What is Clinical Counseling?

As Americans are getting older and living longer lives, more are seeking the assistance of clinical counselors to help them with their mental health and relationship issues. With people living into their 80s and beyond, it is natural for them to want to get as much enjoyment from life as they can, and being mentally healthy is just as important as being physically fit.

That is why many people interested in psychology and counseling are entering the clinical counseling field. You will have the chance to work with people who need your help, and there is plenty of demand for your services.

If you are interested in a career in clinical counseling, you will need to earn your master’s degree in mental health counseling or psychology. Before you make that decision, learning more about a clinical counseling career is a good idea. Below is more information about this growing career.

Clinical Counseling Overview

Clinical counselors provide counseling services to people who are struggling with assorted emotional, mental, and behavioral disorders. They use active listening skills, reflection, compassion, and proper communication with clients to create a productive and trusting relationship with the client.

Clinical counseling also referred to as clinical mental health counseling, is made up of highly-skilled mental health professionals who offer traditional psychotherapy combined with a practical, problem-solving approach that creates an efficient means for healthy change and problem resolution (Amhca.site-ym.com).

Clinical counselors offer a wide range of mental health services, such as:

  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Psychotherapy
  • Treatment planning
  • Solution-focused therapy of fixed duration
  • Substance and alcohol abuse treatment
  • Psychoeducational and prevention programs
  • Management of personal crises

Clinical counselors possess unique qualifications to meet the challenges of offering high-quality care in the most cost-effective manner. They have a skill set that is different from other professionals in behavioral health. The clinical counselor’s training addresses the needs of the entire person in prevention and wellness, which makes them well-qualified to lead efforts to integrate healthcare.

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How Does a Clinical Counselor Help the Patient?

Clinical counselors help patients who suffer from mental health issues, addictions, or behavior problems. Some of their duties that help the patient include: (BLS.gov)

  • Evaluate the client’s mental and physical health and problematic behaviors and assess whether they are ready for treatment.
  • Develop, recommend and review goals of treatment plan for the client and their family.
  • Provide psychotherapy to the client.
  • Help the client to develop skills and behaviors needed to change their behavior or to overcome their mental health problems.
  • Teach the client’s family about the mental health or behavior disorder and help them to create strategies to cope.
  • Refer counseling clients to other services and resources, such as support groups.
  • Perform outreach to assist people in understanding the signs of mental health and behavior problems.

Clinical counselors usually view the needs of the patient from a developmental perspective. Instead of focusing simply on the dysfunction, the clinical counselor views the problem as coming from normal reactions to developmental changes or as problems dealing with challenging life stages. These counselors may concentrate more on personal development by helping the patient to understand the skills and coping abilities needed to deal with life challenges better. (Verywellmind.com)

How Can You Become a Clinical Counselor?

The first step to becoming a clinical counselor is earning your bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology, or social work. Next, you need to earn your master’s degree in mental health counseling and have at least two years of supervised clinical practice by a licensed clinical counselor.

The courses that you will take in your master’s program will differ, but you can expect courses such as these: (Capella.edu)

  • Research in Human Development for Professional Counselors
  • Research Methods for the Counseling Professions
  • Assessment, Tests, and Measures
  • Principles of Psychopathology and Diagnosis
  • Foundations of Addiction and Addictive Behavior
  • Ethical and Legal Issues in Professional Counseling
  • Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Theories of Psychotherapy
  • Marriage and Family Systems

After you get your master’s degree, it is required to have extensive hours of supervised clinical experience so you can qualify for your state licensing examination.

What Do You Need to Apply to the Program?

Every admissions office has different standards for its applicants, but most will require most of the following to apply for a master’s in clinical counseling:

  • College transcripts: Official transcripts from all previous college work, including bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
  • Standardized test scores: Some master’s in clinical counseling programs will require you to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Others may not require them, or offer waivers to students with a high GPA and/or significant related work experience.
  • Letters of recommendation: Clinical counseling programs are competitive and you need to have excellent recommendations. Some require recommendations from both professors and employers.
  • Prerequisites: If you have a bachelor’s in psychology or a related field, you probably will have the prerequisites you need to be admitted to a master’s program in clinical counseling
  • Personal essay: How well you write is critical to be admitted to a master’s in clinical counseling program.
  • Application: Most clinical counseling applications are completed online. Be sure you provide all the information requested and apply by the deadline.

What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?

It is required to have a license to practice as a clinical counselor in the United States. While requirements vary by state, the typical requirements are a master’s degree in clinical counseling or a related field, and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice. After these items are completed, you need to pass an exam administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors to get your license.

Is The Job Outlook for a Clinical Counselors Good?

The job outlook for clinical counselors and related mental health professionals is bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment for mental health and clinical counselors will increase by 22% by 2028, which is much faster than average. Demand is expected as more Americans seek help for their mental health challenges and relationship problems. (BLS.gov)

Demand also will rise because more state governments want treatment and counseling for drug offenders instead of extensive jail time. It has been found that intensive counseling for drug addicts is helpful to keep them from committing more crimes. Many jail sentences require substance abusers to attend counseling sessions.

These factors will continue to fuel the demand for clinical counselors for years in the future.

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Further Resources for Candidates in Clinical Counseling

Are you interested in a clinical counseling career? Below are some helpful resources where you can learn more:

  • American Counseling Association: AMA is dedicated to the growth and enhancement of the counseling profession in the US and Canada. This is a good association to join for students who want to learn more about the profession. It is excellent for networking for job opportunities, and there are scholarships available for master’s and doctoral students.
  • American Psychological Association: The APA is the leading professional and scientific association that represents psychology in the US. It currently has more than 118,000 members who are researchers, students, educators, clinicians, and consultants.
  • Mental Health Dictionary: An extensive dictionary dedicated to the mental health professions.

Now that you have a better idea of what clinical counseling is, how to become one, and the job outlook, your next step is to get your master’s degree in the field.