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What is Counseling?

When people think about counselors, many different ideas can be conjured. Some think about those who are suffering with mental illness and need help navigating through life. Others think about those who are fighting addiction to substances such as drugs and alcohol. Others still might think of troubled children or a marriage on the rocks. Although all of these examples include situations in which counseling is helpful, those aren’t the only reasons a person might seek to speak with a counselor. Sometimes, even the happiest, most well-adjusted people need an objective opinion, and counselors are a great way to get that feedback.

A counselor is an individual that is trained to assist people with various emotional and behavioral issues. A counselor can specialize in helping many different types of people including children, families, and individuals in different areas such as drug addiction, grief, or trauma. Some counselors work with people individually, while others assist in group therapy. Many counselors choose to specialize in certain areas because the skillset to offer therapy to a person fighting drug addiction is different from someone who is having trouble in a relationship. The chosen specialization is usually decided while the potential counselor is still in school, particularly graduate school. As part of the education, internships and practicums are required which mirror the specialization the student has chosen.

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Counseling Education in Kansas

Since a stress-free career is not a thing (even those who love their jobs face stress from time to time), counselors will find themselves working with a variety of people, from secretaries to CEOs. Being able to set aside the person’s profession and focus on the person is an important skill, so counselors should enjoy interacting with a variety of people. In the state of Kansas, there are 870 licensed counselors who make, on average, $72,000 per year. This is a shortage and the need for more counselors is great. This fits in with national statistics, since according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for counselors is expected to increase much faster than average between now and 2029. If you think a career in counseling, in which you help others navigate through a variety of issues and stressors is something that might interest you, keep reading. Below are some general guidelines regarding the educational and licensing requirements, as well as descriptions of some of the jobs a licensed counselor might be able to pursue.

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In order to become a counselor in the state of Kansas, a person must have a formal education. A master’s degree is required to quality for licensure, and the degree must be from an accredited college or university. Accreditation is important because if a student graduates from a school that the state does not recognize as accredited, then the person will not be able to apply for a license and therefore cannot practice as a counselor in the state. Always check the accreditation level of any schools you are interested in attending to be sure it meets the required standards.

Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

In the state of Kansas, a person cannot work as a counselor with only an associate degree, despite the fact that the person might have an associate degrees in psychology or counseling. Two-year certificates can be used as add-on specialization for a master’s degree. In order to work as a counselor, you will need additional education beyond an associate degree. It is possible to attain an associate degree in psychology or sociology, so if you’re wondering if this particular major is a good one for you, getting a two-year degree can help you determine that. And, if you do decide that this is the direction you want to go, you have two years of your bachelor’s degree completed. As was mentioned, an associate degree takes two years, or eight semesters, to complete, though some need more time, depending on their personal obligations outside of the classroom.

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s degree is the first step in a person’s education to become a licensed counselor in Kansas. Bachelor’s degrees take four to six years to complete, and many programs require an internship in the person’s selected area of study before you can become a licensed counselor.

Some of the classes included in a behavioral science degree might include:

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

To work as a licensed counselor in the state of Kansas, a master’s degree in counseling or psychology is required. Students will take sociology, psychology, and several social/behavioral science courses. The degree will take three to five years to complete and requires a capstone as well as an internship under a licensed counselor. Upon completion of the degree, graduates will be eligible to sit for the counselor licensing exam. Some schools will allow students to substitute a comprehensive exam for the capstone project, but internships cannot be substituted.

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

For those who want to teach or become subject matter experts, a PhD in counseling is a viable option. A doctorate degree in either sociology or psychology sets a person up to be an expert in the field. This also makes them eligible to become directors of mental health facilities and organizations. Doctorate degrees take five to seven years on average and include a dissertation, study and successful defense of the dissertation are required. An internship or work experience is also required.

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Become a Counselor in Kansas

To become a counselor in Kansas, there are specific steps that must be completed. The first step is attaining a bachelor’s degree in a field such as social work, psychology, sociology, or another behavioral science field. Once a person has graduated with an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree is the next step. This degree must also be in one of the aforementioned areas. Once a person has a graduate degree, they can begin to qualify to take the licensure exam for counselors in Kansas. There are two levels of counselors in Kansas: Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors (LCPC).

The criterial to become a Licensed Professional Counselor are as follows:

  • Must be 21 years of age or older
  • Must have a master’s degree in an approved major from an accredited college or university
  • The degree must have included a practicum
  • Must pass a national certification exam
  • Must have an application on file at least six weeks prior to taking the exam
  • Pay the $50 application fee
  • Pay the $195 exam fee

To qualify for the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, you must:

  • Have a LPC license
  • Have earned 4000 hours of supervised clinical experience under an approved clinical training plan
  • Have taken and passed a national clinical exam
  • Have an application on file six weeks before the exam date
  • Pay the $50 application fee
  • Pay the $195 exam fee

The state of Kansas has several types of counselors and they all require a license. The other requirements vary, but all of the counseling licenses require either a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree and extensive work experience. These guidelines are for mental health counselors, but there are also processes for addiction counselors, social workers, psychologists, and social workers. For those who are interested in attaining a license in another area, visit the Kansas Behavioral Science Regulatory Board website.

Careers for Counseling Graduates

There are many counseling careers available to those who want to help people. Here are some examples of the careers a person with an education in counseling could pursue.

  • Genetic Counselor
    These counselors are not concerned with your mental health, but the genetic health of your children. Genetic counselors assess the risk of individual or families for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. For families and individuals concerned with inherited condition risks, genetic counselors provide information and support to them as well as fellow healthcare providers.
  • Counselor (Private Practice)
    For those who need a person with which to express their frustrations out loud, a general counselor is the best person for the job. These trained professionals are experienced listeners and know how to guide a person to think about their issues and find their own solutions to their problems. Counselors or therapists work with individuals, families, and groups and are skilled in mediations and helping people find common ground and solutions to their problems.
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  • Community Health Worker
    If you want to know what is going on in the community around you, a community health worker is the person to ask. This person immerses themselves in their community, gets to know everyone there, and literally knows the pulse of the surroundings. If there are issues, the community health worker will know about them, whether they are regarding crime, health scares, or any other sort of problematic issue that can threaten the community. These people are the bridge between the people who live in the community and the administration that runs it.
  • Family Therapist
    Family therapists work with both individuals and entire families to help the members understand themselves, each other, and the dynamics of the group. 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 understand the family dynamic. Using this information, a family therapist can provide insight and give the family tools to help with communication and hopefully enable to family to strengthen its bonds.
  • Marriage and Family Counselor
    A marriage and family counselor assists families in working out their issues. They will work with each person in the family individually and/or bring the entire family together for group sessions. For marriages, the counselor will speak to each partner separately and also offer counsel to them as a couple. Some marriage counseling sessions will be in a group with other married couples. Family therapy however is generally done one family at a time. But there are cases when the children might be put together with other children in a separate group. A marriage and family counselor should be experienced in assisting with all of these people in all of the above settings.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors provide long-term psychological assistance to patients dealing with mental and psychological issues such as depression, mental illness, and substance abuse. Mental health issues tend to be complicated and multi-faceted, therefore mental health counselors are trained to treat the whole patient to get to the root of each patient's unique problems. This assistance may include therapy, medical treatments if necessary, and lifestyle changes to remove the triggers which cause the mental health struggles.

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