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Become A Counselor

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Working As A 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

  • $33,895

    Average Salary

What Does A 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 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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Counselor jobs

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Counselor Career Paths

Counselor
Program Director Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Instructor Case Manager
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Assistant Director Office Manager
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Instructor Program Coordinator Assistant Director
Center Director
7 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Therapist
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Social Worker Therapist
Clinical Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Program Manager
Deputy Director
9 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Security Officer Case Manager Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Licensed Practical Nurse Occupational Health Nurse
Health Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Hostess Home Health Aid Direct Support Professional
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Specialist Operations Manager Assistant Director
Owner/Director
7 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Program Manager Senior Project Manager
Project Director
8 Yearsyrs
Security Officer Sales Consultant Leasing Consultant
Resident Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Specialist Security Officer Direct Support Professional
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Assistant Director Office Manager Case Manager
Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Assistant Director Project Manager Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Program Director
Unit Director
5 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Pastoral Counselor 4.8 years
Marriage Counselor 4.4 years
Counselor At Law 4.4 years
Guidance Counselor 4.3 years
Cruise Counselor 3.9 years
Genetic Counselor 3.6 years
Cosmetic Counselor 3.6 years
Finance Counselor 3.1 years
Senior Counselor 3.1 years
Employee Counselor 3.0 years
School Counselor 3.0 years
Career Counselor 2.9 years
Family Therapist 2.8 years
Juvenile Counselor 2.8 years
Work Counselor 2.7 years
Housing Counselor 2.7 years
HIV Counselor 2.6 years
Therapist 2.6 years
Clinical Counselor 2.6 years
Service Counselor 2.6 years
Grief Counselor 2.6 years
Job Counselor 2.6 years
Memorial Counselor 2.5 years
Teacher Counselor 2.5 years
Academic Counselor 2.5 years
Credit Counselor 2.5 years
Primary Counselor 2.4 years
College Counselor 2.4 years
Lead Counselor 2.4 years
Quitline Counselor 2.4 years
Family Counselor 2.3 years
Diet Counselor 2.3 years
Outreach Counselor 2.3 years
Personal Counselor 2.2 years
Benefits Counselor 2.2 years
Resource Counselor 2.2 years
Elder Counselor 2.2 years
Group Facilitator 2.2 years
Intake Counselor 2.1 years
Youth Advisor 2.1 years
Group Counselor 2.1 years
Youth Specialist 2.0 years
Head Counselor 2.0 years
Counselor 2.0 years
Crisis Counselor 2.0 years
Sales Counselor 2.0 years
Program Counselor 1.9 years
Assistant Counsel 1.9 years
Aids Counselor 1.9 years
Unit Counselor 1.8 years
Relief Counselor 1.8 years
Youth Counselor 1.8 years
Debt Counselor 1.8 years
Phone Counselor 1.8 years
Peer Counselor 1.8 years
Youth Worker 1.7 years
Adoption Counselor 1.7 years
Teen Counselor 1.7 years
Tour Counselor 1.6 years
Apprise Counselor 1.5 years
Trained Counselor 1.4 years
Day Camp Counselor 1.3 years
Camp Counselor 1.2 years
Summer Counselor 1.2 years
Pet Counselor 1.1 years
Junior Counselor 1.1 years
Cabin Counselor 0.9 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 15.8%
Volunteer 7.4%
Teacher 6.1%
Cashier 6.0%
Therapist 3.5%
Supervisor 2.8%
Manager 2.7%
Top Employers After
Internship 13.5%
Therapist 6.4%
Teacher 6.0%
Volunteer 5.8%
Cashier 5.1%
Supervisor 3.5%
Server 3.2%
Manager 3.0%
Director 3.0%
Clinician 2.9%

Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

62.3%

Male

35.4%

Unknown

2.3%
Ethnicity

White

80.2%

Hispanic or Latino

10.8%

Asian

6.8%

Unknown

1.6%

Black or African American

0.6%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

60.7%

French

11.4%

Italian

3.4%

German

3.1%

Mandarin

2.6%

Chinese

2.5%

Portuguese

2.4%

Arabic

2.2%

Russian

2.2%

Hebrew

1.7%

Japanese

1.5%

Hindi

1.0%

Korean

1.0%

Cantonese

1.0%

Vietnamese

0.7%

Polish

0.7%

Tagalog

0.6%

Greek

0.6%

Swahili

0.4%

Urdu

0.4%
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Counselor Education

Schools

Liberty University

12.8%

University of Phoenix

12.3%

Capella University

9.0%

Walden University

6.7%

Grand Canyon University

6.0%

Florida State University

4.9%

Webster University

4.3%

Virginia Commonwealth University

4.1%

Troy University

4.1%

Temple University

3.7%

Texas A&M University

3.7%

Fordham University

3.5%

University of Central Florida

3.4%

University of Alabama

3.2%

Florida International University

3.2%

Pennsylvania State University

3.2%

New York University

3.1%

University of Memphis

3.1%

Ashford University

3.0%

Nova Southeastern University

2.8%
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Majors

Psychology

15.6%

Social Work

12.0%

School Counseling

10.0%

Business

9.3%

Counseling Psychology

7.3%

Criminal Justice

7.1%

Mental Health Counseling

5.8%

Education

3.8%

Human Services

3.7%

Sociology

3.7%

Communication

3.0%

Nursing

2.6%

Clinical Psychology

2.3%

Elementary Education

2.3%

Kinesiology

2.3%

Liberal Arts

2.0%

English

1.8%

Family Therapy

1.8%

Biology

1.8%

Human Development

1.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

37.6%

Masters

32.3%

Other

17.4%

Associate

5.9%

Doctorate

3.3%

Certificate

2.7%

Diploma

0.6%

License

0.3%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Counselor Phil Art Studio & Sci Toefl In Ny New York, NY Oct 01, 2015 $95,313
Counselor B Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Sep 02, 2015 $65,900
Tourist Business Counselor America Asia Travel Center Inc. Monterey Park, CA Sep 28, 2013 $65,720
Business Counselor Wealth Ocean Inc. Irvine, CA Oct 01, 2013 $65,000
Counselor Sathya LLC Cedar Park, TX Jun 01, 2016 $62,800
Medical Counselor Mohammed Amirul Islam, Md, Pa Port Arthur, TX Sep 29, 2015 $62,610
Counselor Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY Oct 01, 2016 $61,466
Counselor Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY Jan 10, 2016 $61,466
Counselor Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY Oct 01, 2015 $59,676
Animal Behavior Counselor The Pet Wellness Center, P.C. Plainview, NY Nov 01, 2013 $59,250
Counselor Safe Harbor Retreat LLC East Hampton, NY Jun 22, 2016 $58,436
Counselor Phil Art Studio Inc. Fort Lee, NJ Oct 01, 2015 $45,142
Behavioral Counselor The Hope Source, Inc. Indianapolis, IN Jan 09, 2016 $45,000
Counselor III Koreatown Youth and Community Center, Inc. Los Angeles, CA Oct 01, 2014 $45,000
Counselor III Koreatown Youth and Community Center, Inc. Los Angeles, CA Sep 25, 2014 $45,000
Business Counselor Pacific Asian Consortium In Employment Los Angeles, CA Jan 10, 2014 $44,000
Counselor State University of New York College at Plattsburg Plattsburgh, NY Aug 30, 2014 $43,907
Counselors, All Other Misericordia Home Chicago, IL Jul 01, 2014 $43,827
Counselor Advocate New York Asian Women's Center New York, NY Apr 27, 2015 $38,000
Counselor Advocate New York Asian Women's Center New York, NY Jul 18, 2016 $38,000
Counselor Advocate New York Asian Women's Center New York, NY Aug 24, 2015 $38,000
Migration Counselor Catholic Charities Community Services-Archdiocese New York, NY Sep 15, 2014 $38,000
Counselor Advocate New York Asian Women's NY Jan 07, 2016 $38,000
Migration Counselor Catholic Charities Community Services-Archdiocese New York, NY Jun 01, 2014 $38,000

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Top Skills for A Counselor

IndividualTreatmentPlansCrisisInterventionEnsureSafetyCounselorsMentalHealthIssuesSubstanceAbuseIssuesChildIntakeAssessmentsSuperviseDailyActivitiesAlcoholLifeSkillsCustomerServiceAngerManagementDailyLivingSkillsRecreationalActivitiesSocialSkillsGroupTherapySessionsCommunityResourcesDomesticViolence

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Top Counselor Skills

  1. Individual Treatment Plans
  2. Crisis Intervention
  3. Ensure Safety
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed and implemented individual treatment plans.
  • Provide crisis intervention for residents.
  • Enforced rules and regulations of recreational facilities to maintain discipline and ensure safety.
  • Mentored new counselors encouraging them to get certification Skills Used Motivational interviewing Computer skills Addiction certification CBT Time management
  • Completed extensive course and training in mental health issues, reflective listening, and conflict resolution.

Top Counselor Employers

Counselor Videos

Social Services Counselor, Career Video from drkit.org

A Counselor provides Parenting Advice for Parents of High School Students from drkit.org

A Day in the Life of a School Counselor

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