Best Counseling Psychology Degree Colleges in the U.S. 2017

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Over the last decade, we’ve seen an increase in the awareness and importance of overall health and well-being. Tragedies at the international level have opened our eyes to the need for healthy ways to cope with grief and loss. High profile individuals who lost their battles with depression, like Robin Williams and Amy Winehouse have woken us up to this serious problem and started powerful conversations. An estimated 43.6 million Americans struggle with mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. What used to be seen as a shameful stigma for nearly 20% of the population is starting to be seen as a health issue that can and should be treated and prevented.

At the forefront of these conversations are professionals who make a huge impact on individual’s lives. Counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals enter into the challenging and rewarding work of helping people overcome their problems and realize their full potential.

The field of mental health is growing. Not only are we increasing awareness on the importance of mental health, but health insurance reforms are allowing access to preventative and therapeutic care to more and more Americans. The Department of Labor Statistics predicts that opportunities in this field will grow by 19 percent in the next decade, a much higher growth rate than other professions.

Our world needs people to help others through therapy and counseling. Whether you have been impacted by the help of a counselor or see the growing need for caring professionals to come alongside others, considering a profession as a counselor is an honorable way to make an impact in your community. If this is something you’re interested in, take a look at our comprehensive overview of this rewarding career.

The Best Counseling Psychology Colleges of 2017

There are many excellent schools around the country to pursue this degree. In your research, be sure to look for schools that are accredited. While there are different accreditation sources, the most trusted are the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and related Educational Programs (CACREP) for a Master’s in Counseling Psychology or the American Psychological Association, or (APA) for a Ph.D. or PsyD. Look into the requirements for the state or location you are interested in practicing in as you consider your route to a degree.

Rank School Name Location Description
1 Northwestern University Evanston, IL

Location: Evanston, IL and online

Programs Offered: Master of Arts in Counseling

This top-ranked school offers a cutting-edge program for those who want to make an impact in the world of mental health. Set just outside of the culturally rich metropolis of Chicago, students at Northwestern have an opportunity to be immersed in the dynamic world of providing therapy to a diverse set of clients. For those needing more flexibility, Northwestern offers a high-quality online master's program as well. The program prides itself on being at the forefront of research and breakthrough therapy approaches. Students are taught to be reflective practitioners in a “learning-by-doing” model that immerses them in clinical work from the beginning. The fact that 100% of their counseling graduates passed the National Counselors Examination is a testament to their strong academic program.

2 Adler University Chicago, IL
adler-university

Location: Vancouver, B.C., Chicago, IL

Programs Offered: Doctor of Couple and Family Therapy, M.A in Couple and Family Therapy, M.A in Counseling, various specializations

Gemeinschaftsgefühl. This German word describes the idea that wellbeing is found in community life and our connectedness to other human beings. Alfred Adler, a twentieth-century Austrian psychiatrist and the namesake of this distinguished university was a thought leader in focusing on community wellness. Adler University seeks to carry out the philosophy of Adler, addressing social injustice and relational tensions through a systems approach to therapy. They offer a doctorate program in Couple and Family Therapy, at either a four-year, full-time track or part-time options. Their master's program for counseling encompasses a variety of specialization options, ranging from forensic psychology to art therapy.

3 The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology Seattle, WA

Location: Seattle, WA

Programs Offered: Master’s of Counseling Psychology

The staff at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology are passionate about preparing therapists to utilize a holistic approach to healing and a deep understanding of relationship dynamics. “We prepare therapists to enter the beauty and brokenness of their own stories in order to better meet others with courage, compassion, and awe.” This school is a very small community, with under 300 students, in the Belltown neighborhood of downtown Seattle. They have an intentional focus to engage with diversity and foster healthy dialog within their community. While they do not have a denominational or church affiliation, they approach counseling psychology with the Christian perspective to “serve God and neighbor through transforming relationships.”

4 California Institute of Integral Studies San Francisco, CA
california-institute-of-integral-studies

Location: San Francisco, CA

Programs Offered: Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

As the first transpersonally-oriented psychology graduate program in the world, the California Institute of Integral Studies believes that education is not just “neck up”. They incorporate Eastern philosophy and current research practices to provide a rigorous education for counseling psychology students. Their master's program for counseling psychology includes focuses on either Community mental health, Drama Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapy, Integral Counseling Psychology, or Somatic Psychology. Between their small class sizes, award-winning counseling centers, and holistic approach, it’s no wonder that they consistently have the highest pass rates of all graduate degree programs in California.

5 Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY

Location: New York City, NY

Programs Offered: Clinical Psychology MA, Ph.D., Counseling Psychology MA, Ed.M, Ph.D

Right in the heart of Manhattan, Columbia University has a platform to speak into the issues of diversity that are growing in our nation. In addition to raising awareness about the narratives of non-white Americans, they offer one of the only counseling degree programs with an emphasis on Latina/o Mental Health. Their program has a commitment to have experiential training and self-awareness as integral in their courses. The exposure to field-shaping research and a range of opportunities prepare students at Columbia University to be well equipped in a variety of careers.

6 Lindsey Wilson College Columbia, KY

Location: Twenty-six locations in five states (Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia), online

Programs Offered: Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development

With over 26 locations spread throughout the Appalachian region of our country, Lindsey Wilson College may be an ideal place for you to pursue a counseling degree. They offer a weekend-based format for face-to-face classes, as well as an exceptional online program for non-traditional students. Lindsey Wilson College is affiliated with the Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church and is passionate about assisting underserved regions through academic excellence and professional integrity. The master’s program, with a specialization in Mental Health Counseling, provides a broad-based generalist degree that will prepare students to serve in a variety of counseling psychology careers.

7 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Programs Offered: Master’s of Science in Education in Counseling and Mental Health Services, Master’s of Philosophy in Education

The University of Pennsylvania has a unique approach to pursuing a counseling degree. They have a hybrid program that can accommodate the needs of a variety of different pursuits. Their Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) masters program is a one-year program. This is an ideal route for students who would like to pursue a doctorate degree in the field of psychology. This allows them to pursue a Ph.D. (at another university) more quickly. Students who choose to remain for year two enter into the Professional Counseling (PCL) program. These students receive two degrees within two years, both the M.S.Ed and the M.Phil.Ed. The program accommodates both full and part-time students. With prestigious faculty, immediate hands-on experience in the field, and a diverse setting in Philadelphia, this school has a lot to offer.

8 Naropa University Boulder, CO

Location: Boulder, CO

Programs Offered: Master’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling

As the country’s first contemplative university, Naropa is at the forefront of higher education that seeks to integrate Eastern wisdom and holistic practices and Western research and scholarship. Within the counseling program, students can pick one of six unique concentrations: Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology, Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling, Somatic: Body Psychotherapy, Somatic: Dance/Movement Therapy, Transpersonal Art Therapy, or Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy. Classes are small and engaging, integrated with hands-on learning, leading research, and experiential best practices. Set in beautiful Boulder, Colorado, Naropa is an ideal place for those interested in a creative approach to counseling psychology.

9 Webster University Saint Louis, MO

Location: 17 locations in the United States, Geneva, Switzerland, online

Programs Offered: Master of Arts in Counseling

With campuses all around the country, and over 30 years of helping high-quality professionals become counselors, a graduate degree from Webster University holds a lot of worth. Rooted in a passion for being culturally inclusive and academically rigorous, this program supports counselors-in-training to best help their clients move forward in their journeys. Their home campus is in St. Louis, but they also offer counseling programs at 16 other campuses across the country, as well as online. If you’re looking for a more international experience, you can even study at their campus in Geneva, Switzerland! The master's program has several emphasis options, including Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Community Counseling, and Family Life Counseling.

10 Lamar University Beaumont, TX

Location: Beaumont, TX, online

Programs Offered: Master's Degree in Education with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Lamar University’s counseling program is geared towards those who are interested in becoming clinical mental health counselors. There is an emphasis on being familiar with a wide range of effective therapeutic techniques and equipping practitioners to be able to attend to their client's goals. This program is offered in two formats. If you prefer face-to-face education, you can take classes at their campus in Beaumont, Texas. If an online education appeals to you, their award-winning online program will help you achieve your goals.

List of Counseling Psychology Schools in the U.S.

Filter:
Degree Levels
  • Associate's
  • Bachelor's
  • Certificates
  • Doctoral
  • Master's
Program Length
  • Less than 2 years (below associate)
  • At least 2 but less than 4 years
  • Four or more years
Control Type
  • Private for-profit
  • Private not-for-profit
  • Public
School Logo School Name Average tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
Northwestern University Northwestern University Evanston, IL
5/5
10 : 1 21,655
Adler University Adler University Chicago, IL 18 : 1 988
The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology Seattle, WA 19 : 1 302
California Institute of Integral Studies California Institute of Integral Studies San Francisco, CA 19 : 1 1,488
Columbia University in the City of New York Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY
5/5
7 : 1 28,086
Lindsey Wilson College Lindsey Wilson College Columbia, KY
4/5
19 : 1 2,651
University of Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
5/5
12 : 1 24,876
Naropa University Naropa University Boulder, CO
5/5
11 : 1 942
Webster University Webster University Saint Louis, MO
5/5
25 : 1 15,256
Lamar University Lamar University Beaumont, TX
3/5
29 : 1 14,965
Liberty University Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
4/5
39 : 1 80,494
University of Chicago University of Chicago Chicago, IL
5/5
7 : 1 15,391
Northeastern University Northeastern University Boston, MA
5/5
15 : 1 19,940
University of San Francisco University of San Francisco San Francisco, CA
5/5
15 : 1 10,797
Santa Clara University Santa Clara University Santa Clara, CA
5/5
14 : 1 8,680
Johns Hopkins University Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
5/5
6 : 1 22,686
New York University New York University New York, NY
5/5
8 : 1 50,027
Boston College Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA
5/5
15 : 1 14,354
Lehigh University Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
5/5
13 : 1 7,054
Nova Southeastern University Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
5/5
22 : 1 23,236
Boston University Boston University Boston, MA
5/5
11 : 1 32,158
Adams State University Adams State University Alamosa, CO
3/5
22 : 1 3,404
University Logo Mercer University Macon, GA
5/5
17 : 1 8,600
University of Miami University of Miami Coral Gables, FL
5/5
11 : 1 16,825
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Winona, MN
5/5
29 : 1 5,931

Find Local Colleges Offering Counseling Psychology Degrees

Getting a Counseling Psychology Degree Online

The coursework and nature of the career you are pursuing may seem tricky to attempt through an online program. Dialoguing about psychological issues, interacting with peers and faculty as you engage with very personal matters, and hands-on practicums and internships seem like something that should occur face-to-face. However, there are a variety of high-quality online options if you are pursuing a master’s degree in counseling psychology. With advancing technology, there is still a lot of personal attention and interaction with classmates. Connecting with nearby counseling centers in your own community and engaging with an online cohort of other students allows for you to pursue accreditation in a way that works for your stage of life. In researching online programs, make sure that they are accredited and offer the classes and adequate preparation required for the state you hope to practice in. Four out of the top ten schools listed in this guide (Northwestern, Lindsey Wilson, Webster, and Lamar University) have excellent online programs available.

Schools offering online Counseling Psychology degrees

Online Counseling Psychology degrees are available at a variety of different schools with as many as 612 degrees earned at the most popular school. Read more below about all schools that have offered online Counseling Psychology degrees. If you are interested learning more about getting a degree online, check out our page dedicated to online degree information.

Certificate
Associate's
Bachelor's
Master's
Doctoral
School Name Certificate Associate's Bachelor's Master's Doctoral
Lamar University 0 0 0 612 0
Adams State University 0 0 0 172 0
Capella University 159 0 0 77 0
California Baptist University 0 0 0 105 0
Point University 0 3 58 0 0
How many schools offer online Counseling Psychology degrees?
  • 5 Certificates
  • 3 Associate's
  • 12 Bachelor's
  • 22 Master's

What can you do with a Counseling Psychology Degree?

Counseling Psychology Careers Expected Job Growth (2014-2024)
Year Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists Employment Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors Employment Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors Employment Marriage and family therapists Employment
2015 158,360 97,030 275,650 34,200
2016 161,420 99,160 277,900 34,700
2017 164,480 101,290 280,150 35,200
2018 167,540 103,420 282,400 35,700
2019 170,600 105,550 284,650 36,200
2020 173,660 107,680 286,900 36,700
2021 176,720 109,810 289,150 37,200
2022 179,780 111,940 291,400 37,700
2023 182,840 114,070 293,650 38,200
2024 185,900 116,200 295,900 38,700

Counseling Psychology Major Career Outlook

The umbrella of counseling psychology extends to a variety of professions. While these professions have different focuses and may require different levels of education, all jobs in this field approach the mental health of their client through psychotherapy. Below is a brief description of some of the careers people can pursue within counseling psychology:

  • Marriage and Family Therapists: Licensed Marriage, Family Therapists focus on providing counseling within the family and relational contexts. They may provide premarital counseling, help individuals sort through conflicts in their marriage or family units, or work with families as a whole to improve communication and maintain healthy relationships.
  • Grief Counselors: Talking with trained professionals is especially important during times of grief or crisis. There has been an increased need for counselors to provide psychotherapy to specific people groups like refugees or military veterans.
  • School Counselors: Within the field of education, there is ample need for trained professionals to provide a listening ear and guidance to younger generations. This job includes education, advocacy, and guidance components.
  • Substance Abuse/Rehabilitation Counselors: For those impacted by addictions and disabling conditions, counselors can provide support and strategies to help them live healthy, productive lives. Counseling in this area may include one-on-one therapy, as well as facilitating support groups.
  • Art Therapists: There are as many approaches to therapy as there are individuals. Some programs integrate the arts, such as painting, dancing, or music to bring a more holistic form of therapy to individuals.
  • Psychologists: Counselors and therapists typically have an M.Ed degree, and are somewhat limited in what they can do in terms of assessment and what they can diagnose in their clients. A psychologist usually has his or her Ph.D. or PsyD. With this doctoral level of education, they are more likely to work with individuals who suffer from more serious mental illnesses and are licensed to administer psychometric tests.
  • Research/Education: While most people that go into this field are interested in providing therapy to people, some pursue important research about mental health and psychology. With a Ph.D. or PsyD degree, professionals may also teach at the graduate level.
Counseling Psychology Career Legend
Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors
Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors
Marriage and family therapists
About this Data

*Sources for career information and data include the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may vary depending on year.

Average annual salary for Counseling Psychology careers

  • $48,210 2005
  • $54,213 2010
  • $57,243 2015

What is Counseling Psychology?

The field of mental health encompasses a wide range of careers and roles. How does counseling psychology fit? The Society of Counseling Psychology describes the field as:

a psychological specialty [that] facilitates personal and interpersonal functioning across the lifespan with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental and organizational concerns.

In other words, professionals that work in the counseling psychology field help people find a sense of holistic well-being. They help individuals, but they can also help with relational issues at the family and organization or group level. They may specialize in various stages of life or a specific demographic. People in this field may address trauma or acute mental illnesses, or they may help individuals in more ordinary issues and stresses that arise. They use their knowledge of psychological theory to assess and diagnose their clients and use ethical therapeutic approaches to help.

What degrees do people get in Counseling Psychology?

Degree Level Program Length Colleges Graduates
Associate's 2-year Length 5 Colleges 7 Graduates
Bachelor's 4-year Length 47 Colleges 666 Graduates
Certificates < 1 year Length 54 Colleges 317 Graduates
Doctoral 1-2 year Length 82 Colleges 565 Graduates
Master's 1+ years Length 261 Colleges 9,497 Graduates

Counseling Psychology Degree Overview

Pursuing a career in counseling psychology requires at least a master's degree, but you could go on to pursue even higher degrees. Here's a breakdown of the different levels of education and what those degrees mean.

  • Undergraduate Degrees: While the field of counseling psychology requires a post-graduate degree, there are several undergraduate areas of study that would be helpful if this is a career you are interested in pursuing. A bachelor’s degree in psychology or mental health would provide a great foundation for counselors or psychologists. If you have an area that you want to specialize in, you may consider getting a degree that caters to that. If you want to work with children or in a school setting, an education degree would be beneficial. If you are wanting to help underprivileged demographics, a degree in social work would make sense. Many people choose counseling psychology as a second career, so regardless of your background, or experience, counseling programs accept a variety of people.
  • Master’s: To be a practicing counselor, you must pursue graduate level work. Typically, counseling programs are within the education department at universities. In addition to approximately 60 hours of coursework, programs often have internship components as well as several thousands of hours in supervised practice. In addition to training, counselors must pass state testing in order to become licensed. If you are considering a master's in counseling, you will want to look for programs that are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and related Educational Programs (CACREP).
  • Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD or Ph.D.): If you are more intrigued by the research aspect of this field, you may consider getting a Ph.D. in Psychology. This degree is also required if you would like to become a counseling psychologist. A Doctorate of Psychology or PsyD, on the other hand, is one of the highest degrees in the field of psychology. The cream of the crop, if you may. This would be the ideal degree to pursue if you plan to teach within the field. However, these programs are a real commitment. They can often take four to six years to complete. In addition to the courses and clinical experiences that are similar to a master’s program, Ph.D. students also complete a dissertation and a year-long internship in their field of interest. Accreditation for these programs comes from the American Psychological Association, or (APA).

Average cost of college for a Counseling Psychology degree

Average Tuition and Fees for a 2 year Degree

Average Tuition and Fees School Control Student Residence
$3,767 Public In-State
$7,389 Public Out-of-State

Average Tuition and Fees for a 4 year Degree

Average Tuition and Fees School Control Student Residence
$8,499 Public In-State
$24,847 Private In-State
$18,274 Public Out-of-State
$24,847 Private Out-of-State

Questions About Counseling Psychology

How is Counseling Psychology different than Clinical Psychology?

Counseling psychology focuses on a holistic approach to health, with an emphasis on psychotherapy, typically through counseling sessions with a trained professional. Clinical psychology is a related field that also deals with mental health but approaches that through a scientific lens, or psychopathology. Clinical psychologists typically work with clients who have more severe mental illnesses, whereas counseling psychologists typically work with people who are less debilitated by their struggles.

What Types of Courses Are Included in Counseling Psychology Programs?

While each university or program has a different approach or focus, there are some common concepts, theories, and skills that you will need to learn on the road to becoming a licensed counselor or counseling psychologist.

  • Human Development: Understand the developmental stages of the journey of the human experience and how they impact individuals. An overview of cognitive, emotional, moral, and physiological development over the life-span is discussed and analyzed.
  • Psychopathology: Become familiar with various mental illnesses; what causes them, how to classify and diagnose them, and how to approach therapy. Students become familiarized with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is the recognized manual used by professionals in the field.
  • Counseling Theory: Understand and apply various philosophies and approaches to providing therapy. Different schools of thought for techniques and strategies are discussed and analyzed.
  • Research Methods: Utilize theories and relevant research methods to evaluate therapy approaches and overall mental wellness in specific demographics.
  • Ethics: Develop a professional understanding of sound ethical codes and laws surrounding the field of mental health.
  • Theory and Technique for Specific Demographics: Understand the unique needs and realities of various subgroups of clients. This may vary depending on your emphasis or specialization but may include grief counseling, substance abuse, specific needs of minority groups, or various relationship dynamics.
  • Case Management: Study systems and skills used to assess, set goals, implement intervention strategies, and monitor the process of therapy. The flow and organization of information necessary for documenting care and treatment are discussed.
  • Internship/Practicum: Put the knowledge and theory into practice in a supervised therapy setting. Some counseling sessions may be recorded and analyzed with a supervisor and/or peers for self-reflection and growth in the practice.

How Does Licensing Process Work?

After you have completed your graduate degree courses, there are a few requirements needed to be a practicing counselor, therapist, or psychologist. These requirements differ from state to state, so you will want to research what is needed for the state you are in. Most states require that you pass an examination, such as the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification. It is a 200-item multiple-choice test. Questions may cover your knowledge of the code of ethics, understanding of psychopathology disorders, and theories on therapy approaches. It may also include clinical simulation scenarios or evaluating case studies.

In addition to the master’s degree and passing the examination, you will likely need to practice under a supervisor for a period of time. The National Board for Certified Counselors requires 3,000 hours of counseling experience and 100 hours of supervision both over a two-year post-master's time period.

Again, your specific state may have slightly different expectations. You can read about different state’s particular requirements here: http://www.counselor-license.com/

Once you have obtained your licence, you may be required to take continuing education requirements in order to maintain and update your licensure. As the field of mental health is changing with up and coming research, it is important for practicing therapists to have a dynamic and changing approach to their practice.

What Are Some Next Steps I Can Take?

If you’ve made it this far through the ultimate guide, it’s safe to say that you are interested in exploring this career option further! Getting a broad overview of counseling psychology is a great first step, but what are some other ways to explore this growing and important field?

  • Seek Counseling: Many people who pursue this profession started out on the other side of the couch. You don’t need to have a debilitating mental illness or a major life tragedy to seek professional counseling. Talking with a professional therapist can help you get a better understanding of your life goals and help you experience what therapy is like. Making an appointment with a vocational counselor, signing up for an art therapy session, or asking if you can observe at a group therapy session are all ways that you can experience counseling.
  • Volunteer: Are you interested in counseling a certain group of people or demographic? Chances are you don’t have to wait to get a graduate degree to do so. Check in your community to see if there are outreach programs already in place. Whether it’s being a mentor to a kid in the Big Brother Big Sister program, volunteering to help at a refugee clinic, or being a small group leader in your church. Not only do these opportunities give you experiential insight into what counseling might be like, they also make your resume or application to a program look much better.
  • Ask Questions: Do you know anyone who is a counselor or counseling psychologist? Ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee and pick their brain about the realities of the profession. Is there a specific school that intrigued you from the top ten list? Get on their website and request more information. As a generalization, people in the field of counseling psychology are generous, kind-hearted people who want to help and who see the need for more people like you in the field.
  • Research: With today’s wealth of knowledge and easy access to information, there’s no reason to wait to learn about new ideas or trends in psychology. See if any colleges or universities in your area offer free lectures or online resources. Subscribe to online magazines or communities within the areas of mental health that intrigue you.

What Do Counselors Have To Say About Their Job?

Sometimes it’s best to hear it from someone who’s actually living it. Here are some quotes from people in the field, working with clients currently.

  • Barb LoFrisco, Ph.D. Couples and Individual Counselor:

    My job isn’t always easy, but it’s always interesting. I never wake up in the morning and dread going in. I love the fact that I never really know on any given day what will happen. So far, no matter how much experience I gain, there is always a new skill to learn, a new way to grow, or a new problem to tackle. Each day, my clients surprise, and therefore challenge, me all of the time.

  • Frewin Hermer, MA, LMFT:

    I like to offer walk and talk therapy for those who wish to take therapy off the couch. Movement propels people forward - literally and figuratively. Many clients prefer to take their sessions out of the office and into the outdoors. Somehow, the simple act of walking while talking out life’s issues creates change through forward movement. Through the rhythm of walking and talking, there is a sync between the therapist and client. At a moderate pace, healing and breakthroughs occur!

  • Clair Fish, LPC:

    I love being a counselor because in some ways it is like being a doctor but instead of taking part in the physical healing of the person, I get to take part in the emotional healing. Both of them affect the other--which is really cool. I love the privilege of having the opportunity to join people on their journey in a vulnerable way and take part in their joy and in their sorrow. Nobody should be alone in grieving or in celebration. I learn way more from them than they probably do from me, and that's a gift to be treasured.

  • Raelyn Koop, LPC:

    Counseling is one of the most intimate and mysterious endeavors I've ever taken on, both as the therapist and also as a patient. I believe that our "insides" are constantly attempting to heal, grow, and expand whether a person is conscious of it or not. I sometimes see myself as just helping people get in and stay in that space where movement happens. You know when you're sitting on your couch between activities and your mind starts racing with things to be done or relationship concerns or thoughts about yourself, that's "the space." And tolerance for whatever comes up right here IS the work. I see it over and over again. Relationally speaking, I have people say to me often, "No one gets it like you do" or "I've never told anyone this." When a therapist commits all of his/her attention, thoughts, and humanity to a person for 50 minutes on a regular basis, the human spirit responds to that. It is what we long for and holds the potential to be corrective of our deepest sources of repetitive hurt.

Do I Have What It Takes?

Entering into the field of Counseling Psychology isn’t something to do lightly. The daily work of coming alongside individuals, families, and groups of people with a variety of issues and struggles requires a lot. But the statistics at the beginning of this guide show that this is a field that is growing. Practitioners in the mental health field need to be:

  • Self-Reflective: Many programs that train counselors to point out that in order to provide quality therapy, individuals must be willing to do inner work themselves. Counselors must have a high level of self-awareness, able to understand and articulate how their own development, disposition, and experiences have shaped them. They must bring a level of self-reflection in their approach to therapy.
  • Sensitive to Diversity: Effective therapy requires a counselor to be aware of both the commonalities and the uniqueness that individuals have. Understanding the realities of people that come from different backgrounds or ethnicities is crucial. The most effective approach or therapy you provide may vary greatly depending on your client’s age, race, gender, upbringing, or disposition.
  • Perceptive Listeners: A large portion of therapy is listening and observing. Asking the right questions and giving a client space to unpack an issue or struggle is key. Counselors must be able to give their full attention to others, picking up on what they say, as well as what they communicate non-verbally.
  • Effective Communicators: People in the counseling psychology field must be able to express ideas or concepts in effective ways. With clients, their words educate, advocate, encourage, reflect, and challenge. In therapy sessions, they need to explain ideas or present strategies to their clients in ways that are understandable. They also need to share their research findings and collaborate with others in their field.
  • Rooted in a Healthy Lifestyle: Being present with others in their trauma or struggles is not easy. Counselors need to take self-care seriously in order to remain healthy and stable. Those who provide therapy in the mental health field must find ways to decompress, find work-life balance, and maintain a lifestyle that is sustainable. In your first years as a practicing counselor, your supervisor can help you manage the weighty aspects of the job. Many counselors seek their own therapy as a way to stay mentally healthy.
  • Empathetic Advocates: Above all, the people who become counselors need to have a strong sense of empathy with the individuals who are coming to them for help. Many clients are in the midst of difficult situations or struggling with debilitating issues. Compassion and an empathetic presence can often be the starting point for healing and wholeness for others.

The need for passionate, empathetic, committed counselors and psychologists is not going away anytime soon. If the thought of being a part of a highly rewarding and growing profession intrigues you, take the next step in your career today.

Article Sources

  • Adler University: https://www.adler.edu/
  • American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/
  • California Institute of Integral Studies: http://www.ciis.edu/
  • Columbia University in the City of New York: http://www.columbia.edu/
  • Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs: http://www.cacrep.org/
  • Counseling Psychology: http://www.counselingpsychology.org/
  • Counselor-Licence: http://www.counselor-license.com/articles/becoming-a-counselor.html
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm
  • http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
  • http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm
  • Lamar University: http://www.lamar.edu/
  • Lindsey Wilson College: http://www.lindsey.edu/
  • National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/index.shtml
  • Naropa University: https://www.naropa.edu/
  • National Board for Certified Counselors: http://www.nbcc.org/Exam/NationalCounselorExaminationForLicensureAndCertification/
  • Northwestern University: http://www.northwestern.edu/
  • The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology: http://theseattleschool.edu/
  • University of Pennsylvania: http://www.upenn.edu/
  • Webster University: http://www.webster.edu/
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