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What Are the Different Types of Counselors?

guidance counselor 11.2013The type of counseling most people think of – and the type you will learn to do if you pursue a degree in counseling psychology – is of the mental and behavioral health variety. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies many different counseling professions.

Specialties within the Counseling Field

Mental health counselors are the most generalized. They work with a variety of patients dealing with a variety of problems. Counseling psychologists do similar work, though they must earn a doctoral degree to practice and may specialize in helping patients with clinical disorders.

Marriage and family counselors help improve communication within families. These counselors work with married or unmarried couples, siblings, troubled child-parent relationships or an entire family unit. Because family dynamics are so complex and have a significant influence on individuals' lives, healthy family relationships and patterns of communication are especially important to social and emotional well-being.

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work specifically with patients who are suffering from an addiction or behavioral disorder. These professionals have to address not only the substance abuse or unhealthy behavior, but also the underlying causes that led the patient to engage in the behavior. For example, a person addicted to alcohol or drugs may be self-medicating to cope with feelings of depression, while a patient with an eating disorder may have an unhealthy perception of his or her body image.

Rehabilitation counselors work with disabled patients. A debilitating injury or illness can cause a number of drastic physical and emotional changes. Counselors in this specialty help patients find ways to cope with these changes by teaching them strategies to live more independently, helping them understand and work to resolve emotional issues and transition into a new academic or career path.

School counselors help students succeed academically and plan for the future. Career counselors advise individuals on making personalized career decisions, preparing for a career and securing a position. Both of these professionals may also help clients deal with stressful situations that occur during the course of their academic career or job preparation.

Other ‘Counseling' Job Titles

The word ‘counselor' is used in a number of job titles not related to mental health. Genetic counselors who help people understand genetic disorders. Credit counselors and loan counselors help clients understand the short-term and long-term impact of certain financial actions. What all of these job titles have in common is that they, like mental health counselors, work with individuals to increase understanding of situations and ensure that these individuals have effective strategies for resolving relevant problems.

No matter the specialty, counselors help people improve their lives by talking through their problems to understand why they occur. It's a counselor's job to help patients recognize problems and triggers and teach them more effective ways to cope with negative emotions, manage their own behavior and interact with others in healthy ways. If you have the calling, working in a specialized branch of counseling can be a rewarding career choice.


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