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What is Counseling?

Massachusetts is one of our oldest states. It’s home to Boston, which is one of the biggest centers for the financial industry as well as being home to shipping and other concerns. The state is also well known for its vacation spots and more. In fact, the top five industries in Massachusetts are led by professional and business services, real estate, social services including education and healthcare, finance, and manufacturing.

Interestingly, the largest employment sector in Massachusetts is the education and health services field. This industry spans counseling practices, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, social work agencies, and more. For each of these specific areas, Massachusetts needs counseling professionals to keep their organizations strong. To go a step farther, these counselors help keep Massachusetts strong by supporting its workforce through tough emotional times.

A counselor is a person who works with a client or patient with the aim of improving their life. They typically use some form of interviewing as part of their work. There are many sorts of counselors including credit counselors, career counselors, and even attorneys are often called counselors. However, we typically associate the term with mental health professionals who work with clients to help them improve their lives.

Mental health counselors work with clients such as those who suffer from depression, addiction, or mental blocks that may impede their success in life. They may also focus on specific populations such as children, the elderly, those in the LGBTQ community, or clients who share a specific sort of traumatic background. To help these people, counselors employ psychotherapy as a means of uncovering the roots of their clients' problems. To work one-on-one in psychotherapy requires license from the state of Massachusetts.

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Online Counseling Education in Massachusetts

Massachusetts counseling students will indeed need top quality training because the state faces many difficult problems. One of the chief mental health problems in Massachusetts, and the United States, is the opioid epidemic and its attendant problems. Since opioid addiction spread like wildfire through the state, so did other problems such as thefts, overdose deaths, family problems, and disruptions in the workplace. Nowadays, it seems that doctors and pharmacies may be curtailing the rampant prescription of addictive pain medications, however, other problems are arising. Fentanyl and new forms of methamphetamine are causing even more overdoses and other social problems.

To bolster its population of counselors, Massachusetts strives to strengthen and continually improve upon the degree programs in its colleges and universities. Since the UMass system of universities is very strong, it’s not difficult to recruit top talent to its faculties. Nevertheless, they need to continually self-evaluate their curriculum and best practices in order to ensure that students receive the best training.

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Mental health is vital to maintaining stability in any society, and Massachusetts is making strides in that direction. Their addiction counseling licensure, college and university programs, and state agencies are all working hard to help people overcome their problems. Then, when people move past their traumas and addictions, they are able to conduct stable, productive lives in the Massachusetts economy.

Online Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

Online community colleges offer many degrees that can kick off a career in counseling. In fact, Massachusetts offers licenses to alcohol and drug counselor assistants who have only a high school diploma. From the assistant level, they can progress after earning a bachelor’s degree or gaining 6,000 hours of experience. Though there is no explicit allowance for an associate degree, students should inquire with their academic adviser or the state to see if their associate counseling degree can count in lieu of some experience hours.

An online associate counseling degree has many benefits. One of the chief benefits is the low cost of tuition and credit hours. It also takes a mere two years to complete. After graduation, students can land an entry-level job and start their career. When they decide to proceed in their counseling careers, their first two years are a lighter financial burden as they take on two more years of educational expense at a four-year institution, which will surely be more expensive.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

For those who are seeking a career in counseling, an online bachelor’s counseling degree is perhaps the best first step. Massachusetts will count a bachelor’s degree against the experience requirements to earn a license to work as an addiction counselor. A four-year counseling degree can also be useful in other fields. After all, many employers want to see a bachelor’s degree for their entry-level hires, whom they train for success.

Though a bachelor’s counseling degree does not qualify the holder to practice psychotherapy or to work one-on-one with substance abuse disorder clients, it still has great value. That is, a bachelor’s counseling degree not only qualifies students, in part, for state licensure but it is a necessary prerequisite for a master’s counseling degree. Thus, a student can complete a bachelor’s counseling degree and then work in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility where they can gain invaluable experience. From that point, they can decide if they want to proceed in the mental health field.

Online Master's Degree in Counseling (MS)

An online master’s counseling degree is likely what most students need to earn if they want to continue advancing in their career after earning an associate or bachelor’s counseling degree. A master’s counseling degree will pave the way toward Massachusetts state licensure as a psychotherapist. Naturally, they will still have to satisfy all of the board's requirements such as an ethics course, a period of supervised experience, and satisfactory scores on a professional examination.

A master’s counseling degree program also opens up the opportunity to focus on a specific area of mental health. While many earn a generalized degree, graduate students might instead focus on child counseling, adolescent counseling, or geriatric counseling. Other options can include family and couples therapy or addiction counseling.

Not only can a counselor earn licensure to work as a psychotherapist, but they can also use their degree to move up in the administration of a rehabilitation facility. Also, for those who earn a Master of Social Work, other opportunities might arise in social services agencies and non-profits.

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

A PhD in counseling psychology is the peak achievement for counseling professionals. With a doctorate, they can not only work with clients in a private practice, but they can charge more. Their credentials also lend them high esteem in the counseling community, which has many benefits. For one, they can put together lecture series that they can count toward their continuing education. They may also find it easier to publish articles or books that can produce additional revenue while also opening up more opportunities in their practice.

A PhD is a de facto requirement for those who wish to teach at the college level. While a master’s degree is a minimum requirement, a PhD is more likely to help the holder land a full-time tenure-track position with a Massachusetts college or university. In fact, many PhDs split their time between teaching part-time and conducting a thriving counseling practice.

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Become a Counselor in Massachusetts

Massachusetts, like many states, has a strong need for counseling professionals. Contemporary life is very stressful and many people are eager to embark on a path of self-discovery that might result in a happier, more productive life. Then there is the huge demand placed on Massachusetts and other states by the opioid epidemic. When pharmaceutical companies encouraged irresponsible prescriptions of their highly addictive opioid pain medications, they created an epidemic of addiction and overdose that continues to plague society.

In response, Massachusetts and other states made addiction treatment a top priority. To that end, Massachusetts pushed for more licensed addiction counseling professionals. Thus, in Massachusetts, nearly anyone can work toward some sort of licensure in the field of substance abuse disorder. Even someone with a high school diploma can earn a license as a drug counselor assistant. Though it might be ideal to pursue employment in this field with at least an associate counseling degree, work as an assistant will provide experience that could be utilized for later licensure.

Though not a requirement, a bachelor’s counseling degree can help qualify a professional to become a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor II. The core requirement for non-degree holders is 6,000 hours of supervised work with substance abuse disorder. Those with bachelor’s degrees only need to show 4,000 hours for the license. Still, this credential is often not what counseling professionals are seeking and may want to look into counseling certifications.

Instead, they may be eager to work one-on-one with their clients in a clinical office. They thus need to satisfy the Massachusetts board with at least a master’s degree in clinical psychology or a master of social work degree. These scholars will still need to satisfy state requirements such as a period of supervised work, successful passage of a professional examination, letters of reference, and more.

As professionals work to become a counselor in Massachusetts, they should continually self-evaluate. This process will help them become the best mental health workers they possibly can. Even those who don't work as mental health counselors should self-scrutinize to ensure that they are mindful of their clients and that their approach is the most effective one available. They should also review whether the field is their true passion. For this reason, it can be invaluable to start one's counseling career as an assistant or LADC II so that you don't over commit yourself to a degree and profession that may not be the most suitable. After all, counseling, especially in the mental health field, is very demanding and can be quite stressful in a number of ways.

Potential Careers for Counseling Graduates

  • Career Counselor:
    These counseling professionals are not in the mental health field, but most hold a graduate degree. They tend to work in Massachusetts' colleges and universities where they help undergraduate students achieve a lifetime of success. They discuss career options with individual students and help firms from Massachusetts, New England, and the wider nation to come and recruit on campus.
  • Substance Abuse & Addiction Counselor:
    In the wake of the opioid epidemic, the increasing prevalence of methamphetamine, and the scourge of fentanyl, Massachusetts has more and more need for these counseling professionals. To enter the field, Massachusetts requires only a high school diploma and that the candidate meet certain experience requirements. However, to work one-on-one with clients, Massachusetts requires that all licensure candidates earn a master’s degree and satisfy the rest of the board's requirements, including an examination and a background check.
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  • Psychologist:
    This title is reserved for counseling professionals who have earned a PhD in clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists most often work in private practice, where they generally cultivate a specialty in certain disorders or populations. For example, some focus their practice on women with substance abuse disorder or victims of sexual assault.
  • Clinical Therapist:
    These counseling professionals have earned a master’s counseling degree as well as Massachusetts state licensure to practice therapy. There are at least two options for their master’s degree: a master of social work or a master of clinical psychology. Either degree will qualify for a Massachusetts license to open an independent counseling practice, provided other requirements are satisfied.
  • Counselor (Private Practice):
    To work as a counselor in private practice, a professional must satisfy certain requirements set forth by the state of Massachusetts. One major hurdle is earning a master’s counseling degree from an accredited program for clinical psychology. The state also requires a certain number of supervised hours and satisfactory passage of an examination. Licensed counselors must also maintain their credentials with continuing education hours each licensing period.
  • School Counselor:
    These counseling professionals work in schools where they help students overcome various obstacles that may impede their progress as students and growing people. To qualify for this position, school counselors need to complete a master of education degree with a focus on counseling. They also need to qualify for a teaching certificate. To earn that credential, Massachusetts requires that they pass a professional exam such as the PRAXIS test.
  • Social Worker:
    Professionals in this field are most commonly found working for Massachusetts state social service agencies. They might also work in hospitals, prisons, or other environments where people need assistance. While the title doesn't require any specific degree, those with a master of social work can open a private counseling practice when they become licensed clinical social workers.

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