Counseling is a field that has helped countless individuals who have encountered psychological difficulties. It's also a title that can apply to professionals who seek to help people with their finances, career choices, or college career. Essentially, a counselor is trained to listen to their patient and then to help them achieve their best possible life. There are many different sorts of counseling professional, but this page is mostly concerned with mental health counseling professionals.
Every aspiring counselor needs to prepare for their career and every counseling career will require academic training. Those in the mental health field need to first complete a bachelor's degree, most often in psychology, but social work and addictions counseling are also good options.
Students who are interested in a counseling career where they see individual clients in a therapeutic environment need to continue their education with a master’s degree. A master’s degree in clinical psychology or social work will set the stage to practice psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, with clients.
Aspiring licensed therapists will find that their master’s training includes many hours in clinical practice as interns. This supervised time will help them learn to apply the counseling theories they are learning. Counseling students also undergo therapy themselves. This way they have first-hand experience with the counseling process when they work with their own clients.
After graduation from a master’s degree program, aspiring therapists must still complete requirements to please their state board. Each state can have their own specific requirements, but most will require a certain number of hours of supervised practice, successful passage of a professional exam, and a background check.
Another option is to work with a license as an addiction counselor. These professionals can hold licenses with undergraduate degrees in some states. However, they will not be able to conduct individual therapy or open their own counseling practice. Rather, they can work for alcohol and drug addiction clinics. These positions may include educational duties or work with groups in various positive activities.
A counseling degree is a great idea for people who have a burning desire to help others. The degree is necessary for those who are interested in holding state licensure to work in their field. As for the salary, that will depend on many factors, including the setting in which the professional works and their licensure level.
Some counselors work for government social service agencies, where their pay might not meet the standard of counselors in private practice. However, they may also enjoy paid vacations and other generous benefits, including paid healthcare. They, and other counselors, can usually increase their pay rate with either more experience or a higher degree level, if not both.
Those with a PhD in counseling psychology can charge insurers more per hour, which is one clear benefit to all that academic work. PhDs can use the title psychologist and may also find that teaching and speaking opportunities come with those academic credentials. As an added benefit, a psychologist can often give lectures that are paid and can count toward the CEUs they need for their state licensure.
A counseling career can also take many different forms. Counselors who work with a graduate level degree may decide that they want to change their client base. They may want to transition from seeing middle-aged professionals to adolescent substance abusers. They can achieve this with a bit of additional training, which is already required for their license renewal, and a fresh certification. Not many professionals can change their work life with such ease. Options for those who wish to work in a similar field includes certificates and degrees in family therapy, substance abuse counseling services, clinical psychologists, counseling psychologist, school counseling, mental health treatment, grief counselors for traumatic life events, cognitive behavior therapy, and other mental health practitioners that deal with mental and behavioral disorders.
A counseling career can be very fruitful and long lived. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the field is growing. Their figures reflect an 18% growth rate in the years between 2022 and 2032, a rate they note as being much faster than average. Their numbers include addiction counselors as well as those who specialize in couples therapy, adolescent therapy, and even counseling geriatric patients.
Unfortunately, much of this growth may fall to the addiction counseling sector. The opioid crisis may sometimes seem like a memory, but that is unfortunately not the case. New versions of fentanyl are hitting the streets all the time, as well as newer, more potent varieties of methamphetamine. Since law enforcement has difficulty stopping these drugs from hitting the street, counseling professionals are necessary to help with the clean-up after people become addicted.
The counseling market will also naturally expand along with the size of the population. People will continue to need counseling professionals for non-addiction issues such as anxiety, depression, and grief. Essentially, wherever there are humans, there will be some need for counseling professionals.
Counseling can be a regular job, but it can also be an independent practice with entrepreneurial features. Those who seek more standard employment can seek out government agencies, private rehabilitation facilities, or even hospitals. To land these jobs, counseling professionals need to have the proper credentials, including state licensure.
For addiction counseling, many states offer multiple licensing levels. These levels start by requiring an associate addiction counseling degree and other state requirements. Often, this licensure level also requires satisfactory scores on a professional examination and a background check. Some states may also want supervised hours that may be completed during a training period.
Mental health counselors who work with a graduate level licensure don't always work as employees. Rather, they satisfy their state's licensing requirements and then embark on an independent practice. This is more of an entrepreneurial approach that doesn't require being hired, per se. However, many therapists often join with other mental health or wellness practitioners and form a collective practice. These arrangements are all unique and may require that each professional pay a certain amount for administrative support, rent, and maybe other fees. To join a practice such as this, counselors may need to show that they fit the needs of that practice's mission and can agree to the financial obligations involved.