Anyone who wants to become a crisis counselor must learn the skills, practices and knowledge of trauma-based counseling. This means they must be prepared to successfully work with children, adolescents, adults and the elderly in various settings. The first step in becoming a crisis counselor is to earn a bachelor's degree in a field like psychology, social work, counseling, divinity or human services.
Social Work Degree
The most professionally focused degree for crisis counselors is social work. These programs usually focus on clinical social work, which involves child welfare and children's services, and social work policy, which teaches graduates how to champion change initiatives and tackle the root causes of social problems. There are also counseling and therapeutic concentrations that focus on helping individuals, families and groups. These degree programs will most likely include classes on human behavior in the social environment, which will help students develop culturally competent frameworks for analyzing and understand human behavior, and classes on relationship building and communication, which will provide techniques to create empathetic and empowering connections with clients. Students will study the clinical case management of individuals, so they will know how to will assess clients and develop intervention plans using cognitive, behavioral and psychodynamic therapeutic approaches.
Anyone who wants to become a licensed crisis counselor should pursue a master's degree in a field like psychology. These degree programs will introduce the different professional roles and ethical responsibilities of counselors. Students will learn how to use individual information in conjunction with development theories and models to empirically examine their client. These programs teach students how to recommend client strategy approaches that are appropriate to the diverse needs and life experiences of individuals. Students learn how to use evidence-based counseling practices for prevention and intervention purposes. After graduation, students will be able to apply essential counseling skills and techniques across multiple settings. A competent and confident crisis counseling professional with a background in psychology will know how to examine and mitigate the factors that put clients at risk for unsafe behaviors and mental health disorders.
Crisis counselors support clients who are in a state of emotional turmoil or mental health emergency. These crises are sometimes triggered by intense stress, recent trauma, family problems, chaotic person lifestyles or long-term post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PSTD). The goal of the professional crisis counselor is to be a stable and positive influence in the life of someone who is experiencing trauma. After they establish rapport, they help their clients deal with intense feelings, disturbing experiences and challenging life situations by teaching them coping skills and techniques. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) provides many standard techniques to help clients identify and adjust toxic thinking habits and behaviors. Crisis counselors may work at schools, suicide hotlines, non-profits, hospitals, police departments and health care and mental health organizations. They may also work for federal agencies like the VA and FEMA, but also state agencies like Departments of Child Welfare or Human Services.
Those who want to become a crisis counselor should consider professional credentials through national organizations such as the National Association for Crisis Managers and The American Association of Health Care Professionals. Their certifications will provide the practitioner with specialized training and increased credibility. The APA offers advice on how to become a licensed counselor here.