So, you’ve sped through our explanation of counseling, psychology, and psychiatry and determined that counseling is the right career track for you — but now you have an even harder decision to make: What type of counseling should you do?
Counselors typically specialize in certain fields to ensure they are providing clients with targeted services that fit their needs. While there are near-endless niches for you to fill with your counseling expertise, here are the broader categories to consider for your career:
1. Mental Health
It is as important as physical health for achieving overall well-being, and many people require professional help for cultivating a healthy mentality. Mental health counselors have broad expertise, as they focus on addressing a wide range of emotional and psychological problems — functioning much like a general practitioner of counseling.
These professionals can work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or in private practice, but all must have degrees from accredited mental health counseling programs – here is a list of those programs for reference.
2. Substance Abuse
These counselors specialize in addressing the mental, emotional, and behavioral effects of addiction. Substance abuse is not a simple disease; it affects every part of a person, from the chemistry of their bodies to their social relationships.
Substance abuse counselors can work with those looking to recover from substance abuse, but they can also work with loved ones of addicts who are dealing with destructive or negative behaviors. Most often, substance abuse counselors find work in inpatient rehabs, but they can also work in hospitals and private practices.
In counseling, rehabilitation is often confused with substance abuse. While there is some overlap in terminology, more accurately rehabilitation counseling focuses on helping clients who are recovering from recent injury or illness as well as those learning to live with a new disability.
These events can be traumatic, causing emotional and psychological pain as well as physical difficulty, so rehabilitation counselors often work alongside doctors and physical therapists to ensure total well-being. Additionally, rehabilitation counselors can visit a client’s home, helping them reintegrate into their normal environments.
Almost everyone has had some experience with school counselors. These counseling professionals work in a wide range of education institutions, providing support and guidance to students. Counselors at different academic levels will provide different services. When students are younger, counselors most often address serious emotional and behavioral issues, often stemming from students’ life at home; for instance, physical abuse or bullying behavior are common counseling concerns. Conversely, amongst older students, school counselors will more often assist with academic and career guidance, helping students identify their goals and make plans for the future. All types of school counseling require the same master’s degree, but you will gain specialized experience through internships and similar extracurricular activities.
5. Marriage and Family
Marriage and family counselors work with married couples and families to address issues that are affecting relationships. Most often, clients need assistance with interpersonal communication, but counselors might also deal with issues like abuse and loss. Marriage and family counselors also need to be comfortable working with children of all ages. It is for this reason that sometimes counselors in this field choose one path or the other — marriage counseling or family counseling.
You might think that a “spirituality counselor” is merely another name for a rabbi, lama, pastor, guru, or some other titled member of a religion, but in truth counselors can specialize in spirituality, helping clients struggling with spiritual issues find strength and stability.
It’s not uncommon for counselors in this field to have some theological experience or else ties to some religion, but that is not inherently necessary. Still, spirituality counselors who are not working with an organized religion usually work in private practice.
In a world where death is so distant, grief counselors play an important role in helping clients overcome loss and emotional traumas associated with it. Most often, grief counselors work with loved ones of the deceased, but sometimes terminal patients will seek grief counseling to come to terms with their imminent mortality. It is vital that grief counselors have a healthy relationship with death, which might require some personal exposure and experience.
Licensed counselors work in the trenches, helping almost anyone with any emotional, behavioral, or psychological problem. If you want to do good in the world, you should become a counselor — but exactly what type of counselor you become is up to you.