Becoming a counselor is a true calling. In this field you will be able to help a wide range of people from all walks of life. It's a difficult field to enter, though. Depending on your licensure goals, and your state's requirements, you will need some level of an advanced degree. From there, you will likely have to pass an exam and complete a period of supervised practice. Nevertheless, it's totally worth it. When you can work with a client through their problems and help them move their lives forward, that will be a reward to carry with you forever.
This page is here to provide resources for counseling students. This will be a great page to bookmark for later, as you may wish to refer back to certain items over and over again.
Resources for Counseling Students
Accreditation is one of the chief factors to consider while you research counseling degree programs. It will tell you that the school has earned credentials from an independent agency that has visited the school and scrutinized the curriculum and faculty, both past and present. There are two primary agencies that accredit undergraduate programs and one that exclusively accredits graduate counseling degree programs.
CACREP is one of the most well-known accrediting agencies for counseling. They accredit counseling programs at all levels, including PhD programs. CACREP isn't alone when it comes to graduate schools, however. When you move on to graduate school, you'll have another accreditation to look out for. MPCAC is a rigorous accrediting agency that only offers credentials to post-baccalaureate programs of counseling and psychology.
Accreditation matters quite a lot, so strive to attend schools who've been accredited by a program-specific accrediting agency. A regional accreditation is still good and will suffice if you don’t have access to a school with programmatic accreditation, but your career will thank you if you graduate from a school with noteworthy accreditation. Furthermore, your state may require a degree from a school that has specific accreditation prior to issuing a license. When you have a CACREP or MPCAC accreditation, you will be sure to garner the board's approval.
Questions About Financial Aid
Financial aid is a necessity for most students these days. Tuition costs have risen quite a bit and it's no longer possible to pay tuition with a summer, or part-time, job. Thus, students need to seek out grants, scholarships, and student loans.
Grants and scholarships are the absolute best way to fund your education because these funds do not need to be repaid. As a student of psychology, you can find a range of specialized scholarship funds that will provide assistance with your education. For instance, in these days of the Opioid Crisis, you’re increasingly likely to find scholarships or grants that are focused on students who seek to work with substance abuse patients.
Like most students, however, you are likely to need assistance in the form of student loans. There are both federal and private loans available but you should try to avoid private loans if at all possible. Federal loans have better rates and repayment programs. However, if your parents are considering taking out a loan to help you, they may have better luck with personal loans, as they have the credit to receive better rates.
For some degrees, there are grant programs that work in a similar way to the federal loan forgiveness program. That is, some states and even some corporations offer grants that cover tuition in return for work. You'll have to work in that state or for that corporation until the loan is forgiven, but you'll also receive a full paycheck. Your counseling degree program may have information on these alternate funding sources.
Counseling Associations for Students
During your student years you can begin to get a taste of the professional counseling world by joining an association. Your campus might have a psychology club or even a group exclusively for counseling students, but you can also seek out national associations and gain a toehold in the professional world. Many national associations allow students to become members at a lower membership rate, while still providing access to loads of resources, including webinars and journals. One of the best benefits may be the job and internship opportunities that often come with membership in a professional counseling association.
- American Counseling Association:
The ACA is an organization that dates back to 1952, around the time that psychotherapy started to take hold. Their newsletter, Counseling Insider is a fantastic resource they make available to members and non-members alike.
- American School Counselor Association:
If you intend to be a school counselor, you'll want to join the ASCA. You'll need to be in graduate school to join but the benefits will help you launch a brilliant career.
- Society of Counseling Psychology:
This 17th subdivision of the American Psychological Association covers those who are working with clients rather than conducting research or teaching at the college level. They offer three publications and loads of webinars and other CEU opportunities. Student Affiliates will have many publications and other resources available, including special programming at the APA national conference.
- American Psychological Association:
This is the most prominently known association for psychology students. Their ambassador program will be enlightening and also a fantastic addition to your resume.
- Association of Black Psychologists:
As a member of the ABPSI you will receive the association's Journal of Black Psychology as well as its archives. Membership may also open up mentoring or internship opportunities.
Student or Open Access Journals
Counseling journals are a great resource to grab when you research a term paper. They frequently publish the latest studies and feature other articles from the tops of the field. When you regularly read a journal in your field, you will find that your knowledge is up to date, which will give you an edge in your academic work. Further, when you begin your career, you'll find that you are up-to-speed with the current thinking in the field.
Indeed, there is an app for nearly every single thing. That includes being a student. As a busy, active student of counseling psychology, you will want to load your phone or tablet with helpful apps to keep you on track and able to enjoy the fun times that college offers. You may also need functional electronic tools for file transfers or news feeds that cater to your needs.
Students need to do it all and this helpful planner will keep you on top of it all. This brilliant app even synchs up with other calendars, including the all-important Facebook Events calendar and the Google Calendar.
With this app, you will never have to worry about surprise quizzes or papers. Enter your schedule and individual course data into the app on the first day of class and then set up your reminders. One of the best lessons in college is time management and this app will put you at the head of the class.
- Google Drive:
This is one of the more handy cloud services out there. With Google Drive you can have access to your important documents from any Wi-Fi hub. If you're working on a group project, you can share documents with the group to have them input their parts or make changes as necessary.
You need to stay on top of the news, right? This RSS feed is a perfect solution for those down-times or when you're looking for a paper topic. With Feedly, you can access many top psychology resources from the media, not to mention news and features from innumerable sources.
An internship is not only a good idea for counseling students, it may also be a requirement of your degree program. During your internship period your academic learning will be informed with practical experience. When you are taking clients as a student counselor, you can confer with professional and academic mentors to ensure that you are on track and providing optimum care to your clients.
Internships can also lead to jobs. You might intern with a large psych hospital and then be asked back upon your graduation. You might also pick up leads from your on-site supervisor. Finally, a great recommendation from an internship colleague will help you launch into a dream position.
The following internship opportunities are with universities, but you might also find opportunities with your state's social services agencies. Local psych hospitals might also take on interns and you can also look into opportunities with non-profit service organizations in your town.
Resources for Students and Professionals
Counseling Licensure Options
If you want to practice as a counselor, you will have to attain a license. There are many different types of license and each state has its own rules regarding how you attain and maintain that credential. It is also possible to earn multiple licenses so that you can expand your practice. For instance, you might be a Licensed Professional Counselor but then add a license to work with substance abuse victims.
To attain a license, most states will want to see an academic degree that corresponds with the license. For instance, some drug counseling licenses only require an associate degree, while other counseling degrees require a master's degree. Each licensed person will also likely need to complete a long period of supervised work which must be documented and submitted to the state board for approval.
Some of the licenses you might pursue include, but are not limited to:
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Mental Health Counselor (MHC)
- Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
- National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC I & II)
- Master Addiction Counselor (MAC)
- Nicotine Dependence Specialist (NDS)
- Alcohol & Drug Counselor (ADC)
- Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor (AADC)
- Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP)
Certification Study Resources
When you are working towards licensure, you will absolutely need to pass an exam that corresponds with your desired credential. Since there is so much hanging on your exam, and because these tests are so comprehensive, it will be vital that you spend a good deal of time preparing for the test. Many students form study groups where they can work together on preparation materials or even create their own flash cards or other tools.
To help the process, there are many commercial products available that have been approved by the requisite agencies as providing valuable test-prep materials. Use these on your own or in collaboration with your school friends and your score is sure to rise as a result.
Temporary employment is a great way to launch your career. It can be hard to land your very first full-time job, so these agencies will take your resume and match you with a facility that needs a counselor for a brief period. You might fill in for a counselor who is home with an illness or who is on temporary leave.
Temporary jobs give you a chance to experience a range of employment environments. This can be a great opportunity to learn and make your best decisions regarding your eventual full-time position. Along the way you may meet great contacts who may know of job opportunities or who may simply prove to be great long-term professional friends. The following agencies may have opportunities in your local area. However, there are also general temporary agencies that also handle jobs in your field.
Resources for Accounting Professionals
When you are out working as a professional counselor, you will want to have access to the best resources available. One of the easiest and best ways to achieve this is by joining a professional association. Membership will help you to stay current with your profession, find educational opportunities for your Continuing Education Units, and find fellowship with other counselors.
Associations frequently offer online courses or webinars that will count towards your license renewal. They also might sponsor lectures or other educational events in your town that will count towards your CEU requirements. They frequently hold conferences where you can immerse yourself in learning and fellowship over the course of a weekend. Finally, associations often publish journals that you can use to stay current with cutting-edge studies or even legislative news.
Membership in a professional association will help you develop your career. You can achieve leadership positions in the local or national association which will certainly raise your profile. Even if you don't pursue leadership in the group, they usually have job boards exclusively for members.
Professional journals are the means by which practicing counselors stay current with the cutting edge in psychological studies and trends in counseling. These journals often offer peer-reviewed articles that provide the best information. Some of these journals offer some information online, but for the most current and comprehensive content, you will need to subscribe to the print edition.
While subscribing to multiple journals can get expensive, you might see if your company can subscribe to one or more. When you and your colleagues have access to outside learning tools, your overall practice will improve. Furthermore, when you and your fellow counselors happen to read the same journals, you can engage in conversations that stem from the studies and articles. Here is a brief list of journals you might want to keep in your library.
- Journal of Counseling and Development from the American Counseling Association
- Journal of Professional Counseling from the Texas Counseling Association
- Journal of Counseling Psychology from the American Psychological Association
- Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling from the American Counseling Association
Industry Conferences for Counselors
Conferences are a great opportunity to get out of the office, away from clients, and hit the road to an immersive learning experience. Counseling conferences are sure to be packed with all sorts of stimulating lectures, seminars, panel discussions, and more. You may encounter new counseling methodologies or have fresh insights into a specific subject. Often, conferences will provide an opportunity to accrue CEUs for your licensure.
After all the learning is over for the day, conferences give you a chance to have a meal with your colleagues and enjoy company and fellowship. After all, even counselors need to let their hair down every once in a while.
- American Counseling Association:
The ACA's annual conference is full of top speakers and panelists. The conference moves around every year, so check where it is this year on their website.
- American Mental Health Counselors Association:
Addictions counselors will be attending this conference in Las Vegas in droves. There will be continuing education credits available as well as some fascinating breakout sessions on topics such as adolescent male depression, gambling disorders, and brain trauma.
Addiction professionals also attend the NAADAC conference each year. The cities where this will be held are planned years in advance, so visit the website to see if it will be happening near you soon.
- National Conference on Addiction Disorders: Addiction experts are marking their calendars for these conferences. Speakers may include experts from city governments, SAMHSA, and more. There are two version of the NCAD conference. One is NCAD-East, held in Baltimore, MD, and the other is NCAD-West, held in Anaheim, CA.
Professional Counseling Software
Counselors, especially those in private practice, need all the administrative help they can get. Thankfully there are loads of software packages available to help them manage their practices. Even if you're not in private practice, it can be beneficial to learn more what software packages are popular in your area. That will help when you apply to work for a larger practice.
- Therapy Zen:
Your practice might not achieve nirvana, but it will surely be better organized when you use this software. This is built exclusively for private-pay counselors and therapists.
- Therapy Notes:
Here you can schedule appointments, document client visits, and bill claims with insurance all from the same piece of software. It includes credit card processing, a client portal, and top security.
- Practicesuite Billing Software:
You might find this software if you work in a large organization, such as a hospital. It will help you verify client insurance, monitor your client's allowed visits, and avoid underpayment from insurers.
This software, and packages similar to it, are of great use to counselors. This package is used by school counselors nationwide. Since it's a cloud-based tool, you can access it anywhere.