Counsellors play a valuable role in helping people to cope with difficult times in their lives. There are many different types of counselling, and each specialism can help people with specific issues. Typically, a cousellor will study and practice a specialism, such as marriage and family therapy, substance abuse, or mental health conditions.
Some counsellors will work in schools, focusing on helping young people – regardless of what their issues are. Some may work in rehab facilities, or in a hospital. There are also private practices, and this is an area where service users need to be careful – not everyone who works in a private practice is a fully qualified counsellor. Some counsellors that are, for example, associated with a church, may provide faith-based guidance which is not in line with what those trained outside of the faith would agree with. That’s not to say that they are in any way breaking the law or being dishonest, but a faith based service is a different service to the other types of counselling that are available and counsellor qualifications can vary greatly.
You do not need to choose a specialty before you start studying to be a counsellor, but a lot of people who start training do have a specialism in mind while they are studying. Because the field is so dynamic, however, a lot of people end up working in areas other than the ones that they had previously considered. For this reason, it is a good idea to look for traditional degree programmes that open up a lot of different options. You can experiment with those options once you reach the stage where you can look at placements.
There are online degrees and traditional university degrees that you can study to become a counsellor. Typically, people take a two year course and then do a year worth of post-graduate work. This makes it a comparatively quick field to get into compared to medicine, and it’s also a very rewarding one where people get the chance to help a lot of people in their day to day work. Whether you choose to focus on helping married couples in a private setting, working with young people in schools or offering grief counselling or counselling for cancer patients in a hospital setting, it is up to you.
There will be some additional requirements for safeguarding training and other guidance along the way if you are going to work with children or with vulnerable adults. You may also need to pass a background check.
Once you are working in counselling, though, you should find that the job is both challenging and rewarding. It can place mental stress on you, because you will be talking to people who are going through difficult times. Whatever types of counselling you opt to get involved with its important you have your own emotional issues worked out, thats why a lot of counsellors get their own counselling to ensure they are helping others objectively.
Be wary of getting over involved emotionally to the people and their outcomes. While you will be able to make a huge difference in the lives of a lot of the people that you are working with, there is always the risk that you will run into people who for whatever reason do not want to be helped. Maybe they are not ready to be helped. Maybe they are facing challenges beyond what they are willing to talk about, and you simply cannot encourage them to open up; they may not be ready.
It is important that you practice self care, and that you do not let those challenges get to you. Remember that you will change the lives of a lot of people, but accept that the others may need to find a different path. Find someone that you can confide in yourself like a supervisor. Remember that just as doctors often make poor patients, sometimes as a counsellor you might struggle to practice what you preach. Find a way to make sure that you don’t take your work home with you every night, and find your own safe person to talk about your fears and concerns to.
You can use your desire to help others in an effective way if you study the right course and then find a reputable place to work. Don’t forget that not all counselling takes place in schools or hospitals. Even workplace counsellors offer a lot to the world. Emergency dispatchers, firemen and ex forces need to work in high stress environments and need people to talk to. Even lawyers and computer programmers can need to talk to someone – especially if they are working long hours. When you work in an office of a bigger company, you are providing an often overlooked but still massive benefit to the employees of that company.
If you’re at the start of your career, there are favorable opportunities for newly graduated counsellors, and the number of job openings is expected to exceed the number of graduates, at least for the next few years. This makes now a great time to get into the field, and it means that you can expect to enjoy competitive salaries and plenty of choice in terms of what job you take, and where.