What is Counseling?
Texas is more than steers and oil rigs. The Lone Star State is home to a diverse economy that is also a world leader. In fact, Texas is the 10th largest economy in the world. Thus, it supports nearly every sort of career path, including counseling.
While manufacturing does lead the state's economic picture, Texas' top five industries include professional services, real estate, oil & gas extraction, and wholesale trade. Coming in at #6 is the social services sector, which includes education and healthcare. Counseling is naturally a large part of the mental healthcare picture and so is a vital part of the Texas economy.
Not only do Texan counselors help to support the state’s economy by generating financial activity, but those professionals help in many less direct ways, as well. When Texans are stressed and having difficulties, they can turn to counselors for help. When they overcome their problems, they become more productive and happy members of their communities. Thus, counseling can have a positive ripple effect throughout a state.
A counselor is typically thought of as a mental health professional who practices counseling or therapy with clients in a dimly lit office. However, there are many types of counselors. There are counselors who focus on helping those with substance abuse issues. There are those who help families and couples get their relationships back on track. There are those who help patients overcome behavioral disorders and those who help patients who suffer from mental health issues stay on track, either through coping mechanism or medication, depending on their needs. Some counselors help their clients deal with grief, while others focus on helping those who are trying to overcome fears.
No matter what their specialty, all of these professionals aim to make their patient’s or client’s lives better. They may do so by helping them talk through their emotions, by offering them calming exercises, by helping them get the medication they need, and more. But they all are a vital part of the helping professions and they work closely with other professionals and medical providers in order to ensure that each patient has the best possible outcome.
Online Counseling Education in Texas
Texas recognizes the important role of counselors in their economy, and the state's colleges and universities help by offering counseling degree programs, including those in psychology and social work. They are continually improving these programs, and the state keeps public programs funded. The regulatory bodies that oversee counseling also work with these programs to ensure that their students receive the best, accredited degrees. Those students are then prepared to achieve state licensure as practicing psychologists or addiction counseling professionals.
Students also benefit when their counseling degree program recruits the very best academic experts in the field. Texas' counseling degree programs seek to find instructors and professors among the state's counseling professionals. When students work with local counseling professionals, they gain added insight into how the state regulates their field, but they may also learn more about the specific psychological issues facing their fellow Texans. Practicing professionals also bring more real-world, vocational knowledge to the table, which is a terrific adjunct to strict academic material.
Online Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)
Many types of counseling professionals work with only an associate counseling degree. In many states, addiction counselors are able to earn licensure with this degree. In fact, you only need a high school diploma and 270 classroom hours to apply to become a counselor intern. However, earning a degree is the best way to earn those hours and get your foot in the door of the profession.
While these professionals may not be able to work one-on-one in therapy sessions, they can begin earning experience and, once they are a licensed chemical dependency counselor (LCDC), they can work in rehabilitation centers where they educate and work with patients as a group. Substance abuse counselors in this state are licensed by Texas Health and Human Services (HHSC).
Even if you choose not to work as a dependency counselor, an associate counseling degree can be valuable in many ways. It can help you decide if counseling is the right field for you, it can help you complete half your bachelor’s degree at a much lower cost if you find a school with a transfer agreement, and it will prepare you for a bachelor’s even if you don’t. Since community colleges charge far less per credit hour, a community college is a great place to start one's path to higher education. Further, since counseling can be a rather intense profession, students who launch a career with an associate degree can gain valuable experience prior to investing their time and money in a bachelor’s or master’s counseling degree.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)
A bachelor’s counseling degree is a more robust way to start a counseling career. Unfortunately, counselors are nearly universally required to hold a master’s degree, except for substance abuse counselors. So, though vital for your continuing education, a bachelor’s degree will not help you earn licensure. This degree will allow online students the opportunity to dive deeper the subjects, can help you choose a specialty, and allow you to be a better counselor as a result.
Students with an online bachelor’s degree in counseling may also have an easier time landing an entry-level position, tend to start work with higher salaries, and generally launch their career on stronger footing if you choose to earn an income outside the field of counseling. During the course of an online bachelor’s counseling degree, students may complete internships and may even find part-time work in the field. Furthermore, since a bachelor’s counseling degree goes more in-depth into the field of counseling, students will be exposed to both the counseling and the research side of the field. This exposure will help them make a better-informed decision when it comes time to find a graduate counseling degree program.
Online Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)
A master’s counseling degree is the most commonly required degree for most counseling positions. Those who earn a master’s counseling degree can apply for licensure to work as an independent therapist and have their own private practice or work with an existing provider. There are two general degrees that satisfy state licensing boards: an MA in clinical psychology or a master of social work (MSW). State regulators will then need to see that licensure candidates have completed the requisite number of supervised hours, passed an examination, and satisfied all other requirements.
For those who study clinical psychology, a master’s degree is often a first stage along the way to earning a doctorate. Those who are practicing with a master’s degree may be able to transfer their hours and examination scores when they earn their doctorate degree. Those who study social work earn the title of licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and they may also pursue a PhD, though that is less common.
Online PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)
A PhD or doctorate in counseling psychology places the practitioner at the top of their profession. Where master’s degree level counselors can be counselors or therapists, you’ll need a doctorate to be a psychologist. A doctorate in counseling also comes with higher esteem in the counseling community and many PhDs are able to lead their own counseling practices or rise into administrative positions, if desired.
A doctorate also opens up more opportunities in academia. With a PhD, a counselor can teach at undergraduate and graduate levels and are eligible for tenure track positions. Some may even decide during their school years that they are more interested in research psychology than clinical practice. These professionals may then either pursue work as a professor or as research faculty for a university.
Become a Counselor in Texas
Counseling is an appealing career for many people. The desire to help others overcome their personal struggles and lead a more productive, happier life is appealing. This is especially true for those who have endured great trauma and then recovered via therapy. However, some may find the process complex, so here are some steps to follow to become a counselor in Texas.
The steps to becoming a counselor in Texas begin with education. Budding counselors in Texas can start their journey with an associate counseling degree. This degree level is often a good way for students to explore the field and decide if it's really for them. An associate degree opens up the possibility for licensure as addiction counselors and entry-level positions with drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. In these positions, addiction counselors can gain exposure to the traumas that lead people to counseling and therapy, as well as the difficulties involved with fully rehabilitating clients.
Those who are eager to advance their counseling careers can move on to a bachelor’s and then a master’s counseling degree. At the bachelor’s level they will have similar opportunities to what they find at the associate level. However, they may find that their pay rate goes up in accordance with their elevated academic status. The degree will also expose them to more theories of counseling and psychology, as well as the research side of the field.
Most counseling professionals need a master’s degree. This degree level opens up options for licensure and allows you to work in individual therapy, private practice, and to have more professional autonomy in general. During graduate school, students may also find that they wish to pursue research over a life of listening to other people's problems. However, those who do keep with counseling as a profession will find that they can conduct a career that includes private counseling practice, teaching in higher education, and work in mental health facilities, such as a hospital or drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
Note that there are two general choices for a master’s counseling degree. We more commonly think of the master of clinical psychology but there is also the option of earning a master of social work (MSW). An MSW degree can be enhanced with a Texas state license to conduct therapy, thus earning you the credential LCSW (licensed clinical social worker). LCSWs can choose to pursue private practice or other counseling positions but they can also work for social services agencies, where their master’s degree results in higher pay.
Careers for Counseling Graduates
- Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor:
These counseling professionals work with those who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The licensure levels can begin with as little as a high school diploma but can go as high as a doctorate. Substance abuse counselors typically work in rehabilitation clinics, but they may also choose to work in private practice. Independent practitioners in the substance abuse field may also create careers as interventionists who help addicts and alcoholics take the first steps towards recovery.
- Counselor (Private Practice):
This licensed career requires a master’s counseling degree either in clinical psychology or social work, satisfactory scores on an examination, and a period of supervised counseling. Counselors in private practice have all the freedoms but also the responsibilities of an independent business owner. They can choose the sorts of clients they want to work with, but they must also balance those desires against the financial realities of business ownership.
- Community Health Worker:
This field requires a degree in allied health and a desire to help one's community become healthier. These workers perform outreach to their community to spread knowledge about various health matters. For instance, they may conduct trainings on proper dental health or help young mothers ensure their children enjoy optimal health.
- Clinical Therapist:
These mental health workers need a master’s degree and a current Texas state license to practice therapy. These counseling professionals help clients overcome their personal psychological problems. Clinical therapists may work exclusively with individuals, but they can also work with groups or families.
- Social Worker:
This profession is found working with a wide range of demographics. There are social workers who function as caregivers and other social workers help hospital patients navigate the healthcare system. Social workers who earn a master of social work degree may choose to become licensed to conduct therapy with individuals or groups.
- School Counselor:
To earn this status, students need a master of education with a concentration in counseling. School counselors also need to pass the same qualifying examination as teachers in their state. They work primarily in schools, where they help students overcome barriers to growth and learning.
This profession requires a medical degree and a residency in psychiatry. These doctors typically pursue careers that focus on psychological drugs such as anti-depressants, lithium, or anti-psychotic medications. Psychiatrists may work in tandem with clinical psychologists or counselors whose patients may need medications to help with their therapeutic journey.
These psychological professionals specialize in psychological testing and evaluation. They conduct testing for a psychologist and then score the results. This helps the therapist with a more in-depth picture of their patients' needs, thus helping them formulate an effective treatment plan.
- Family and Marriage Therapist:
This is a specialty within clinical psychology that focuses on the family unit. These therapists may work with couples who are having difficulty communicating or they may work with the whole family. They may also work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers where they help addicts heal their familial wounds.