For those who thrive on helping others, the idea of becoming a counselor is likely very appealing. Of course, there are many different routes into counseling – and for many people, the most common counselor they have come across is at school or college.
However, the different routes into counseling – and the types of roles that arise through these routes – make for one of the most varied career shifts available across the US. Beyond the salaries and benefits of the job, however, what else makes counseling such a rewarding profession?
This guide, will examine why counseling may be the ideal route for the right type of person and what you will need to do to truly excel in this support role for the years ahead.
There are plenty of routes available
It is safe to say that the first type of counselor many people think of operates within a school or learning environment. Working with children and their parents is a specific type of route and challenge, of course, and it naturally requires a genuine interest.
You will also need specific training for this type of counseling role. For example, consider looking into SBU masters school counseling online. St. Bonaventure University’s online program tailors to provide exceptional support to those who wish to work with young people and the freedom of time and movement to learn at one’s own pace.
That freedom certainly helps when it comes to intensive study. However, if you wish to look into other types of counseling work, you are free to explore a range of situations and types of people you feel you would work better with.
For example, mental health counseling is crucial for supporting people with destructive or disruptive psychological problems preventing them from leading full, healthy lives. Speech therapy, too, is a type of counseling suited to professionals who want to help people regain the ability to communicate after surgery or injury, for example.
For example, more profound work is required as a specialist trauma counselor. In these cases, you will work closely with people who have experienced distressing and life-altering events and may struggle to move on with their lives.
Ultimately, counseling requires more than just empathy and nerve. No matter which route you take, it demands a genuine interest in helping people regain control and to progress as better versions of themselves. Thankfully the range of counseling specialties means you can always find an option tailored to your interests or experience.
You make a genuine difference in people’s lives
Possibly the most rewarding aspect of being a counselor of any kind is seeing the difference you make in people’s lives. Simply being there to talk to when they cannot turn to friends or family can mean everything to them.
This is especially true in school counseling settings, but it applies just as much to adult counseling and trauma therapy. Going through counseling can feel like a very lonely process, which is why it is all the more rewarding for counselors to see the progress they can help foster.
Counseling does not just help people to make physical breakthroughs – it also allows them to speak their minds freely and even feel a little unburdened. Then, as you guide people toward making choices that appeal to them (at their speed), you should soon see a marked difference in how they handle themselves.
Of course, people recover from trauma and adapt to counseling practices in different ways and at different speeds. However, few moments are more rewarding than seeing someone transform from struggling to becoming more confident and adaptable – it will take time for you to foster that kind of transformation.
A counselor provides hope – consider the role of a marriage counselor, for example. In this role, you are the link between two people who, while still perhaps holding feelings of love and attachment, are facing relationship issues. Your work can help people in marriage counseling to see the bigger picture and to make decisions for the greater good of the partnership.
People enter counseling roles because they want to help bring about change for people who are struggling to help themselves. Transformations will take time, but they are some of the most rewarding moments in this type of role.
You help people to build strong relationships
As mentioned, people who enter counseling as clients typically need extensive support – and they can rely on their counselors to help make tough decisions. As such, you will generally build strong relationships with clients and may even help create templates for their relationships moving forward.
As someone with whom a client feels comfortable talking about their struggles and fears for the future, it is reasonable that you build a steadfast relationship – based on trust – so that any given client feels comfortable talking to you. It is all about “opening up.”
You will need to work hard to build both authority and trust. A counselor in any specialism must always start by establishing a safe and welcoming environment for each client. They must refrain from being judgmental and appear warm and trustworthy. That means you are creating a safe environment for people to share deep emotions and thoughts.
That, in part, also means you need to be an active listener and show empathy! You must also do what you can to help clients feel heard and understood.
It is also critical for a client to feel like they are the main focus. Therefore, each one must receive individualized attention and support. That means tailoring your strategies and systems to suit their individual needs.
Yes – this is extensive work, and it is all the more reason to ensure you graduate from a leading body, whether online or offline. However, the transformation you will see in your clients is extremely rewarding.
You are essentially giving people the tools and templates to start building new relationships again from scratch. That is an incredible feeling – and while some may take longer than others to reach this point of confidence, you will still go away knowing that, thanks to your help, someone can now look after themselves.
You are likely to be autonomous
An aspect of counseling work that may not occur to many at first is autonomy. Depending on the type of counseling you get into, you will typically find you have complete control over your schedule and when you work. That means you can easily fit work in with your other daily demands if you already have a fairly hectic life.
What is more, counseling may be particularly rewarding for people who thrive on working independently. While you certainly will require interpersonal skills to get the best out of your clients and charges, you don’t have to worry too much about working as part of a team or having a particular boss to answer to.
That said, an unstructured working environment is not always ideal for everyone. Therefore, it is wise to think carefully about whether you prefer structure or autonomy before scoping out counseling opportunities.
You will typically find during counseling education that you will learn how to build autonomy skills and how to manage your workload. That said, if you can enter this field with a self-starting mindset, it will benefit your health in the long run.
Flexibility is a given
Alongside autonomy and self-management, you are very likely to find the work of a counselor highly flexible. That means, as well as setting your hours, you will typically be able to travel or even perform online or video sessions with your clients.
Again, flexibility is a boon for many people, but others do prefer structure. The type of structure you can expect from counseling is that you may work with the same clients, or in the same setting, for weeks to months at a time. It is how and when you can carry that work out where flexibility enters into things.
Of course, flexibility at work, especially in counseling, can lead to work-life balance issues if you don’t give yourself enough time to recharge and refresh. While you may wish to work as many cases as possible, it is all too easy to get burned out.
To genuinely reap the benefits of flexibility in working as a counselor, you need to be ready and willing to block off time to breathe and recover from one working day to the next.
Therefore, counseling’s freedoms will appeal to specific types of people. Being your own boss is a major perk – but don’t forget to care for yourself at the same time.
It is personal growth for you, too
It is a fairly common misconception that counseling is all about personal growth for the people you work with. That is not alwaysthe case. In fact, working as a counselor may help to bring your own abilities and boundaries into perspective.
As you work with more and more people, you will find you start to build a bigger picture of the world around you, how others perceive you, and how you can develop as a person in your own right. That is not to say you should always second-guess yourself while counseling others – far from it!
However, this does mean you should take the time to gain some self-awareness and understand that even though you are in a privileged position to counsel and support others, you will always need to keep growing and developing yourself.
Counseling provides a variety of psychological benefits for you as much as it does for your clients. You will develop fantastic empathy skills and learn more about how different people work and approach problems in their lives.
Learning to positively impact others while continuing to develop as your own person is one of the more “hidden” benefits of counseling. You should never enter this type of role thinking you are already “perfect” and that you are sharing knowledge and advice because you are a perfectly rounded individual.
Be willing to accept new challenges in your own personal growth cycle, and you will likely find some refreshing moments of introspection just around the corner.
You are always in demand
Beyond the psychological benefits and the positive impacts you will have on people’s lives, do also remember there will always likely be a steady need for counselors. Life gets complex and messy no matter who you are. Therefore, any talents you gain will likely be highly desirable across the country.
To an extent, that will bring job security, and it may also help to turbo-charge your confidence while working. However, it is still important to find a niche in counseling that suits your needs and personality, and to enter into this line of work through a desire to help people first.
Counseling is an admirable career path, particularly as so many counselors put themselves aside to ensure their clients and patients receive exceptional care across the board.
However, do always be ready to face challenges in many shapes and sizes. As a counselor, you have the power to change people’s lives for the better – it is an amazing feeling. But it will take work – and study – if you really want to see people make the best of themselves.
Always study at a reputable university or college and keep an open mind!