Are you someone who possesses a deep sense of empathy, excellent communication skills, and a genuine desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others? If so, the role of a counselor might be the ideal path for you.
Whether you’re drawn to assisting individuals with their mental health or guiding students through their academic and personal journeys, the field of counseling offers a fulfilling way to help others. If you’re intrigued by the idea of turning your compassion into a rewarding career, read on to uncover the transformative journey of becoming a counselor.
Why is therapy important for mental health?
Therapy is important for mental health for many reasons:
- Safe Space: Therapy provides a confidential and non-judgmental environment where individuals can freely express themselves.
- Professional Guidance: Therapists are trained professionals with expertise in understanding human behavior and mental health. They can help individuals gain insights into their thoughts and behaviors while learning coping skills.
- Skill Building: Therapy equips individuals with valuable life skills that are necessary for navigating challenges in daily life.
- Support: For many, therapy offers a supportive relationship that may be lacking in other areas of life.
- Prevention and Early Intervention: Therapy can help identify and address mental health concerns before they escalate into more severe issues.
- Improved Relationships: Individuals can develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationships with others.
- Stress Reduction: Talking about challenges and learning effective skills to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Personal Growth: Encourages individuals to examine their beliefs, values, and goals, leading to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
People can go to therapy for a wide range of issues and do not have to have suffered a large trauma to benefit. It is definitely not for everyone. So, it’s important to be open to the idea and have a willingness to be vulnerable. It’s also important to find a counselor/therapist/psychologist/etc. that you work well with and are comfortable with. It’s not uncommon to try out several different people before finding the right fit.
Why are counselors important?
Counselors are vital because they provide support, guidance, and knowledge to individuals facing various challenges in life. As unbiased third-party professionals, they offer a safe and confidential space for clients to express their feelings, thoughts, and concerns. They work collaboratively with clients to set realistic goals and overcome obstacles. Ultimately, their goal is to help clients improve their emotional well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life.
What are some pros and cons of being a counselor?
While being a counselor can be highly fulfilling, it can also be very exhausting. Here are some pros and cons of becoming a counselor.
- Making a Difference: Counselors have the privilege of being a positive force in the lives of their clients or students. Often they witness personal growth, improved mental health, and enhanced relationships as a direct result of their guidance, which can be incredibly fulfilling.
- Flexibility: Depending on the setting, counselors may have some flexibility in their work hours, allowing for a better work-life balance. Private practice counselors, for example, might have more control over their schedules.
- Varied Specializations: Counseling offers a wide variety of specializations, from marriage and family therapy to substance abuse counseling, career counseling, school counseling, and more. This allows counselors to choose an area that aligns with their passions and interests.
- Personal Growth: The insights gained from helping others can lead to increased self-awareness and a deeper understanding of human behavior.
- Continuous Learning: The ongoing learning process keeps counselors intellectually engaged and allows them to stay at the forefront of effective practices.
- Emotional Toll: Dealing with clients’ or students’ emotional issues can be draining for counselors. Therefore, it’s critical to have self-care strategies in place to prevent burnout.
- Client Resistance: Some clients or students may be resistant to change or initially reluctant to engage. It can be challenging to help individuals who are not fully invested or are hesitant to open up.
- Limited Control: Counselors often work within the constraints of ethical guidelines, legal regulations, and the boundaries set by their clients. This can limit the approaches they can take in certain situations.
- Limited Resources: In certain settings, such as community mental health centers or schools, counselors might have limited resources. This can impact the quality and quantity of services they can provide.
- High Responsibility: Counselors hold significant responsibility for their client’s well-being. This responsibility can be stressful, especially when dealing with severe mental health issues.
Although becoming a counselor can be rewarding, it also demands self-awareness, resilience, and a commitment to self-care to manage potential challenges effectively.
All About Professional Counselors
A professional counselor is a trained mental health professional who provides therapeutic support and guidance to individuals, couples, families, or groups facing a wide range of emotional, psychological, and life challenges. The primary goal of a professional counselor is to help clients improve their mental health, cope with difficulties, and enhance their overall well-being.
A professional counselor’s role can look different depending on the setting. However, in general, this position is clinical one-on-one counseling with appointments throughout the day. If you are in private practice, you might be more flexible with your schedule. On the other hand, you’ll have a tighter schedule in a clinic with appointments, groups, etc.
Professional counseling encompasses a diverse range of specializations, each tailored to address specific mental, emotional, and psychological needs. Some specializations include:
- Career Counselors: aid clients in identifying suitable career paths, assessing skills, and providing guidance on professional development.
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling: focuses on assessing, diagnosing, and treating a wide range of mental health issues and emotional challenges.
- Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling: focuses on helping individuals with disabilities or injuries regain their independence, improve their quality of life, and achieve their personal, vocational, and social goals.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: help clients improve relationships within familial and partnership dynamics, help individuals navigate conflicts, and foster healthier interactions.
- Substance Abuse Counselors: assist those struggling with addiction, guiding them through recovery and relapse prevention strategies.
The typical salary for a professional counselor, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $48,520 annually. Although this depends on experience and specialization.
So, what characteristics make a successful professional counselor? Strong communication, empathy, and advocacy skills are important. Developing active listening, patience, problem-solving skills, and healthy boundaries and also essential to your training as a counselor.
How to become a professional counselor
Becoming a professional counselor typically involves several steps, including education, training, and licensure. Here’s a general roadmap to becoming a professional counselor:
- Do research and gain experience: It’s important to do research on what professional counselors do and if the career is a good fit for you. Also, it’s helpful to gain some experience working with children and adults. You may consider volunteering or job shadowing.
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree: Start by earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology, counseling, social work, or a similar discipline.
- Earn a master’s degree: Pursue a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, clinical mental health counseling, or a related field.
- Complete practicum and internship: Most counseling programs require students to complete supervised practicum and internship experiences. Therefore, you’ll gain hands-on experience working with clients under the guidance of licensed professionals.
- Obtain state licensure: To practice as a professional counselor, you’ll need to obtain a license from your state’s licensing board. Licensure requirements vary by state but generally include completing a certain number of supervised hours, passing an exam (such as the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification), and meeting educational criteria.
Remember that the specific steps and requirements can vary based on your location and the area of counseling you’re interested in. It’s essential to research the requirements in your state to ensure you’re on the right path toward becoming a licensed professional counselor.
All About School Counselors
A school counselor is a professional who works within an educational setting to provide support and guidance to students in various aspects. A school counselor works with all students to support their success in three domains: social/emotional, academic, and career. School counselors implement programming, and one-on-one counseling, and are an integral part of the school team.
There is no average day for school counselors. Many times school counselors are faced with situations that need to be addressed immediately and anything that may have been planned for the day is put on hold.
Overall, school counselors are meeting with students for academic and career planning, going into the classroom delivering social/emotional programming, consulting with teachers and district administrators, meeting with students and parents, etc. A school counselor’s role will look slightly different depending on the school.
The typical salary for a school counselor, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $60,510 annually. Although this depends on experience and location.
So, what characteristics make a successful school counselor? A successful school counselor will be a strong advocate for their students, an excellent communicator, organized, creative, and empathic.
How to become a school counselor
Becoming a school counselor typically involves a combination of education, training, and licensure. Here’s a general outline of the steps to become a school counselor:
- Do research and gain experience: It’s important to do research on what school counselors do and if the career is a good fit for you. Many students have a background in education however it’s not required. Any experience working with children is helpful. You may also consider volunteering at a school, camp, or after-school program.
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree: Start by earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as psychology, counseling, education, social work, or a related discipline.
- Earn a master’s degree: Pursue a master’s degree in school counseling, educational counseling, or a closely related field.
- Complete supervised experience: Many school counseling programs require students to complete supervised practicum and internship experiences within educational settings. This hands-on experience is crucial for developing practical skills.
- Obtain state licensure: School counselors typically need to obtain state licensure or certification to work in public schools. Requirements vary by state.
- Take required exams: Depending on your state’s requirements, you may need to pass a specific exam for school counselor licensure. This could include exams like the Praxis School Counseling or state-specific tests.
Remember that specific requirements can vary based on the state and educational institution where you wish to work. Always check with your state’s licensing board and educational institutions to ensure you’re meeting all the necessary qualifications to become a school counselor.
Are professional and school counselors in high demand? Why?
Yes! Mental health professionals have always played an important and high-demand role. However, the rise of mental health awareness and need since the pandemic has really increased the demand for these professionals.
As a result, mental health awareness has reached new heights. People from all walks of life have come to recognize the importance of seeking support and understanding the impact of mental health on the overall quality of life. The stigma surrounding mental health discussions has begun to erode, and more individuals are proactively seeking help when facing stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
What makes Concordia’s Master’s in Counseling program unique?
Concordia’s Master’s in Counseling program offers two tracks: professional counseling and school counseling. We also offer a certificate in substance abuse counseling if students want to get an extra license.
Our exceptional instructors contribute to a personalized learning experience for our students. These dedicated educators, actively engaged in their respective fields, offer not only individualized attention but also bring current real-life examples and research directly into the classroom.
Additionally, the flexibility of our online coursework proves invaluable to individuals leading busy lives, juggling full-time work and other commitments outside of their educational journey.
How is Concordia University unique?
Concordia is a Lutheran Christian school that integrates those Christian values with our programs. In this model, students acquire knowledge and skills in liberal arts disciplines that prepare them to be of service to Christ in the Church and the world. We bring a holistic approach to every class we offer our students. We challenge our students academically but also give them the chance to grow spiritually with us in ways that they may not find at other universities. Concordia is a community of people whose calling is to ensure both student success and well-being.
Another perk of our graduate programs is flexibility. This makes the transfer process easy and saves students time and money. Our admissions counselors can provide transcript evaluations for a more accurate amount of credits. All we need is your unofficial transcripts from previous schools attended.
How long does it typically take to complete the degree?
The length of the programs depends on how long you take to complete practicum hours and how many courses you take at once. Keeping this in mind, our school counseling track normally takes between 2.5 to 3 years to complete. Our professional counseling track can take between 3 to 3.5 years to complete.
Practicums and internships hold significant importance in the development of professional and school counselors. They bridge the gap between academic training and professional practice. Additionally equipping counselors with the skills, confidence, and ethical grounding needed to provide effective support to clients. These experiential learning opportunities are instrumental in shaping well-prepared and empathetic professionals in the field of counseling.
While each state has a different practicum/internship, in Concordia’s program you will follow Wisconsin requirements. Students in the professional counseling track will complete a total of 700 hours of practicum and internships. This breaks down to 100 hours of field-based experience and 600 hours of internship.
Students in the school counseling track will complete a total of 600 hours. They will do 200 hours in elementary, middle, and high school.
What format is offered? How long are the classes?
Our Master’s in Counseling program is offered almost fully online. There are only two courses, individual and group counseling, that are required in person. However, there are two options to complete those that make it more flexible. Classes are eight weeks each. The online format is very flexible but requires discipline and organization to set up a schedule to complete coursework on time.
Who are the faculty in the program? Will students have regular communication with them?
Backed by a dedicated team, our program benefits from the expertise of more than 20 adjunct faculty members who are actively practicing as school and professional counselors. Our Program Director, Leah Herr, brings firsthand experience as a former High School Counselor and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Higher Education Leadership.
Complementing our leadership, Assistant Director Laura Adameak, a former Art Teacher and School Counselor, enriches our team with her unique background. Both our program directors and adjunct faculty are always eager to connect with students, fostering a supportive and engaging learning environment. We are all here to help as you pursue a career in counseling.
How much does the program cost?
This program is $690 per credit hour. The school counseling track is 48 credits (45 credits for licensed teachers). And our professional counseling track is 60 credits.
Are there scholarships available?
Yes! We have Uncommon Scholarships available for many qualified students. Our available scholarships include:
- Business Community Scholarship: If you are an employee of one of our corporate partners you may qualify for this scholarship.
- Academic Community Scholarship: If you are an employee of one of our Preferred Education Partner schools or districts you may qualify for this scholarship.
- Christian Community Scholarship: If you are an employee of any qualifying Christian church or Christian K-12 school you may qualify for this scholarship.
- Alumni Scholarship: If you are a graduate of one of Concordia University System school programs you may qualify for this scholarship.
- Veterans and Dependents Scholarship: If you are a veteran, the spouse of a veteran, or a child of a veteran(age 17-26), you may qualify for this veteran scholarship when federal veteran education benefits are exhausted or unavailable to you.
When it comes to funding your education, have a conversation with your employer to see if they will be willing to pay a portion of your tuition. There may be funds, scholarships, or benefits their companies may offer.
- Bachelor’s degree
- 3.0 GPA for full acceptance. Students with a GPA below 3.0 are still encouraged to apply as we do look at the whole student (essay, letters of recommendation, and experience).
- No teaching license required
- Apply Online
- All official transcript
- Current resume
- Two letters of recommendation
- Upload a 1½-2 page personal essay concisely written using the APA format (American Psychological Association).
- Describe your reasons for pursuing the Counseling program at Concordia University Wisconsin and include the following:
- Why do you want to be a Counselor? How has your life led you to this profession?
- What are your career goals and how will obtaining this degree from CUW help you reach those goals?
- How do you plan to adjust your life to accommodate the intense demands of studying for the Counseling program (time, energy, commitment, change, frustration)?
- Describe your reasons for pursuing the Counseling program at Concordia University Wisconsin and include the following:
Ready to start?
To learn more about the Master’s in Counseling degree check out our program page below.
Information provided by Leah Herr, Concordia’s Program Director for the Master’s in Counseling program.