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Counseling Schools and Training Programs

Help those in need by considering a career in mental health, vocational, family, or rehabilitation counseling. Mental health counselors are trained in a wide variety of therapies to address substance abuse, depression, emotional health, relationship problems, and other mental health issues. Mental health counselors often work hand-in-hand with other specialists, including psychologists, social workers, and school counselors.

Counseling Careers: Types of Jobs and Positions

A counselor career can vary widely depending on the counselor’s career path and workplace.

A mental health counselor works with either individuals or families to treat mental and emotional disorders such as depression, addiction, stress management, career concerns, parenting, and even low self-esteem. They work closely with psychiatrists and others involved in the mental health field.

Marriage and family counseling, on the other hand, focuses on emotional conflicts between family members -- husband and wife, parents and children, or siblings. They can work with individuals, families or even organizations. This type of therapy mainly centers on communication issues and building understanding.

Rehabilitation counselors work with disabled individuals and their families. They examine the limitations and strength of the disabled individual, and work with him or her on medical, vocational and other issues, with the goal of coming as close to independent living as possible.

A vocational or career counselor works with people who want to change careers or jobs. They evaluate a person's educational background and experience, and help determine appropriate career choices. They may also assist with developing job-search skills, and provide advice to people who have recently become unemployed.

Another type of counseling is pastoral counseling. This can cover the same issues as a mental health counselor or family counseling. The only difference is that in pastoral counseling the counselor is an ordained priest, rabbi or minister.

Where Counselors are Employed

Counselors can work in public or private establishments such as healthcare facilities, career centers, social agencies, residential care facilities, and even correctional institutions and halfway houses. A growing number are self-employed as well.

Most types of counselors work flexible hours. This allows them to meet with their clients or patients whenever there is a crisis. Many of the people who need counseling have school or work during the week and therefore need to meet with their counselor in the evening or on weekends. The counselor has to allow for this.

Training Required for a Career in Counseling

To have a counselor career, regardless of the specialty, you will need formal education, since 48 states and the District of Columbia have counselor licensure laws and programs. Typical requirements are a master's degree in counseling; two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience; and a passing grade on a state exam. Some states also have continuing education requirements throughout your counselor career.

You can begin your course work at the undergraduate level, since courses to become a mental health counselor and family counselor are often found in schools’ psychology departments. These are continued in further detail at the graduate level, and will also include courses on development, diversity, relationships, group work, assessment, and research. Most graduate counseling degree programs include some supervised clinical experience. Individuals considering school counseling as a specialty may be required to have a teaching certificate, depending on the state in which they want to practice.

To be a mental health counselor or to go into family counseling, you should consider attending a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. This accreditation, while not strictly necessary, may make it easier to pass state licensing requirements. Students interested in becoming rehabilitation counselors should consider programs accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education.

Certification Requirements for Counselors

While it is not necessary to become a certified counselor in order to obtain employment, certification may enhance a counselor's job prospects. In addition, some states permit individuals with national certification to skip state licensing examinations.

The National Board for Certified Counselors is the primary certifying organization for the profession, offering the designation "National Certified Counselor" to individuals with a master's degree that can pass the Board's National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification. In addition, two years of supervised counseling experience and other prerequisites may be required.

Pastoral counseling is unique in that you must be an ordained priest, minister, or rabbi in order to practice it. You will need to be certified by the American Association of Pastoral Counseling in order to go into this field.

Becoming certified in other specialties is voluntary, but it may widen your job opportunities. Some employers may help pay for additional training for new counselors.

To advance in a counselor career, you will generally need further education, and you can become a supervisor or administer, or move into research, consulting, or teaching.

Employment Opportunities and Salaries for Counselors

About 40 percent of counselors worked in educational or vocational counseling in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov). Rehabilitation counselors accounted for 19 percent and mental health counselors were 17 percent. Substance abuse counselors held 13 percent of counseling positions, and marriage and family counselors had 4 percent.

According to bls.gov (2010), within the next ten years the number of job openings will most likely exceed the number of graduates from counseling programs. With one of every four counselors working for state and local government, most others are in the healthcare industry. Employment for mental health counselors will grow as it is more socially acceptable to seek professional assistance for mental problems. Rehabilitation counselors are expected to be in demand due to improved medical treatments that allow independent living. With more people changing jobs and careers in mid life, and with an increase in state and local initiatives promoting welfare to work programs, a sizable increase in the number of career and vocational counselors is expected as well.

The bls.gov reported an average annual salary of $55,970 in 2010 for educational and vocational counselors. Marriage and family counselors made an average of $47,530, mental health counselors made $41,360, and rehabilitation counselors made $35,850. If helping others through emotional and mental issues seems like a good fit for you, pursue a career in mental health to make a difference in someone’s life.

Related Career Profiles on Health-Care-Careers.org :
Occupational Therapy Training Programs

Additional Resources For Professional Earning Their Counseling Degree:
American Counseling Association
American School Counselor Association
American Mental Health Counselors

Campus and Online Counseling Schools

 
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Grand Canyon University

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Capella University

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Intercoast Colleges

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Liberty University

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Our Lady of the Lake University

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Our Lady of the Lake University is a private, Catholic university with a deep connection to the history and community of San Antonio.


Ohio Christian University

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Argosy University

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Argosy University offers doctoral, master's, and bachelor's degree programs to students through its eight colleges:  College of Behavioral Sciences, Graduate School of Business and Management, College of Education,  College of Health Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Creative Arts and Design, College of Clinical Psychology and Western State College of Law at Argosy University as well as certificate programs in many areas.


South University, Online Programs

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The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

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Sacred Heart University - Online

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Northcentral University

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Keiser University Graduate School

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George Mason University

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Mason is committed to creating a more just, free and prosperous world. Located in one of the most important political, economic and intellectual hubs in the world, we accept our responsibility to serve others: to help our students succeed, enrich the life of our community, and contribute to solving some of the most complex global problems of our time.


Saint Xavier University

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Saint Xavier University, Chicago’s oldest Catholic university, has a long history of educating students to prepare them for professional success and lay the foundation for personal fulfillment.


Antioch University

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