Where Do I Start?

Updated on April 21, 2009
V.C. asks from Peyton, CO
8 answers

I am very interested in a career in counseling and wanted to know what schooling I would need to accomplish this.
Thanks!! :)

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answers from Fort Collins on

Hi V.,'
I am going to Axia College, University of Phoenix. It is a great school, I just started into my second year and so far it has been wonderful, the Instructors are so helpful and understanding and my major is Psychology.
Good Luck.
M. Welsh



answers from Boise on

You would need to become a LPC (licensed counselor) or licensed social worker. SW's can really only do counseling at a Master's degree level (MSW).....not really sure about counselors but an MSW is a great degree to have and really quite versatile. good luck!



answers from Denver on

Hi V.,

Counseling is a wonderful and rewarding career, but does require lots of education.

With a bachelor's degree, you would most likely be looking at jobs like 'case manager'. Still lots of contact with people, but not official counseling, you wouldn't (or shouldn't) do private practice with this. But still some options.

With a master's degree, you can do counseling in a variety of settings and can get licensed (a good idea).

I think someone mentioned billing insurance. If you are intending to do private or small group practice, this is a big deal. You don't want to limit yourself to only self-pay clients since so many rely on insurance to pay for counseling. You need a license to do this. The license is acquired by logging so many counseling hours (with a supervisor) and taking an exam. Lots of people get their masters degree and work at a big counseling center or mental health center because you will receive the required supervision.

The other thing to know is that you will need to do an internship. I got my bachelor's and had to do two practicums (like a mini internship) and an internship. And then had to do another internship when I got my master's. Most schools that I know of don't allow you to be paid for these (don't know if this has changed, I got my masters in '01). So bottom line is do you have to time and availability to work for free for a while?

Life coaching is an option, and while a good fit for some, it is fairly new so doesn't have a lot of recognition from insurance companies, etc. It is gaining some momentum and being more "accepted", but kind of risky right now. If it were me I would probably want to start out more traditional and then branch out, rather than the other way around.

So it is a lot of work, but is a versatile career. Best of luck, and feel free to ask me any questions. I love talking psychology!


answers from Denver on

There are many different types of "counseling" and it will be important to do enough research to find what is a good fit for you. In Psychology, you can do some counseling with just a Bachelor degree however, to be in private practice and to bill insurance companies you will need a Masters and then go through the Licensing requirements.

Another alternative is coaching. There are many types of coaching and many ways of receiving training. A great place to start is Coachville.com. There are also programs by some well known coaches such as Rhonda Britten - Fearless Living Institute, Martha Beck (well known from O Magazine), and Iyanla Vanzant.

Coaching is different in philosophy and approach from counseling and I have found a much better fit for me. I have a MA in Psychology with an emphasis in Marraige and Family therapy. However, early on in my counseling career I realized that something wasn't fitting. I was introduced to coaching and really realized how much more it fit my own philosophies. I didn't agree with the medical model of psychology: the labeling, the overuse of medications, the "treatment" vs cure theories.

If you have any questions about either of my trainings I would be happy to talk with you. T.



answers from Denver on

If you do not have a bachelors degree start at the community college level and do all your general education there, get an assocaites degree first. Please DO NOT go to any of those "ON LINE"schools, they are for profit, and will sell you on their school and financial aid. Then transfer to a state school like University of Colorado( which by the way if you get decent grades at the CC you can get in anywhere you want). Then you need either a masters degree or Phd, depending on what you want to do. Just be careful, if you can pay for it out of pocket do so, even if you need to tighten your budget. Here is the deal with counseling, ( my mom has a private practice) you may not make alot of money and if these schools sell you on their programs you could easliy get 100k in debt and only make 30k a year. Like another poster said, you need to have a license so people can use their insurance, and this also takes alot of time and money. You can go into school counseling with a masters and make about 50k, summers off, home after school with your kids! Good luck!



answers from Denver on

If you already have a bachelor's degree (in anything), a Master's program would be the best. That's what I'm doing. I have my BA in English and I've applied for a Master's program in counseling. Otherwise, start with a bachelor's program. You'll get the best jobs and highest pay if you get a Master's degree, tho. So you'll eventually want to look into that. Good luck! Going back to school is very awesome! I'm looking forward to it myself. :)



answers from Pocatello on

If you want to be a counseling psychologist I believe that you will need at least a Master's degree in psychology, it might even be that a doctorate is required, I am not sure. If you have a less formal type of "counseling" in mind there are probably jobs that will only require a bachelor's degree in social work. Take psychology 101 and see if it still interests you, then talk to an advisor about what your options are.



answers from Fort Collins on

You have gotten some great info so far. I did want to add that if you live in Colorado, you can counsel people with no formal education (not that I'm recommending that; it's just something that isn't well known). That means you don't have to have any formal education. You just can't advertise yourself as a "professional and licensed" counselor. Thought that I would add that bit of info for you.

I have my Masters in Counseling and preferred it to the Psych model because we started counseling people (for practice) in our first semester. Most places do require licensure but it seems like you can get that while working for certain organizations. I did my program at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado and it has many satelite campus throughout the state. I have found that the program has benefitted me very much professionally (even though I don't work in mental health) and as a mom.

Best of luck!

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