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Become A Program Counselor

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Working As A Program 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

  • $41,208

    Average Salary

What Does A Program 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 Program 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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Program Counselor jobs

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Program Counselor Career Paths

Program Counselor
Direct Support Professional Case Manager Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Service Director Medical Social Worker
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Assistant Director Office Manager
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Program Coordinator Assistant Director
Center Director
7 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Therapist
Clinical Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Program Director
Deputy Director
9 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Therapist Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Licensed Practical Nurse Nurse Manager
Emergency Services Director
8 Yearsyrs
Residential Counselor Case Manager Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Security Officer Direct Support Professional
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Program Director Specialist Case Manager
Housing Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Program Coordinator Assistant Director
Owner/Director
7 Yearsyrs
Assistant Director Sales Consultant Leasing Consultant
Resident Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Specialist Direct Support Professional
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Residential Counselor Social Worker Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Program Director Educator Case Manager
Senior Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Therapist Family Counselor Social Worker
Social Services Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Social Worker
Social Work Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Therapist Program Director
Unit Director
5 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
School Counselor 3.0 years
Juvenile Counselor 2.8 years
Teacher Counselor 2.5 years
Primary Counselor 2.4 years
Lead Counselor 2.4 years
Family Counselor 2.3 years
Outreach Counselor 2.3 years
Support Staff 2.2 years
Program Instructor 2.2 years
Resource Counselor 2.2 years
Residential Worker 2.1 years
Group Counselor 2.1 years
Residential Aide 2.0 years
Counselor 2.0 years
Head Counselor 2.0 years
Program Counselor 2.0 years
Program Assistant 2.0 years
Aids Counselor 1.9 years
Peer Counselor 1.8 years
Unit Counselor 1.8 years
Youth Counselor 1.8 years
Relief Counselor 1.8 years
Teen Counselor 1.7 years
Trained Counselor 1.4 years
Junior Counselor 1.1 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 13.9%
Counselor 10.2%
Cashier 6.4%
Volunteer 5.1%
Teacher 3.7%
Top Employers After
Internship 12.0%
Counselor 7.5%
Volunteer 4.6%
Teacher 4.4%
Therapist 4.1%
Cashier 4.1%

Program Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

64.9%

Male

33.0%

Unknown

2.1%
Ethnicity

White

79.9%

Hispanic or Latino

11.0%

Asian

6.5%

Unknown

1.7%

Black or African American

0.9%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

59.1%

French

13.4%

Italian

4.3%

Mandarin

2.7%

Chinese

2.7%

German

2.2%

Cantonese

2.2%

Hmong

1.6%

Hindi

1.6%

Arabic

1.6%

Swahili

1.1%

Hebrew

1.1%

Korean

1.1%

Greek

1.1%

Japanese

1.1%

Urdu

1.1%

Somali

0.5%

Akan

0.5%

Indonesian

0.5%

Hawaiian

0.5%
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Program Counselor Education

Schools

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

10.0%

Liberty University

9.4%

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

7.8%

University of Phoenix

7.2%

Capella University

6.9%

Walden University

6.6%

Southern Connecticut State University

5.3%

Saint Cloud State University

5.3%

Saint Catherine University

4.1%

Grand Canyon University

4.1%

Norfolk State University

3.8%

University of Northwestern - Saint Paul

3.8%

Syracuse University

3.4%

Arizona State University

3.4%

Metropolitan State University

3.4%

University of South Florida

3.1%

Fordham University

3.1%

Nova Southeastern University

3.1%

Rasmussen College

3.1%

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

3.1%
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Majors

Psychology

15.7%

Social Work

13.1%

School Counseling

8.6%

Business

7.9%

Counseling Psychology

6.2%

Mental Health Counseling

5.6%

Criminal Justice

5.5%

Education

4.3%

Nursing

4.2%

Human Services

4.1%

Sociology

3.5%

Clinical Psychology

3.0%

Elementary Education

2.8%

Communication

2.6%

Biology

2.4%

Liberal Arts

2.2%

Special Education

2.2%

Health Care Administration

2.1%

General Education, Specific Areas

2.0%

Family Therapy

1.9%
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Degrees

Bachelors

35.3%

Masters

33.6%

Other

17.0%

Associate

6.2%

Doctorate

3.4%

Certificate

3.3%

Diploma

1.0%

License

0.4%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Program Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Industrial Technology Education Program Counselor Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas Henderson, NV Jul 19, 2016 $85,527
Rehabilitation Program Counselor North Shore Medical Rehabilitation NY Sep 08, 2014 $62,400
College Program Counselor Columbia College, Inc. Fairfax, VA Apr 13, 2015 $52,853
Asian Program Counselor Metropolitan Jewish Home Care New York, NY Sep 20, 2010 $50,000
Asian Program Counselor Metropolitan Jewish Health System New York, NY Sep 20, 2010 $50,000
Senior Program Counselor Friends of Grace Seniors, Inc. Englewood, NJ Sep 02, 2009 $47,278
University Program Counselor Lado International College Washington, DC Oct 01, 2015 $44,098
College Program Counselor Columbia College, Inc. Fairfax, VA Oct 29, 2012 $42,554
College Program Counselor Columbia College, Inc. Fairfax, VA Oct 31, 2012 $42,554
University Program Counselor BUEI, LLC DBA Harriet Fulbright College Arlington, VA Jul 15, 2013 $42,554
College Program Counselor Columbia College, Inc. Fairfax, VA Apr 15, 2013 $42,554
Youth Program Counselor The National Institute of Family Counseling Vienna, VA Oct 01, 2012 $42,512
College Program Counseler The University of Northern Virginia Manassas, VA May 05, 2010 $41,740
Educational Program Counselor Global Education Institute Inc. Chapel Hill, NC Aug 24, 2014 $41,600
Piano Program Counselor Orchepia School of Music, Inc. Irvine, CA Sep 23, 2015 $41,218
Counselor for ESL Program Washington University of Virginia Inc. Annandale, VA Nov 15, 2015 $40,676
MBA Program Counselor Delaware State University Dover, DE Jan 05, 2015 $39,707
University Program Counselor BUEI, LLC DBA Harriet Fulbright College Arlington, VA Dec 01, 2010 $39,173
Piano Program Counselor Orchepia School of Music, Inc. Diamond Bar, CA Sep 23, 2012 $37,420
Program Counselor New Visions Foundation Santa Monica, CA Oct 01, 2011 $37,420
Program Counselor New Visions Foundation Santa Monica, CA Jan 26, 2012 $37,420
Piano Program Counselor Orchepia School of Music, Inc. Diamond Bar, CA Sep 15, 2012 $37,420
Program Counselor Assistive Technology Resource Centers of Hawaii Urban Honolulu, HI Feb 01, 2012 $36,439
Program Counselor Community Management Assistance C MA Sep 30, 2013 $35,479
Program Counselor John P Holland Community Council, Inc. MA Oct 01, 2010 $35,479
Children's Program Counselor New York Asian Women's Center New York, NY Jul 05, 2012 $34,102

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Top Skills for A Program Counselor

AftercareTreatmentPlansSafeEnvironmentCrisisInterventionBehavioralIssuesDailyLivingSkillsSubstanceAbuseMentalHealthIssuesDevelopmentalDisabilitiesDailyActivitiesSuperviseLifeSkillsRecreationalActivitiesAngerManagementSocialSkillsDirectCareMedicationAdministrationIndependentLivingSkillsCPRCounselConflictResolution

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Top Program Counselor Skills

  1. Aftercare Treatment Plans
  2. Safe Environment
  3. Crisis Intervention
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed aftercare treatment plans, and all required documentation.
  • Performed general cleaning in order to provide a clean and safe environment for residents.
  • Trained in therapeutic crisis intervention and safety care to assist with positive consumer mental health.
  • Report any misconduct or behavioral issues
  • Plan, coordinate and carry out activities while helping campers with personal growth and daily living skills.

Top Program Counselor Employers

Program Counselor Videos

Darryl Cross - Career Guidance Program

A Day in the Life of a School Counselor

Mental Health Counselor, Career Video from drkit.org

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