Becoming an online counselor is not much different than becoming a real-world counselor. In this article, the terms "online counseling" are not meant to describe a troubled person receiving counseling online or over the Internet, although that is the service an online counselor provides. This is an overview of an online counselor as the one providing the counseling or therapy and what it takes to become an online counselor.
What is an Online Counselor?
An online counselor is a trained professional who has graduated from a formal training program for aspiring counselors, psychologists or marriage and family therapists and provides counseling online. An online counselor provides a lot of the same services as a counselor in a real-world setting, but online therapy is not considered psychology. It's also important to realize that while online counselors can provide advice and guidance to clients, they cannot diagnose or treat mental illness over the Internet.
Online counselors provide their support and advice through various methods, including instant messaging, email, video conferencing, Internet phone and real-time chat. Despite its limitations, online counseling is becoming very popular today by many consumers. Online counselors are often used by individuals who want some sort of therapy but do not wish to leave their homes or visit a counselor or therapist in an office setting.
How to Become an Online Counselor
Becoming an online counselor takes the same education and training as becoming a counselor offline. It's governed by state regulations and agencies like the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. To be able to work as a marriage and family therapist, an individual must be licensed. Before the candidate can become licensed, he or she must complete a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy, psychology or a related field from an accredited school.
Additionally, the student must complete 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical education and pass certification exams for their areas of expertise. Every state differs in their licensing requirements, and each state has a licensing exam specific to that particular state. What every state does have in common is that they all require counselors or psychologists be licensed. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website offers valuable information regarding educational programs and state licensing information.
Are Laws the Same?
Online counselors are considered an ideal solution for individuals who want counseling but don't want to leave their homes. Individuals who want to fulfill this need may choose to become online counselors. They're called online counselors only because they're providing their services online. Clients considering using online counselors should ask for the same credentials as they would if they were in a counselor's office because online counselors should be able to provide them.
Online counselors must follow the same laws and requirements as real-world counselors. What this means is that even if they may be counseling people from all over the world, they must follow the laws from the state in which they reside. In other words, they must have the required education to be called counselors or psychologists that the state requires.
Career and Salary Outlook
Counselors and therapists overall are constantly in demand. There is excellent career potential for marriage and family therapists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that marriage and family therapists could see an employment growth of 23% from 2016-2026. This increase should result in 9,700 new jobs created by 2026. Marriage and family therapists earned an average yearly wage of $53,860 with wages ranging from $31,390 to $81,760.