How to Become a Child Abuse Counselor

When thinking of becoming a child abuse counselor it is important to understand the skills necessary as well as the situations in which children will come to need your counseling services. Child abuse counselors are an important part of the healing process for children who have suffered abuse, but this is certainly not a job for every counselor. On a daily basis you will be interacting with children who have suffered physical, sexual or emotional abuse. The toll that this abuse takes on children can often manifest strong behavioral issues which require a skilled counselor to work with. Through your education and experience you can offer each child a chance to work through their past and look forward to their future.

Types of Employment

As a child abuse counselor it is common for you to work directly with child victims of abuse. Often this is done through a non-profit abuse organization or other children’s services group. A child abuse counselor is called to work with a child when signs of child abuse are observed or suspected with children. During your individual sessions you will attempt to help the child share information about their abuse to help them work through the difficult trauma. It is important to understand the high level of compassion that you as a counselor will need to have for the children as this population of client will not trust adults easily because of their past abuse.  This type of employment is extremely emotionally draining on counselors so it is important to take care of your own mental health while working with this population of client.

Levels of Care

Sometimes the level of behaviors that children are having will require them to be hospitalized for their own safety or those around them. Inpatient hospitals are where child abuse counselors often first discover a history of abuse for a child. Partial hospitalization programs are also available for children, in these programs the child spends the whole day attending group therapy and other programming then returns home in the evening. Outpatient therapy is when the child is brought in for their counseling session only.

Education

Typically a child abuse counselor will be a licensed mental health provider who has trained in a master’s degree counseling or social work program. In hospital settings many child abuse counselors have received their doctorate degree, called a psychologist. Each educational track will require several years of graduate course work, internships and dissertations.

Work Experience

To work as a competent child abuse counselor it is essential that you train in the field during your education. This training experience is referred to as an internship. Through your internship you gain experience working with abused children while also maintaining weekly contact with a trained supervisor. This weekly contact allows you to ask questions and run through your cases to allow your supervisor to give you constructive feedback that will help you. After you graduate from your college program most states will require you to continue this weekly supervision for a predetermined number of hours before you become eligible to be fully licensed to practice as a counselor in the state.

Salary

The salary you can expect will be based on the education level you have completed and if you have become fully licensed. A licensed psychologist can expect to make a median pay of $68,000 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Individuals who choose the master’s degree instead of a doctorate degree can expect a pay rate around $39,000 per year. If you are working during the year after graduation and have not fully become licensed you will not receive the normal rate of pay for your child abuse counselor position, instead you will get a lower rate until you become licensed in your state.

As a counselor in this field it will be necessary to understand the relationship between acting out behaviors and the mental health issues behind them. Your job as a child’s counselor will be to help them work through the trauma and move towards living a happy life. It will also be important for you to understand the daily paperwork necessary for this type of counselor because you will have to provide clinical documentation to social services, parents, case workers or the court system. Working as a child abuse counselor is a tough job that requires dedication to the children you work with and an understanding of the behavioral and emotional struggles they are dealing with.

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