positions that they have in mind.

    There are several counseling career options in private practices, government agencies, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing facilities, and schools.

  • Join Professional Counseling Organizations

    Counselors who would like to gain a competitive advantage should join professional counseling organizations. Professional counseling organizations offer many incredible perks such as networking opportunities, counseling resources, invitations to annual conventions, and much more.

    Here are a couple of professional counseling organizations in Hawaii: Hawaii Counseling Association and Hawaii School Counselor Association. The American Counseling Association is also highly recommended.

  • Pursue Professional Development and Continuing Education Opportunities
    As a fully licensed counselor, engaging in professional development and continuing education opportunities is key. These opportunities can drastically increase job prospects. Counselors can attend conference, seminars, and workshops. They can even complete continuing education courses.
  • Network with Other Counselors

    Counselors who want to excel in the counseling field need to network with other counselors. When counselors obtain a career in counseling, they should find a mentor as soon as possible. A mentor will be able to help counselors achieve their career goals, which may ultimately lead to career advancement.

    Mentorship will also allow counselors to cultivate networking skills, enhance communication, increase confidence, improve productivity, and explore new ideas. One of the most important benefits of acquiring a mentor is personal fulfillment. Counselors are sure to optimistic, inspired, and self-motivated when they work with mentors.

Careers for Counseling Graduates


When it comes to a career in counseling, prospective counselors have many options.

Here are some great counseling careers.

  • Genetic Counselor
    The primary goal of genetic counselors is to give clients information about the genetic conditions they may develop. Many genetic counselors will perform genetic tests to provide the most accurate information. Genetic counselors will probably be able to inform clients about genetic conditions that may affect their baby.
  • Family Therapist
    If a family is struggling, a family therapist can definitely help. The main responsibility of a family therapist is to help families solve a wide variety of conflicts. Family therapists can also treat several mental conditions. These professionals must have excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Social Worker
    The best social workers are on a mission to support the overall well-being of vulnerable groups. A social worker may specialize in child abuse, public health, substance abuse, elder care, or civil rights. Many social workers strive to make mental health less of a stigma. These professionals are often expected to offer mental health counseling, engage in legislative processes, develop treatment plans, protect clients from mistreatment, and offer clients community resources.
  • Community Health Worker
    Community health workers are committed to significantly improving the health of a community. They often share health information during outreaches, home visits, counseling sessions, and family visits. These professionals maintain a close relationship with the vulnerable population.
  • Child Counselor
    A child counselor can support children with mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety. These professionals excel in teaching children how to keep a positive attitude, solve problems, and develop coping skills. They can be seen working in many different settings, from schools and government agencies to hospitals and private practices.
  • School Counselors
    School counselors are expected to support students’ academic goals. The best school counselors also assist students’ social and emotional development. They can gain employment in elementary, middle, and high schools.
  • College Counselor
    College counselors are most known for helping high school students get into the college of their dreams. These professionals pride themselves in guiding high school students through the entire application process. College counselors can also help students determine their career goals.
  • Mental Health Counselors
    The main mission of mental health counselors is to provide the best support to clients who have mental conditions. They can assist clients suffering from substance abuse, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and eating disorder. The typical duties of these professionals include providing support groups, communicating with families, giving clients coping strategies, and much more.

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