What is Counseling?
A stress-free profession does not exist, which is one of the reasons professionals need certified counselors. Even those who love and enjoy their careers need help from time to time to deal with various aspects of their career and life. People are not automatons; our environment, family dynamics, and career demands can weigh heavy on us and cause mental distress. Counseling is a way to get help with issues so that they don’t take over and put our lives in jeopardy. Since no industry is immune, anyone from any industry could find themselves in need to mental health assistance or substance abuse help.
Counselors are trained professionals that assist individuals, families, or couples to help them work through emotional, behavioral, or interpersonal issues. A person can need counseling or therapy for a variety of reasons, so counselors are often trained in specific areas. People struggling with substance abuse issues often need different counseling services than someone experiencing loss or having a mid-life crisis. Also, the skillset needed to do family counseling is different than a counselor who helps veterans with PTSD or children with learning difficulties.
The state of Michigan employs almost 3,000 workers in professional counseling services. If this is an area you are interested in studying, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for counselors in all areas is expected to increase faster than average between 2019 and 2029, so you have time to enter the industry and provide the help and guidance people may seek while maintaining a solid career outlook. It should also be noted that there are different kinds of counselors and not all of them work directly in the mental health field. People can need assistance in many areas of their lives such as career, weight management, or community services, so there are many different ways you could assist people seeking help.
Online Counseling Education in Michigan
While still in school, those who desire to become counselors choose an area where they want to work and then tailor their advanced education to match this area. For example, three people might all major in psychology or sociology, but one might want to work with kids, one might feel personally drawn to help those mired in substance abuse, and another might want to work with married couples or families. These specializations will be the focus of their graduate studies.
All therapists and counselors learn the tools and methods needed to help people work through their issues. Some states allow a person with just an undergraduate degree work as counselors in various capacities, but for the most part, a graduate degree is required.
Although you can get an associate and bachelor's degree in the counseling area, to work as a licensed counselor, a master’s degree is required. This is because the majority of licenses needed to work as a counselor in Michigan require a master’s degree. A person can work as a drug or alcohol counselor without a master’s degree, but to advance, an advanced degree will eventually be required. We have listed all the educational options below.
Online Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)
With an associate degree, a person can be a support specialist but will not be allowed to offer any sort of one-on-one counseling services to patients. With some training they might be allowed to work as an intake specialist, but in most cases these people will be relegated to administrative work only. For example, a person with a two-year associate degree in psychology could work in a facility ensuring patients personal items are secured, clean, and in their proper location. Or they might be able to work as a support person for a group home making sure all patients are always accounted for.
Students will take entry-level courses in psychology, sociology, and social work in order to earn their associate degree in psychology or counseling. This can provide a student enough information to decide if they want to pursue additional education in psychology or counseling. Additionally, since they will complete liberal arts or general education courses in this degree, they could skip the first two years of a bachelor’s degree once they transfer to a four-year school.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)
A four-year bachelor's degree in psychology or counseling could get a person a job, but not as a full-blown counselor in Michigan. However, they could work as a case worker who works with a counselor. For example, an organization that offers counseling for veterans might employ a person with a four-year bachelor’s in counseling as an intake specialist or as a community liaison. In some organizations, a bachelor’s degree can offer limited counseling advice while working under a more experienced licensed counselor. With a bachelor’s degree, a person can become a licensed social worker, but to become a licensed counselor or psychologist, further education will be required. Most licenses for counselors require an advanced degree to qualify to take the licensing exam. The exception is for certain licenses for drug and alcohol counseling. In these cases, a certain number of credit hours must be completed in various treatment areas.
Online Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)
Obtaining a master’s degree in counseling is the first step in getting a Professional Counseling License. Those who want to work in the mental health field in Michigan tend to get this license because it covers all elements counseling. The degree can be in any discipline within the counseling or social work areas. To attain this, LPC candidates have to complete 600 hours of clinical work under licenses counselors as well as complete a master’s degree. The LPC doesn’t require as many clinical hours, but there are requirements that varies by discipline.
Online PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)
A doctorate not only allows a person to work as a counselor after passing the required licensure exam, but it also opens the door to formally teaching and training opportunities. Whether the teaching or training takes place for an organization or an institution of higher education, those who possess a terminal degree in counseling can work in practically any capacity. This also includes working as directors, CEOs, and other department head positions that are in charge of organizations and programs.
Become a Counselor in Michigan
The path to becoming a counselor in Michigan depends on the direction a person wants to take. For those who want to become a more traditional counselor, attaining the required education (usually a master’s degree), fulfilling work hour requirements, and sitting for and passing the required licensing exam is the most direct path. On the other hand, for those who want to work as alcohol or substance abuse counselors, the educational requirements are lessened, but the work requirement in increased.
There are several different licensed or areas of specializations that a counselor in Michigan can pursue:
- Licensed Professional Counselor
A master’s degree is required to obtain this licensure, as is passing a written exam. Candidates will be required to detail their work experience and account for counseling hours working under a licensed counselor.
- Limited Licensed Counselor
This is a license on the same level as the licensed professional counselor but is specifically for counselors who let their license lapse for whatever reason.
- Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC)
A master’s degree in psychology, social work, addiction science, counseling, or marriage and family therapy is required. Candidates need 2,000 hours of full- or part-time clinical counseling experience, post master’s degree. These hours must be performed under a certified service provider.
- Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC)
300 hours of work experience under a licensed counselor is required. A master’s degree is not required but is preferred. The work hours have to be in alcohol or nicotine counseling programs.
- Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
These professionals already hold either Certified Alcohol and Drug Counseling or Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counseling certification. 10,000 hours of full or part-time clinical counseling experience working with substance use disorder clients is required.
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
2,000 hours, full- or part-time, providing Substance Use Disorder Prevention services at a program licensed by the State of Michigan as a substance use disorder services provider or MCBAP-approved alternative is required.
Most licenses are valid for three years from the date of issuance.
Potential Careers for Counseling Graduates
Careers in counselling are plentiful. Many people automatically think counselors work with people with mental health issues, however, counselors also work with mentally stable people who might have questions about a certain aspect of their life. Below are a few of the careers a person with an education in counseling might want to consider.
Career counselors work with people who find themselves at a career crossroads. It could be someone who is getting out of the military and is trying to figure our what they want to do for a civilian career or it could be someone who is dissatisfied with their current career and are trying to determine the best career for them. Using testing and questioning techniques, career counselors can help people zone in on their desires, interests, and goals and assist them with finding the career that best suits them.
- Community Health Workers
These professionals are involved in keeping communities as healthy and stable as possible. They carefully evaluate the health needs of a particular community and implement programs to address these issues, as well as increase public awareness of community issues. For example, if a community health worker sees a trend in obesity in a neighborhood, they might implement walking program or free cholesterol and blood-pressure screenings so that people can get a better handle on the issue before it becomes life-threatening.
- Marriage & Family Counselor
Family therapists work with individuals and entire families to help the members improve communications with all involved. A family counselor meets with each member of the family to get a general idea of the family makeup and consult the entire family to get an idea of the family dynamic. Using this information, a family therapist can give the family tools and techniques to help with communication and hopefully enable to family to strengthen its bonds.
- Group Counselor
Group counselors meet with a group of people who are working through the same issue. Grief counselors and alcohol counselors are examples of group counselors. In a group setting, each member takes a turn sharing their experiences. The counselor acts as a facilitator, offering talking points when there is a lull in the conversation and insights for members who are experiencing issues. The object is to have the group learn from each other and gain a sense of community with people who can best understand what they might be feeling or going through.
A psychiatrist is a counselor who has also attended medical school. Not only is a psychiatrist a licensed counselor, but they are also legally allowed to prescribe medications. Psychiatrists can work for facilities or in private practice. Many psychiatrists work with the most advanced and dangerous mental conditions, but others have chosen to work with those with less volatile mental disorders.
- Child Counselor
Child counselors work with children who are experiencing emotional and/or behavioral issues. Using skills and techniques created specifically for children, these counselors can pinpoint issues and create therapies or treatment plans to help children learn to navigate their environment in a more positive manner.