Mental Health Counseling/Counselor  Program Description


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dotIf you're thinking of a counseling degree, ask yourself what kind of counselor you want to be. That will determine the training you'll need to get.

Do you want to be a clinical counselor? A career counselor? How about a marriage counselor?

Counseling usually requires a master's degree program. You'll need to do an undergraduate degree first. Some students may do their undergraduate degrees in related disciplines, such as psychology or social work.

Dan Smith works with the counseling and special education department of California State University at Fresno. He says that there is a wide variety of undergrad options. "Psychology is always good, or child development, social welfare, education. We have students who come from business and science, too, and they make a great contribution."

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) has a list of accredited graduate programs in North America. Check out its website for details.

CACREP-accredited counseling degrees can focus on any of several possible areas. These include career counseling, college counseling, community counseling or gerontological counseling (counseling seniors).

It is also possible to pick a program that will enable you to specialize in marital, couple and family counseling; mental health counseling; school counseling; or counselor education and supervision.

Most programs include an internship to give students an opportunity to develop practical knowledge and skills.

Commonly required topics of study are laid down by CACREP. They cover areas such as understanding social and cultural diversity; human growth and development; and career development.

Other topics include understanding the nature of helping relationships; group work; research; and methods used to evaluate counseling programs.

Smith says that a key trait a counselor should possess is a willingness to help without telling others how they should live.

In addition, Smith says that it helps to have some life experience. Counselors must be able to trust that their clients can solve their own problems provided they are given the right tools and awareness.

Janice Thompson is the associate dean of education at a university. Her faculty offers a master's degree in counseling psychology. She says that high school students should take a broad range of courses, including math (because all psychology programs include courses in statistics).

"It is particularly useful to do volunteer work that includes some training in counseling skills -- crisis hotlines, for example," says Thompson.

Most states require that counselors be licensed or certified after completing a formal education.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Counselors

American Counseling Association
Find information for students, and about public policy and resources

Stand Up for Kids
What counselors can do for street kids

Just the Facts

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