How to Become a Christian Counselor

Are you a person of strong Christian faith? Do you want to use that faith to help others overcome life’s difficulties? If so, you should consider a career in Christian counseling. This article will tell you everything you need to know about a career in this profession, and if you have the right personal qualities to be successful in it.

What Does a Christian Counselor Do?

Christian counselors do work that is similar to mental health counselors, the main difference being that they are employed in a faith-based setting. In addition to therapeutic techniques employed by counselors in the secular workplace, they address mental health and trauma issues from a religious perspective. They are often employed in private or religious settings. Counselors often work with clients individually and in group settings, depending on the needs of the client. Types of therapy that Christian counselors often provide is grief counseling, trauma counseling, substance abuse counseling, and marital counseling. Christian counselors can also focus on working with children if they particularly enjoy that age group. There are a variety of therapies out there for counselors to employ, but one of the most common is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps clients address distortions in their thinking that lead to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Mental illnesses that are often treated by counselors include clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and eating disorders, among others. Outside the realm of psychological disorders, some Christian counselors may help their clients escape from poverty by going back to school and finishing their education, or they may assist them in finding gainful employment.

Education/Licensing

Becoming a Christian counselor, like any type of counselor, requires an extensive education. The prospective student must complete an undergraduate degree, preferably in psychology, social work or a related area, and then attend graduate school to focus on counseling or a similar program. Typical courses for counseling majors include general psychology, abnormal psychology, sociology and child development or adolescent psychology. Other helpful courses may include, Bible study, pastoral theology and faith-based counseling. After obtaining a master’s degree, you’ll have to become licensed to practice in your new profession, and this usually requires 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, but this can vary from state to state. Check with your state’s Department of Education for more information. After you receive your license, this may not be the end of your education, as many states require you to take continuing education courses and renew your license every so many years. Professional licensure can often be obtained through groups such as the National Christian Counselors Association, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Work Experience

As previously mentioned, most states will require you to perform between 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised experience before you become licensed.  You can also seek out internships at private Christian counseling practices to gain experience in this specific field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many internship programs are geared primarily toward master’s degree students, so you may have to wait until graduate school until you can complete an internship. Check with your academic advisor for more information. It is vitally important for students who are interested in a counseling career to gain practical, hands-on experience in the field, as working with clients in deeply personal and difficult circumstances requires the utmost professionalism.

Personal Qualities

Simply put, if you wish to succeed as a Christian counselor, you must possess compassion in spades and a deep, well-rounded Christian faith.  Knowledge of the Bible is a definite, as you may need to draw on various verses and stories in y our therapy practice. In addition, you will need the ability to listen, truly listen, for lengthy sessions, in order to develop an understanding of your client’s personality, his or her troubles, and the best type of treatment to be applied. Strong interpersonal skills will often be required, as you may find yourself serving as an intermediary in familial conflicts. Counselors also need the ability to distance themselves from their clients and avoid becoming overly attached, as this frequently leads to burnout in the profession.

Salary

The median salary for a counselor as of 2011, is $53,000. This amount can vary tremendously depending on several factors, such as experience, employment setting and the focus of your work (i.e addictions, trauma, mental health, etc.). The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the job outlook for counselors is expected to grow at 19 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is on average with other occupations.

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