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What is Counseling?

In recent years, more people are opening up to conversations about the importance of maintaining good mental health, leading to an increase in demand for well-trained and effective counselors. Society now understands that mental health can be negatively impacted by factors that are outside of one’s control.

Counselors are trained professionals who understand how to help patients deal with emotional distress and overcome mental health ailments. Skills that set the best counselors apart from mediocre ones include a willingness to listen, the ability to not judge others by their circumstances, and possessing a deep sense of empathy to help others move beyond invisible challenges. Counselors can often find themselves to be the confidants of their patients, which means that they will need to take patient privacy very seriously. Additionally, understanding each client’s unique challenges, developing tailored treatment plans, and following up with patient progress closely are all commonly part of a counselor’s day-to-day tasks.

While studying to become counselors, students can expect to learn a strict ethical code and learn to master evidence-based practices, which are important factors to whether a student can achieve a professional counseling license and join the American Counseling Association. Most counselors will specialize in a specific area of mental health, which can require different sets of clinical experiences as prerequisites to achieving certification.

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Online Counseling Education in Nebraska

To properly help individuals who are struggling with mental health issues, professionals like counselors must dive into a work-based learning environment that requires strong critical thinking. In today’s environment, seeking out counseling services has become much easier, with many professionals opening tele-health services during the pandemic to reach out to more patients. Despite the more widespread acceptance of mental health services, it’s important to note that not all counseling degrees are created the same or focus on the same types of issues. This is because demand for certain types of counseling services, particularly if patients are dealing with career or industry-driven stressors, can vary significantly state-by-state. Each state also sets their own rules for the amount of education you need to gain licensure and work as a counselor in a variety of fields. As such, when a student is looking to become a counselor, they must weigh both their interests and the opportunities available in the region they are living in. Counselors who understand the top industries in their state can be better equipped to deal with job-specific challenges their patients might face.

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For students who are looking to become counselors in Nebraska, the following are some of the top industries of employment within the state. The top industry is manufacturing, which accounts for $13.5 billion in revenue every year. Specific issues that workers in the manufacturing industry face include tight deadlines, operating dangerous equipment, and working difficult shift hours.

The second-largest field of employment in Nebraska is the finance and insurance industry, which generates around $12.5 billion in revenue annually. Counselors who can understand and relate to workplace stressors, like long commutes, difficult managers, hitting stringent sales quotas, as well as performance rankings, are better equipped to help clients who work in this type of white-collar environment.

Online Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

Given that counselors work with sensitive information and patients who may be mentally or emotionally unstable, most states have very stringent licensing requirements, and Nebraska is no exception. Students who only wish to complete an associate degree in counseling or a related field will find that they have very limited options for obtaining full licensure, as many counseling specialties require a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

In Nebraska, students can become an alcohol and drug counselor with only a high school diploma but achieving a higher educational status can open the door for quicker licensure, even in this particular counseling focus area. Students who only achieve their associate degree and wish to work in an area outside of substance abuse counseling will find that they mostly qualify for entry-level support positions right out of school. These types of opportunities can range be found in the mental health, community, and human service areas with common job titles like addiction recovery support specialist, caseworker, child and youth advocate, family mediator, human service assistant, outreach specialist, program assistant, and social services assistant.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for social and human service assistants was $37,610 in 2021. These types of entry-level supporting positions can allow students to gain some clinical experience in the field to better understand what the daily lives of a career in counseling entail. This can provide a strong basis for students to later continue their education and work toward their counseling license.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

Students should be aware that, other than becoming an alcohol and drug counselor, other counseling licenses in the state of Nebraska not only require thousands of hours of work-based experience but also require at least a master’s degree in a related field. Nebraska students who complete their bachelor’s degree in counseling or social work can apply for positions like mental health specialist, social worker, mental health rehabilitation specialist, child life specialist, mental health technician, and mental health services data specialist. These are incredibly important jobs that support the counseling and community outreach work and help to improve the overall emotional wellbeing of communities throughout the country. Furthermore, interview candidates with bachelor’s degrees and deeper exposure to counseling theories and methodologies are typically more attractive to employers who are seeking to hire highly skilled workers. According to ZipRecruiter, behavioral health technicians in Nebraska can expect to earn $21,000-$47,200 per year.

Online Master's Degree in Counseling (MS)

To become a licensed counselor for the majority of counseling specialties in Nebraska, a student must have completed their master’s degree in counseling or a related field. Not only does a graduate degree open students up to the possibility of working in areas like rehabilitation counseling, but it also grants them eligibility to sit for the national Behavior Analyst Certification Board certification. While those with a BACB certification may not be directly involved in counseling services, they provide important input into how to help children and adults work through problematic behaviors, a complementary field of work to what counselors do daily.

In Nebraska, other than completing their master’s degree, students seeking to become counselors must all complete a mix of fieldwork and other certification examinations. Popular focus areas include school counseling, clinical mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and marriage and family therapy, with specific responsibilities differing depending on one’s specialty. Pay may vary between the different counseling specialties, and students should focus on choosing their license carefully, since they must be licensed in their chosen area. According to Career Explorer, the average salary for a licensed professional counselor who works in Nebraska can range from $32,490-$75,470.

Online PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

While some students may choose to pursue a doctorate in the counseling field, the majority of licensed professional counselors will not since this is not a prerequisite to achieving certification or licensure. Instead, students who pursue doctorate degrees in the field often look to become college professors, a career path that will often require applicants to have completed their PhD in a related field if they wish to gain tenured roles.

Students might consider pursuing a doctorate in the field of counseling to gain advanced clinical and supervision skills, which can help them guide peers with less training. Those with a doctorate may seek to become clinical psychologists instead of simply becoming a counselor. Additionally, since the majority of licensed counselors in Nebraska must have already completed their master’s degrees, depending on the type of counselor they wish to become, this makes it possible for them to return to school for their doctorate later down the road. According to ZipRecruiter, clinical psychologists can expect to earn an average of $96,435 per year.

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Become a Counselor in Nebraska

To become a counselor in Nebraska, students must undertake a rigorous education and certification process. Nebraska offers three levels of mental health counseling licenses: Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP), Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner (LIMHP), and Provisionally Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (PLMHP). Only LIMHPs, physicians, and psychologists can diagnose major mental illnesses and disorders. At both the LMHP and LIMHP levels, candidates must have completed at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience in the five years before their application, of which at least half was direct client contact. For LIMHPs, the requirements become even more strict, with at least 1,500 hours of supervised work experience needing to be in direct contact with clients diagnosed with major mental illnesses or disorders.

Besides completing their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, students must also invest hundreds, if not thousands, of hours into clinical experiences to be prepared enough to work individually with live patients. The specifics of different counselor licensing procedures in Nebraska will differ depending on one’s intended specialty. Below are a few popular types of counseling licenses and how students can get certified in Nebraska.

A popular area of licensing in Nebraska is school counseling, which provides individuals with the opportunity to work with and support children. As with most counselor licenses in the state, Nebraska requires candidates to have achieved their master’s degree in school counseling in a program that requires at least 36 credits completed by graduation. Students must also complete a 100-hour school counselor field experience and a 450-hour counseling internship experience. Additionally, school counselors must separately hold a valid teaching certificate or complete 12 additional semester hours of teacher education focusing on core curriculum design, classroom management, student assessments, and lesson plan crafting. Afterward, candidates must pass the PRAXIS Professional School Counselor and PRAXIS Core Academic Skills Test, pay an application fee, and complete a background check.

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Becoming a marriage and family therapist in Nebraska is likewise a very involved process. Nebraska allows any individual holding LMHP, LIMHP, and PLMHP licenses to become a certified marriage and family therapist. To become an LMHP with a marriage and family therapist endorsement, applicants must complete their master’s degree in counseling in a program that has a 300-hour practicum, complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience, pass the AMFTRB exam, as well as pay a $155 fee with an additional $50 fee for certified marriage and therapist endorsement.

The only exception to this process is for individuals who wish to work in substance abuse counseling in Nebraska. Candidates are eligible upon receiving their bachelor’s degree but must first achieve Provisional Alcohol and Drug Counselor status. This requires a $275 application fee, 270 hours of training and education in substance abuse, and 300 hours of supervised practical training in 12 core functions. Afterward, candidates must complete a total of 6,000 hours of paid supervised work experience in alcohol and drug counseling, pass the ADC exam from IC&RC, and pay an additional $175 application fee before they can become fully licensed.

Potential Careers for Counseling Graduates

  • Career Counselor
    Students may have a difficult time deciding on their ideal career path while in school. A career counselor’s job is to help clients identify their interests, weaknesses, and strengths to provide them with potential career recommendations. Career counselors may also help with researching career opportunities and helping to connect students to job openings.
  • Genetic Counselor
    Nowadays, couples and families are becoming more cognizant of the effects of genetic diseases on their children’s wellbeing. Genetic counselors can provide families with insight into their genetic conditions to help them better understand their family health history.
  • Family Therapist
    Families are important, yet complex, systems within the community. As such, stressors between married couples or parents and children can lead to daily conflicts. Family therapists are trained to help individuals navigate these mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders to address relationship issues at the core family unit level.
  • Psychiatrist
    Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating mental health disorders, including substance use and abuse disorders. They are usually qualified to assess a patient’s mental and physical issues that may translate into psychological problems.

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