“At a liberal arts University like Heidelberg, your degree can open up a variety of doors. People want to know what I’m doing in the Drug and Alcohol Treatment field, but you can do whatever you want to do. It’s up to you to figure out how your degree will help you get there."
Debi Wolski Molica '96
By Emily Lockhart '04; Revised by Jamie Figueroa Kelly '09; Revised by Aaron Stewart '09
Do you remember those Freud sketches—the ones where they’d show the patient on a couch talking away to no one because the counselor went out for a bite to eat? Then when the counselor returns, all he had to say was “I see” and it would be like he never left? There’s a reason why people laugh at that sort of thing—it’s ridiculous. Counseling careers involve a lot of English because, let’s face it, who are you going to help if you can’t talk your patients through their feelings?
When describing the counselor’s role, Richard Nelson-Jones wrote, “The primary purpose of counseling and psychotherapy is to help clients address psychological issues in their lives, for example, becoming less depressed or anxious, and to work through decisions and crises that have a distinct psychological dimension to them” (9). There are three different careers that center on counseling: professional counselors, psychotherapists, and helpers. While they each have their own respective roles to play, they all have to do with helping people work through their issues. Within each career option, there are many other jobs you can get into. For example, in the case of helpers, you can become a paraprofessional counselor (use counseling skills in the job without accreditation) to help with becoming a nurse, social worker, cleric, etc.
Don’t be the counselor that grabs a bite to eat while the patient is talking! One of the most crucial aspects of counseling is to give the soundest advice you can to the patient so that they can go back out into the world without being a threat to themselves or others. It only takes one patient who misunderstood your advice to bury you in malpractice problems. Work on your interviewing and speech skills as much as you can. As I said in other sections, there’s always room for improvement and there are many books and programs out there to help with your verbal skills.
Other very important skills involve medical issues, such as diagnoses and treatments. Though you have to have more advanced training to be able to do so, there will come a number of times in your counseling career where words are just not enough—that’s when you need to have the knowledge to give the patient the right medicine for him/her. Other key skills that should be learned include case management, organizational structure and professional organization (Faiver et al 12-17), most of which will be taught during internships.
Qualifications and Training
In order to work as a professional counselor, you have to have a license in the state you work in. The requirements for Ohio specifically vary depending on the type of license you need and when you complete your degree, but you basically need a graduate degree in Counseling, a certain amount of clinical hours or an internship, and passing a specific exam (CSWMFT Board 1). Since they do vary, you are going to have to do some research on your own to find out exactly what you need for the career path you want to take. I know—extra work, right? Trust me, though, it will save you a lot of embarrassment later. You will also need to look up what tests are required for your path, because there are a few different ones: National Counselor Examination, Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination, or the State Counseling Exams. Look up what the laws are for the state you want to practice in and take the necessary tests. According to Howard Rosenthal, “The American Counseling Association formed the National Board for Certified Counselors” (444-445) to review cases, and if someone meets those the requirements needed for the state, that person can use the title “National Certified Counselor” (445).
Counseling at Heidelberg
Due to the many skills that are useful in the field of counseling, there are many different programs at Heidelberg that can help you on your way. Since I’ve emphasized the importance of verbal skills, it would be a great idea for you to take many English or Communications classes. This will help you gain all the skills you need to become a successful speaker. Also, you’ll obviously want to take a few courses in Psychology, for what good are those excellent verbal skills if you don’t understand what the patient is going through in the first place? Heidelberg offers many different “Psych” courses ranging from General Psychology to Abnormal and Child Psychology, as well as classes to help you gain experience using surveys and conducting experiments. Finally, Heidelberg University also provides a Graduate program in Counseling if you decide to further your education past the undergraduate level (I almost guarantee you’ll have to). For more information, check out the “Graduate” section of this website. You can also visit the university’s website—just click under “academic programs.”
- Faiver, Christopher, Eisengart, Sheri, and Ronald Colonna. The Counselor Intern’s Handbook. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1995.
- Nelson-Jones, Richard. Introduction to counselling skills Texts & Activities. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications, 2005.
- Rosenthal, Howard. Encyclopedia of Counseling. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2008.
- CSWMFT Board members. “Counselor licensing.” Ohio.gov Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage & Family Therapist Board. 8 November 2008. CSWMFT Board, Ohio. 2008. <http://www.cswmft.ohio.gov/clicen.stm>.
Gibson and Mitchell’s Introduction to Counseling and Guidance is a great introductory text about counseling and its sub-disciplines. One of the best sources for further information, especially with the internship process which is normally the last step in a counseling program, is The Counselor Intern’s Handbook. For a more detailed description of counseling skills, reading Introduction to Counselling Skills Texts & Activities is a good place to start. Finally, Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of Counseling is the book to read if you’re interested in finding out more about the accreditation testing. More information about counseling careers, as well as any other career choice you’re interested in, is available in the Occupational Outlook Handbook at http://www.bls.gov/OCO/.