Careers in Counseling
The counseling profession consists of various specializations, each focused on addressing the needs of specific populations. Counselors in these specializations undergo specific training requirements but share the common goal of fostering the growth and potential of individuals.
Professional counselors work in diverse settings such as colleges, hospitals, clinics, private practices, and schools. The following sections describe some specializations within counseling, while other types such as career and substance abuse counselors are covered in separate chapters. Regardless of specialization, all professional counselors aim to prevent and treat psychological issues and promote healthy human development across all life stages. They help clients navigate life changes, adapt to new environments, and enhance their overall well-being.
In many states, professional counselors with appropriate training are qualified to administer psychological tests as part of their practice. To become a professional counselor, individuals typically need a master’s degree in counseling. This section provides an overview of prominent counseling specializations, including clinical mental health counseling, college admissions counseling, college counseling, rehabilitation counseling, school counseling, and other forms of mental health counseling.
1. Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Mental health counselors emerged in the 1940s and 1950s, but their formal training and employment increased after the passage of the Community Mental Health Act of 1963. This act provided funding for mental health centers, improving access to mental health care services across the United States.
2. College Admissions Counseling
College admissions counseling assists students in navigating the college admissions process to choose and gain entry into suitable postsecondary educational institutions.
3. College Counseling
College counseling at the postsecondary level differs significantly from college admissions counseling at the secondary level. College counselors on college campuses provide support to students dealing with mental health and educational challenges that impact their personal, social, and academic well-being.
4. Rehabilitation Counseling
Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRCs) provide support to individuals with disabilities, helping them navigate personal and vocational challenges resulting from their impairments.
4.1. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
CRCC is a nonprofit organization established in 1974 to certify rehabilitation counselors who meet specific professional standards, education, and work experience requirements.
5. School Counseling
Professional school counselors in elementary, middle, and high schools support students’ personal-social, career, and academic needs. Their role has evolved from vocational guidance to addressing various student issues. According to ASCA, school counselors are educators with counseling training focused on enhancing student achievement and success.
6. Other Types of Mental Health Counseling
Mental health practitioners are trained to treat individuals with mental health issues and illnesses. This category includes various professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and marriage and family therapists. While they all address similar concerns, they have different treatment approaches based on their education and training.
Psychologists diagnose and treat mental disorders using interviews and testing in various settings. Specializations include clinical, counseling, and school psychology. Most states require a doctoral degree for licensure.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who treat clients with severe psychological disorders. They provide psychotherapy, prescribe medications, and conduct physical examinations and lab tests. To become a psychiatrist, individuals must earn a medical degree, complete a residency program, and pass licensure exams.
Psychoanalysts use psychoanalysis, developed by Sigmund Freud, to help clients resolve psychological issues through long-term exploration of unconscious conflicts. They typically have a terminal degree in the mental health field, undergo training at a psychoanalysis institute, and engage in personal psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysts often work in private practice.
Social Workers are dedicated to pursuing social reform, justice, and affecting policy. They provide therapeutic treatments, connect clients with community resources, advocate for societal change, develop programs, conduct research, and teach. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work is required for social work professionals.
Psychiatric Nurses specialize in counseling services for patients with severe psychological disorders. They develop nursing care programs, and in some states, can prescribe medication. Psychiatric nursing can be pursued at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels within the nursing profession.
Marriage and Family Therapists work from a systems theory perspective, assisting individuals, couples, and families in developing healthier patterns of interaction. A minimum of a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy is required to become a marriage and family therapist.
7. Counselor Supervision Models
Counselor supervisors are experienced professionals who provide training and guidance to new counselors, helping them develop and enhance their clinical skills. They have their own clients and also oversee the clients of their supervisees. To become a counselor supervisor, professional counselors should undergo training to acquire the necessary skills for effectively supporting and guiding their supervisees. The supervision process can be facilitated using different models, including:
These models extend counseling theories into the supervisory relationship. For example, a cognitive-behavioral approach focuses on teaching new skills, encouraging practice, and addressing areas of improvement. A client-centered approach creates a warm and trusting environment for counselor-trainees to practice and refine their counseling skills.
These approaches recognize the progression of counselor trainees through stages of growth, competence, and independence. Supervisors adapt their supervisory style to meet the trainee’s needs at each stage.
Some models are specifically designed for supervision. For instance, the discrimination model involves the supervisor assessing the supervisee’s intervention, conceptualization, and personalization skills. The supervisor then takes on the role of a teacher, counselor, or consultant as needed to address the supervisee’s needs.