"I have learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
"Live as if your were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and be vibrantly alive in repose."
The journey is long and challenging, but rewarding.
Mental health counselors or psychotherapists typically work with families, couples or individuals to improve mental well being.
They help clients deal with issues such as depression, self-esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse and stress.
Most counselors have a masters degree or a Ph.D and up to two years of supervised clinical experience prior to a license in your state of practice.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in mental health counseling, you would need to first get a BA degree in either psychology or social work. Upon graduation, you will then enter a masters program in mental health counseling. You can also enter a masters program in social work. If you decide that you prefer to become a psychologist, then you would need to enter a doctoral program that is APA accredited.
There are specializations within the counseling field that you can choose from. The most common are:
School Counseling: Also known as guidance counselors, they typically work in elementary, middle, and high schools. They help students with academic advice as well as provide case management.
Substance Abuse Counseling: These type of counselors provide help to those affected by adiction to drugs and alcohol. They also help their families and develop programs such as support groups and group therapy.
Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy (MFT): Marriage and family therapists provide therapy with a family-oriented perspective to help people resolve emotional conflicts. Their goal is to address a wide array or relationship issues, improve communication, and family conflicts. MFTs work in social service agencies, hospitals, prisons, and private practice.
Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling: A Rehabilitation Counselor is focused on helping individuals with disabilities achieve career goals and independent living. They interview and identify services that provides employment that is best suited to their physical and mental abilities. Rehabilitation counselors work in partnership with job coaching programs, universities, schools, government agencies, and mental health organizations.
It is very important to spend time to look at some of the schools in your area that provide programs in counseling.
Not all schools are the same, and you want to find the best fit for you in terms of curriculum, duration and tuition.
First you want to go to select a school that is accredited. There are two types of accreditation that you need to remember for now: regional accreditation and professional accreditation.
Regional accreditation: This is the golden standard that guarantees that you will be going to a quality institution. There are six regional accreditors in the US. But for now, just be familiar with this term when you speak to a school.
Professional accreditation: This type of accreditation is seen by many as the platinum standard of quality. Applying for professional accreditation is voluntary, and some schools choose not to apply for one.
Professional accreditation covers a specific program or training, and normally accredits schools that are already regionally accredited. For example, the American Psychology Association (APA) accredits some clinical psychology programs that adhere to their standards.
If you are looking for a quality counseling program, it is in your best interest to go to a school that is accreditted by the Council for Accreditation of counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Online CACREP Schools
There are four online schools in the US that offer programs with CACREP accreditation:
This school offers two CACREP-accredited programs that include a master's degree in Clinical Mental Health and another one in School Counseling.
Capella University offers CACREP-accredited master programs in Mental Health Counseling, and Family Counseling/Therapy, Marital, Couple, and School Counseling.
This school offers a CACREP-accredited of science program in Mental Health Counseling.
Regent University offers a CACREP-accredited online Ph.D. program program in Counselor Education and Supervision.
It is recommended that you attend classes face-to-face. You will get a far richer experience by interacting with other classmates before and after a lecture. Many people don't realize that online learning can be tougher and more demanding than regular education.
On the plus side, online schools offer plenty of flexibility and allow you to attend class at your own schedule. But many studies show that you will need to have high self-discipline to complete a class without face to face interaction with other students.
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