How To Become A Counselor

Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counselors and family therapists help people to resolve family and relationship problems, and help overcome various mental and emotional disorders. Through multiple session with clients they come up with diagnoses and strategies to help clients who are facing difficult life situations.

Counselor Job Description
The following are some major tasks performed by mental health and relationship counselors:

  • Identify and resolve  mental health problems such as depression and anxiety
  • Encourage their clients to open up and freely discuss their problems and feelings
  • Help the clients to accept various life changes such as divorce or layoff
  • Develop strategies and help clients to apply these strategies to cope with difficult life situations and stresses
  • Coordinate with psychiatrists and social workers for treatment of clients
  • Direct clients for further treatment to in-patient treatment facilities and support groups

How To Become A Counselor
Individuals who are looking for a career in counseling require a master's degree in counseling or a similar degree like psychology or social work.  To enter the master's program, many fields of the bachelor's degree are acceptable. With the help of counseling programs, students learn to diagnose symptoms of mental and emotional problems, and come up with strategies to effectively resolve the problems. The counseling programs based on marriage and family therapy enable students to learn about the function of marriage, family, and relationships; and how these functions have an impact on people emotionally and mentally.

Online degree programs are available for students who would like to earn a degree, but do not want to attend classes on a campus. There are a number of benefits offered by the online programs. They are quite flexible and convenient to pursue, as you can study at your own pace and at the time that suits you best. Online programs are also great for individuals who cannot give up their job or leave family responsibilities in order to continue their education.

Mental health counselors need to be licensed.  In order to get a license, these counselors require a master's degree in counseling and 2000 to 4000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Counselors also need to pass a state recognized exam and take annual continuing education classes. Marriage and family therapists also need to be licensed. They require a master's degree and a minimum of two years of supervised clinical experience for the license. Marriage and family therapists also have to pass a state administered exam and take annual continuing education classes.

Skills And Personal Qualities
The following skills and personal qualities are essential in the field of counseling:

  • Empathy and compassion for clients
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Organization and managerial skills
  • People skills to work and interact effectively

Salary And Career Outlook
There is a positive career outlook for mental health counselors. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are expected to grow by 37 percent between the years 2010 and 2020, which is a lot faster than the average of all occupations. The average annual wage of mental health counselors was $38,150 in May 2010.


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