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What is Counseling?

Graduates from counseling degree programs may be qualified to pursue a variety of careers within the field. In fact, there are many different types of counseling professionals. Many colleges and universities offer students the ability to select concentrations, or specialties, which will further differentiate their studies from the general counseling curriculum. Choosing a concentration can greatly impact the type of work performed after graduation.

Some of the most common areas of specialization include:

  • Addiction
  • Eating Disorders
  • Bereavement
  • Mental Health
  • Family
  • Trauma
  • Military

It’s also possible for counseling professionals to specialize in working with specific populations such as children, teens, adults, or the elderly.

Counseling specialties aside, professionals in this field are typically highly dedicated to helping others live healthier, happier lives. They use their extensive knowledge and skills to provide assistance with a variety of social, emotional, and mental health problems. Counselors may also serve as advocates or help patients manage physical and psychological difficulties that can accompany various conditions. Counselors cannot, however, prescribe medications of any kind.

Every position is different, but some of the most common responsibilities shared by many counselors include evaluating clients and assessing readiness for treatment, developing, and reviewing treatment plans and goals and assisting in skills and behaviors development. Many jobs also require educating community members and assisting patients in developing various coping strategies. Additionally, professionals in this field regularly coordinate with other medical and mental health experts when developing and managing treatment plans.

Work settings can vary from rehabilitation facilities to private practices. Other potential employers include family services offices, care centers, hospitals, community/vocational rehabilitation facilities, outpatient mental health, substance abuse centers, service centers, hospitals, residential substance abuse facilities, and schools. Only licensed counselors may own and manage their own practices.

It’s important to realize that providing counseling services can be stressful. The job can be quite demanding, with large workloads, long hours, and the need to work or be on call during evenings, nights, and/or weekends.

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Counseling Education in Louisiana

Those seeking to become counselors or work in other related positions within the field will need some form of higher education. There are some jobs that require candidates have nothing more than a high school diploma or GED, but the best employment opportunities are typically reserved for college and university graduates. Prospective students can choose from associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Ideally, students should select degree types that correspond with their ultimate career goals.

Deciding to enroll in a counseling degree program in Louisiana can have many benefits and may lead to a very rewarding career. An ideal major and profession for those who want to assist others in overcoming challenging situations, individuals who choose to pursue this field often have many opportunities to encourage and help people create positive changes in their lives. Most programs help students learn how to utilize a wide variety of techniques in order to provide appropriate social, emotional, and mental support to patients. Enrollees also gain the knowledge and skills needed to work with different demographics, from small children to adult couples to elderly individuals. It’s important to realize that, while this profession can be extremely rewarding, it may also be emotionally taxing.

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According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for many occupations related to counseling is expected to increase in the United States from 2020 to 2030. Growth varies by profession, with genetic counselors, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists seeing the greatest increases. Data also indicates that there will be some rise in employment for school and career counselors and advisors. These occupations can all expect increases of between 11 and 26%, which is significantly more than the average of other occupations. Overall, growth in this sector is expected to add approximately 84,800 new counseling jobs nationwide per year.

This growth will be predominantly due to an increased willingness to seek addiction and mental health counseling services among people in the United States. It’s also becoming more common for mental and physical healthcare providers to coordinate treatments as patients are encouraged to treat multiple ailments simultaneously, counseling providers are likely to see higher demand for the services they offer. Additionally, many court systems have started sentencing drug offenders to treatment rather than jail time, a trend that will further increase the need for qualified professionals in the field.

The educational services, healthcare, and social assistance industry is the fourth largest in Louisiana. It accounts for $22.1 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2020, the state employed 3,820 substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. There were also 6,080 educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors, as well as 390 rehabilitation counselors. The annual mean wage for community and social service occupations, including counselors, was $49,320.

Prospective students will find counseling programs available throughout the nation. Online learning also makes it easy to enroll in courses from anywhere with internet access. It’s recommended, however, for those interested in employment in Louisiana to attend colleges and universities located in the state. This is because local schools will be more familiar with licensing requirements and employer expectations in the region. Additionally, many have pre-established connections with organizations and companies that may offer internship and employment opportunities.

Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

Associate degrees in counseling generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and usually take full-time students two years to complete graduation requirements. While curriculums vary, most are designed to provide students with a general overview of the field and the knowledge necessary to be successful within in. Most courses will be introductory in nature but may begin delving into various psychological theories and models.

Most associate degree graduates in this field choose to pursue further education. This is largely because Louisiana requires professional counselors to have graduate degrees. That said, there are some entry-level employment opportunities available that may be related such as a counseling assistant, human service assistant, or caseworker. Prospective students should realize, however, that the most successful candidates will possess more advanced degrees.

Overall, an associate degree in counseling can serve as an introduction to the field. These degrees also tend to be less expensive to attain and graduates can transfer any credits earned to four-year institutions later.

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees consist of around 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four to six years to complete. Every program is different, but most counseling degrees at this level are meant to help prepare students for study at the graduate level. Courses typically focus on important counseling theories and concepts, and instructors help students develop critical thinking and communication skills.

Most people who intend to become counselors in Louisiana start their academic careers by earning bachelor’s degrees. While graduates may qualify for some entry-level employment, all professional counselors in Louisiana must have graduate degrees. Overall, a bachelor’s degree in counseling typically provides the foundational knowledge needed to pursue further education in the field. Other acceptable degrees include psychology, sociology, and clinical social work.

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

Master’s degrees in counseling typically consist of around 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Programs vary from institution to institution, but most are designed to instruct students in advanced counseling practices and theories. Professors often utilize a mixture of instructional techniques such as classroom learning, research projects, and practical application to prepare enrollees for future employment. It’s also common for colleges and universities to require some sort of supervised practicum or clinical internship prior to graduation. This is particularly important in Louisiana, as many licensure processes in the state require candidates to have supervised work experience.

Overall, a master’s degree in counseling is needed in order to become a professional counselor in Louisiana. These programs prepare graduates for professional work in the field and may also prepare them for further education.

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

Doctoral degrees in counseling can consist of anywhere between 90 and 120 credit hours and often take full-time students five to seven years to complete. Every curriculum is different, but most are designed to provide students with a much more comprehensive assessment of the field. Instructors also place an emphasis on enhancing the skills necessary to be successful, especially in relation to research.

This type of degree is not considered a standard requirement for employment, but it may be necessary in order to practice in certain specialty areas within the field, such as for psychiatrists who prescribe medications. Doctorates are also helpful for professionals who intend to pursue leadership positions or jobs in academia. Graduates will likely have access to some of the most prestigious career opportunities in research and/or education at the postsecondary level.

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Become a Counselor in Louisiana

The first step to becoming a counselor in Louisiana is deciding which area of counseling you wish to pursue. As previously mentioned, there are many different types of professionals in this field, from career counselors to addiction counselors. Identifying the kind of service you want to provide, as well as who you want to provide them to, will help you plot a reasonable course toward your ideal career. For example, professional counselors typically require master’s degrees in mental health or a related field, while marriage and family therapists require master’s degrees in marriage and family therapy or a related field. Ultimately, the type of degree and license you need will depend on your goals. Once you know what these are, it should become much easier to select a degree program.

In Louisiana, most types of counseling require professionals to have graduate degrees and state licensure. There are several different licenses available, depending on the type of counseling practiced. Requirements also vary, making it essential to research your area of interest thoroughly prior to submitting an application.

Those seeking to earn licenses for mental health counseling must go through the Louisiana State Board of Licensed Professional Counselors. Candidates must have at least 60 graduate degree credits in mental health counseling or a related field. The application process is managed through an online portal on the board’s website. The first step is registering as a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor (PLPC) and accruing supervised experience. After receiving a PLPC license, you will need to earn 3,000 hours of clinical work experience supervised by an approved counseling professional. Candidates must also pass either the National Counselor Exam (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE).

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) gain licensure through the Louisiana State Board of Licensed Professional Counselors. This board accepts paper applications, as well as applications submitted via an online portal. Candidates must have at least 60 graduate degree credits in marriage and family therapy, clinical mental health counseling, or a related field. Applicants must also register as Provisional Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (PLMFTs), earn supervised experienced, and pass the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Board’s (AMFTRB) examination.

School counseling licensures are awarded to school counselors via the Louisiana Department of Education. Applicants are required to have master’s degrees in addition to either a 100-hour practicum or a 600-hour internship at a school. Those seeking this credential will also need to pass the PRAXIS exam or the Professional School Counselor exam.

Louisiana offers three credentials for addiction counselors, all of which are managed by the Addictive Disorder Regulatory Authority (LA-ADRA).

  • Registered Addiction Counselor (RAC)
  • Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC)
  • Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)

Degree requirements vary based on the type of licensure sought, ranging from high school diploma to master’s degree. Additional requirements include completing 300 hours of supervised practical training and supervised experience. RAC and CAC applicants must also pass the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor Exam; LAC applicants must pass the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor Exam.

Careers for Counseling Graduates

  • School Counselor
    School counselors help students establish and reach goals in their personal, academic, and social lives. They typically achieve this by offering various types of assistance and support, especially related to preparations for higher education. They may also counsel new students adjusting to the area, as well as providing consultations to parents. Additionally, these professionals often intervene during challenging situations, refer to support services, and aid students in overcoming various obstacles. According to PayScale, school counselors make an average base salary of $51,350 per year.
  • Clinical Social Worker
    Clinical social workers provide mental and emotional support to their assigned clients. This typically entails coordinating patient care interactions, negotiating with third party groups, communicating with patients, and conducting psychosocial evaluations. These professionals can work in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, mental health clinics, residential nursing facilities, home healthcare companies, and substance abuse treatment centers. According to PayScale, clinical social workers make an average base salary of $57,600 per year.
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  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor
    Substance abuse and addiction counselors develop and oversee treatment plans for patients struggling with or recovering from substance use and abuse. This often entails providing counseling in individual and/or group settings, creating treatment plans, implementing therapeutic treatments, and evaluate patient progress. These professionals are also responsible for documenting any patient observations and maintaining updated health histories. According to PayScale, substance abuse and addiction counselors make an average base salary of $39,950 per year.
  • Residential Counselor
    Residential counselors work with individuals at live-in patient facilities, overseeing treatment plans. They offer individual and group counseling sessions to patients struggling with a wide variety of conditions such as addictions, disabilities, or mental health issues. These professionals must also be prepared to resolve conflicts within the residence and handle crises events. According to PayScale, residential counselors make an average base hourly rate of $14.46, or approximately $39,700 per year.
  • Career Counselor
    Career counselors help their clients identify, pursue, and achieve their ultimate career goals. This generally entails helping to determine possible professions using various assessment tests to gauge personality, interests, and aptitude. They then offer advice regarding how to meet the associated education requirements. These professionals may also conduct mock interviews and background evaluations, as well as assisting clients in shifting toward new careers. According to PayScale, career counselors make an average base salary of $46,450 per year.
  • Grief Counselor
    Grief counselors, sometimes referred to as bereavement counselors, help guide their patients through the various stages of grief after loved ones have passed away. Using exceptional listening skills, they work to gain a better understanding of the underlying feelings and emotions involved with each individual loss. Ultimately, these professionals strive to provide assistance and support that can help people deal with death or other losses in healthier ways. According to PayScale, grief counselors make an average base salary of $46,850 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors diagnose and treat patients with mental health conditions. This usually entails helping patients work through and/or resolving existing issues by conducting one-on-one and group counseling sessions. It’s common for these professionals to specialize in a particular kind of patient care, such as young adult therapy or addiction counseling. According to PayScale, mental health counselors make an average base salary of $44,250 per year.

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