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Become A Clinical Counselor

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Working As A Clinical Counselor

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • $47,390

    Average Salary

What Does A Clinical Counselor Do

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and other relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Duties

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists typically do the following:

  • Diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression
  • Encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences
  • Help clients process their reactions and adjust to difficult changes in their life, such as divorce and layoffs
  • Guide clients through the process of making decisions about their future
  • Help clients develop strategies and skills to change their behavior and to cope with difficult situations
  • Refer clients to other resources or services in the community, such as support groups or inpatient treatment facilities

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists use a variety of techniques and tools to help their clients. Many apply cognitive behavioral therapy, a goal-oriented approach that helps clients understand harmful thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and teaches how to replace them with positive, life-enhancing ones. Furthermore, mental health counselors use cognitive behavioral therapy to teach clients to eliminate unwanted and damaging behaviors and to replace them with more productive ones.

Although some disorders can be overcome, others need to be managed. With the latter, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help the client develop strategies and skills to minimize the effects of their disorders or illnesses.

Many mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work in private practice. They must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with insurance companies and clients to get payment for their services.

Mental health counselors provide treatment to individuals, families, couples, and groups. Some work with specific populations, such as the elderly, college students, or children. Mental health counselors deal with a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, and suicidal impulses. They also help with mental and emotional health issues and relationship problems. 

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families. Unlike other types of mental health professionals, they bring a family-centered perspective to treatment, even when treating individuals. They evaluate family roles and development, to understand how clients’ families affect their mental health. They treat the clients’ relationships, not just the clients themselves. They address issues, such as low self-esteem, stress, addiction, and substance abuse.

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists coordinate patient treatment with other professionals, such as psychiatrists and social workers.

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How To Become A Clinical Counselor

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are typically required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.

Education

To become a mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist, applicants typically need a master’s degree in psychology, clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or a related mental health field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s program.

Counseling programs prepare students to recognize symptoms of mental and emotional disorders and to use effective counseling strategies. Marriage and family therapy programs teach students about how marriages, families, and relationships function and how these relationships can affect mental and emotional disorders.

Many employers prefer to hire counselors who have graduated from programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.

Training

Candidates gain hands-on experience through postdegree supervised clinical work, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In training, they learn to provide family therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy, and other therapeutic interventions, under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Licenses

All states require mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to be licensed in the state in which they practice. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of postdegree supervised clinical experience, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In addition, counselors and therapists must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes.

Contact information for state boards regulating mental health counselors is available through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Contact and licensing information for marriage and family therapists is available through the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Counselors and therapists often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for counselors and therapists. They spend most of their time working directly with clients and other professionals and must be able to encourage good relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, both of whom need to give their full attention to their clients to understand their problems, values, and goals.

Organizational skills. Good organizational skills are especially important for counselors and therapists in private practice, who must keep track of payments and work with insurance companies.

Speaking skills. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists need to be able to communicate with clients effectively. They must express ideas and information in a way that clients can understand easily.

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Clinical Counselor jobs

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Clinical Counselor Career Paths

Clinical Counselor
School Counselor Adjunct Professor Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Service Coordinator Program Coordinator Social Worker
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Clinician Program Director Educator
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Adjunct Professor Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Therapist Program Director
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Adjunct Faculty Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinician
Clinical Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Nurse Practitioner Registered Nurse Supervisor
Director Of Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Psychologist Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Therapist Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Mental Health Counselor Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Service Director Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Registered Nurse Nurse Manager
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Instructor Case Manager
Senior Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Clinical Social Worker Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Service Coordinator Social Worker
Social Work Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Social Worker
Social Work Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Clinical Counselor 3.0 years
Clinical Therapist 2.9 years
Work Counselor 2.7 years
Primary Counselor 2.4 years
Family Counselor 2.3 years
Intake Counselor 2.1 years
Group Counselor 2.1 years
Counselor 2.0 years
Crisis Counselor 2.0 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 12.7%
Case Manager 10.0%
Counselor 9.4%
Therapist 5.6%
Volunteer 3.6%
Clinician 3.0%
Teacher 2.3%
Top Employers After
Therapist 10.6%
Counselor 8.6%
Clinician 6.7%
Internship 4.9%

Clinical Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

73.3%

Male

24.7%

Unknown

2.0%
Ethnicity

White

80.3%

Hispanic or Latino

10.1%

Asian

7.0%

Unknown

2.0%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

70.8%

French

10.4%

Portuguese

2.1%

Hawaiian

2.1%

Ukrainian

2.1%

Cantonese

2.1%

Dakota

2.1%

Hebrew

2.1%

Russian

2.1%

Arabic

2.1%

Mandarin

2.1%
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Clinical Counselor Education

Schools

Webster University

19.6%

Capella University

9.0%

Liberty University

8.4%

Walden University

7.5%

University of South Carolina - Columbia

7.2%

University of Phoenix

5.3%

Nova Southeastern University

4.0%

Troy University

3.7%

New York University

3.4%

University of West Florida

3.4%

Florida State University

3.4%

Grand Canyon University

3.4%

Cleveland State University

3.1%

Johns Hopkins University

3.1%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

2.8%

University of South Florida

2.5%

University of North Florida

2.5%

Barry University

2.5%

Virginia Commonwealth University

2.5%

Winthrop University

2.5%
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Majors

Social Work

18.0%

School Counseling

16.6%

Mental Health Counseling

13.4%

Psychology

11.0%

Counseling Psychology

10.4%

Education

4.2%

Clinical Psychology

4.2%

Human Services

4.2%

Rehabilitation Science

2.9%

Criminal Justice

2.8%

Family Therapy

2.5%

Business

2.3%

Nursing

1.8%

Educational Leadership

1.2%

Sociology

1.2%

Law

1.0%

Human Development

0.8%

General Education, Specific Areas

0.6%

Public Health

0.5%

Experimental Psychology

0.5%
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Degrees

Masters

64.6%

Bachelors

15.5%

Other

8.2%

Doctorate

6.7%

Certificate

2.2%

Associate

1.6%

Diploma

0.6%

License

0.5%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Clinical Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Clinical Counselor (Psychologist) San Francisco State University San Francisco, CA Jan 19, 2015 $66,588 -
$119,208
Clinical Counselor/Licensed Psychologist San Francisco State University San Francisco, CA Aug 18, 2014 $66,588 -
$119,208
Clinical Counselor University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL Apr 25, 2016 $59,580
Clinical Counselor University of Illinois Champaign, IL Jan 08, 2016 $56,500
Clinical Counselor University of Illinois Champaign, IL Sep 15, 2014 $55,120
Clinical Counselor Henry Street Settlement New York, NY Feb 01, 2010 $55,000
Clinical Counselor University of Illinois Champaign, IL Aug 26, 2016 $54,340
Senior Clinical Counselor Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK Jan 02, 2010 $53,904
Clinical Counselor University of Illinois Champaign, IL Aug 18, 2014 $53,000
Clinical Counselor University of Illinois Champaign, IL Mar 16, 2014 $51,507
Clinical Counselor University of Illinois Champaign, IL Aug 26, 2013 $51,507
Clinical Trial Counselor Iberica USA, Inc. New York, NY Sep 17, 2010 $50,000
Clinical Counselor Cambridge & Somerville Programs for Alcohol & Drug Cambridge, MA Oct 01, 2011 $45,000
Clinical Counselor Caspar, Inc. Cambridge, MA Jul 06, 2012 $44,658
Senior Clinical Counselor Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK Mar 11, 2016 $42,890 -
$51,000
Senior Clinical Counselor Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK Jan 11, 2015 $42,000 -
$45,000
Professional Clinical Counselor The Open Mind Training Institute Santa Monica, CA Aug 17, 2016 $41,740
Clinical Counselor Heartland Human Care Services Inc. Chicago, IL Apr 30, 2015 $37,232
Clinical Counselor Heartland Human Care Services Inc. Chicago, IL May 01, 2015 $37,232
Clinical Counselor Heartland Human Care Services Inc. Chicago, IL May 08, 2015 $37,232

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Top Skills for A Clinical Counselor

IndividualTreatmentPlansMentalHealthIssuesCrisisInterventionSubstanceAbuseIssuesIntakeAssessmentsAlcoholChildAbuseSafetyDomesticViolenceTraumaAngerManagementDischargePlanningMedicationManagementCognitiveBehavioralTherapyCommunityResourcesAdvocacyProgramClinicalAssessmentsIndividualTherapyGroupTherapySessionsCrisisManagement

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Top Clinical Counselor Skills

  1. Individual Treatment Plans
  2. Mental Health Issues
  3. Crisis Intervention
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed individual treatment plans using behavioral modification principles to aid consumers in developing appropriate daily living and community skills.
  • Provided individual, group, and family therapy to children and adolescents diagnosed with a range of mental health issues.
  • Provide individual, group, family and crisis intervention counseling services using best practice method.
  • Managed case load average of 50 adult clients with substance abuse issues.
  • Conducted intake assessments and evaluations.

Top Clinical Counselor Employers

Clinical Counselor Videos

A Day in the Life of a School Counselor

Exploring Careers in Clinical and Counselling Psychology - Feb 4, 2013

Mental Health Counselor, Career Video from drkit.org

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