Many counselor jobs concentrate on couples therapy, especially marriage counseling. Though divorce rates remain high, many married couples are seeking out counselors to bring a fresh perspective on tense marital relationships. Marriage counselors observe the couple’s individual personalities and their interactions with each other. They listen to the couple’s standpoints on a disagreement and try to pinpoint the underlying sources of tension. In many cases, the counselor offers advice on clear communication skills such as listening skills, stress-management skills, and non-judgment skills. Oftentimes, they advise quarreling couples to take timeouts before fights precipitate in order to productively take personal stock of why a situation angered them. After gaining information about the couple’s history, the marriage counselor may also recommend the couple to list reasons for choosing to get married and return to that list when they feel doubt about their marriage.
Marriage counselors are often helpful for many couples, regardless if they married two years ago or thirty years ago. It often takes an objective person like a counselor to put marital problems in perspective for a couple. Couples may decide to go back to the counselor regularly, or only when they feel they are struggling with their relationship. In addition, there are counselors who provide specialized guidance for couples going through substance abuse, chronic disease, mental illness, and other issues. They provide advice to both the suffering spouse and the spouse acting as helpmate.
There are as many family counselors as there are marriage counselors. These counselors offer a variety of counseling services focusing on childhood and adolescent issues. The majority of these services involve Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) counseling, peer-pressure counseling, substance-abuse counseling, and eating-disorder counseling. Whatever their specialization, family counselors are well-trained in common family dynamics, as well as common social and school issues concerning children and teenagers.
As with marriage counseling sessions, family sessions often begin with an initial consultation. During this consultation, the counselor may first speak with only the afflicted family member to learn about the problem. After taking detailed notes, the counselor then invites the family to sit in, either separately or with the family member. The counselor does this to obtain a glimpse of how the family functions and to see their attitude towards the affected member. The counselor then schedules another appointment with the family to gain deeper insight into the problematic situation. In following sessions, the counselor may refer the family member to medical practitioners if the counselor suspects an underlying physical or mental condition.
Counselors may work for psychiatric clinics, schools, government agencies, social-service organizations, or may be self-employed. Nearly half of counselors work for social-service and healthcare organizations. Unlike psychiatrists, they usually cannot prescribe prescription medicine for their patients. However, they still contribute greatly to treatment since therapy is widely recognized as equal parts medication and talk therapy. In addition, many counselors can give recommendations on good psychiatrists and psychologists for their clients in case medication appears necessary.
Counselors usually attain several years of both undergraduate and graduate education, and then gain counseling licensure. Licensure requirements vary by state and occupational specialty, but most states require a master’s degree in counseling with about two years of counseling experience under a licensed counselor’s supervision. Counselors must also pass a state-administered counseling exam and have no citations on their record for ethics violations. However, substance-abuse or behavioral-disorder counselors may have different state requirements since they are governed by different boards.
Counselors who want more counseling job opportunities may pursue doctorate degrees. They may also earn voluntary certification, such as that offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Moreover, they are typically required to renew their certification every five years or to complete the equivalent amount of continuing education offered by counseling boards and associations.
Counseling success hinges on personal ethics, especially confidentiality and non-judgment. Any counselor who is found to have violated their occupational code of ethics will either face suspension or dismissal. Also uppermost are excellent communications skills such as diplomacy, mediation, and an ability to inspire trust in others.
Counseling job outlook is largely favorable, though it is denser in certain fields. For instance, rehabilitation counseling jobs are on the rise due to recent spikes in drug abuse and greater awareness of drug dangers. Nonetheless, substance-abuse and behavioral counseling jobs pay notably lower than general counseling jobs. Also increasing are learning-disability and behavioral counselors, who specialize in children and adults with ADD, dyslexia, and other disorders. Moreover, counseling job listings will increase because thousands of counselors will retire in the next decade.
Counselors earn a medium salary. Those who work entry-level counseling jobs make about $36,000 per year, while gradually advancing to about $50,000. As stated before, certain counseling jobs will be higher-paying than others, while counseling workplaces also weigh into the income equation. For instance, social-services counselors working for a government earn more wages than they do at residential-care programs. Well-reputed, self-employed counselors and counselors in group practices earn the highest pay in their profession.