Those who work in the field of forensic counseling work with inmates who are either serving time at correctional facilities or are on probation. Forensic counselors offer counseling to individuals who are or who have been in the prison system. They analyze inmates and report on their conditions to authorities in the justice system. Forensic counselors will work with inmates both individually and in groups. They recommend treatments, and they may also be called upon to testify in court regarding patients' mental health.
Forensic counselors work in both a mental health environment and a legal environment. Some of the counseling services that a forensic counselor might offer include substance abuse treatment and parole evaluation. In order to carry out the job tasks of a forensic counselor, individuals must be good communicators. They must spend a great deal of their time communicating with both patients and those who manage institutions such as prisons.
It's important that an individual aspiring to be a forensic counselor be patient and outgoing. They also should be good at handling and collecting information and compiling information into concise and insightful reports. They must be able to work with a variety of people, and they must be sensitive to cultural differences. Skills that are important assets to forensic counselors include problem-solving abilities, the ability to be comfortable on their feet for extended periods of time, the ability to travel, and the ability to drive to a client's house while they are on parole. To help decided if you have the necessary skills to become a forensic counselor, this informal quiz might help.
While forensic counselors will most often find themselves working in correctional facilities, they might also work in halfway houses or other types of facilities where mental health services are needed for those who have broken the law. Typically, forensic counselors will not spend all of their time at one particular workplace, but will be required to travel around to client homes and to other locations. Forensic counselors might be called upon to testify in court, and they may also need to do contract work for government agencies. Forensic counselors typically need to work in situations where confidentiality is very important.
Forensic counselors usually need to continue their educations through the graduate level by earning at least a Master's degree in Counseling. A graduate program preparing an individual to be a forensic counselor will include studies in psychology and counseling. Course titles such as abnormal psychology, social psychology, personality studies, cognitive studies, clinical counseling, and more are typical of a curriculum for Master's degree in forensic counseling. While aspiring forensic counselors usually can choose from a variety of different options for their undergraduate studies, typical Bachelor's degrees for a forensic counselor include education, psychology, and human services.
In addition to academic studies, forensic counselors often have to complete an internship. Usually some type of internship experience is required for state licensure as a forensic counselor. Although requirements differ by state, most states require applicants to complete 3,000 hours of work or internship experience in order to apply for licensure in most states.
A position in forensic counseling offers a rewarding career that will give qualified professionals opportunities to make real differences in the lives of inmates and parolees.