Counseling psychology provides clients of all ages with psychotherapy that helps them alleviate stress, improve their well-being, resolve crises and function in a more healthful manner. Counseling psychology is similar to clinical psychology, the difference being that clinical psychology normally only treats patients with psychological problems serious enough to require institutional care, while counseling psychology normally treats clients who aren’t institutionalized.
Counseling psychologists specialize in treating clients with mental or emotional issues related to their daily life, such as adjusting to changes in marital status, career or family life. There doesn’t have to be “something wrong with” a person who seeks out a counseling psychologist.
Counseling psychologists are trained in treating serious conditions, so they at times take on patients with serious disorders, though they’re more apt to refer them to a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist. Counseling psychologists aren’t usually allowed to prescribe or administer pharmaceutical, leaving that job to psychiatrists. Some of the most common issues that counselors address include:
- Physical disabilities
- Stress management
- Family problems
- Issues from childhood
- Substance abuse
- Adjustments to a new social situation
- Personality dysfunction
- Work issues
- Depression an danger management
- Rehabilitation from injury
- Eating disorders
Counseling psychologists are normally trained in dozens of therapeutic techniques, such as:
- Behavioral interventions
- Systemic counseling
- Crisis intervention
- Mild anxiety disorders
- Trauma management
- Organizational consulting
- Family counseling
- Group therapy
Counselors are trained to handle a wide variety of problems, but some counselors specialize in dealing with a certain type of issue (like substance abuse or marital problems), while others specialize in treating a certain age group (like adolescents). Some counselors lean toward a certain philosophical approach to psychotherapy, such as behavioral, cognitive, analytical (Jungian), psychoanalytical (Freudian), humanistic (Maslow) or Adlerian.
Types of Degrees
Candidates need to start their post-secondary education by getting a four-year bachelor’s degree, preferably a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in clinical psychology. A bachelor’s degree is enough to get some counseling jobs as a social worker, but not to get licensed as a counseling psychologist.
The aim of undergraduate programs in clinical psychology is to provide general courses in general and clinical psychology to provide students with a well-rounded foundation. Here are some recommended undergraduate subjects for students to consider:
- Abnormal psychology
- Physiological psychology
- Experimental psychology
- Social psychology
- Developmental psychology
- Health psychology
- Forensic psychology
- Cognition and learning
- Behavioral analysis
- Human psychophysiology
- Child psychopathology
Undergraduate students who plan to start a private practice should consider taking a business class.
Graduate coursework includes core classes in psychology and specialized courses in counseling, human lifespan development, vocational psychology, psychological assessment, statistics, consultation, supervision and psychopathology.
Counselors can work in social work with a two-year master’s degree, but in many cases only under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.
Becoming a licensed counseling psychologist requires getting a doctorate degree in psychology, preferably a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree in counseling psychology. A doctor’s degree requires an addition two years after getting a master’s degree, plus at least a year of internship, where they train under a licensed psychologist.
Counseling psychologists can work in any city, for a wide variety of employers, including governmental agencies, hospitals, mental health institutions, law enforcement agencies, universities, corporations and the military.
Most counseling psychologists eventually start their own private practice or form a partnership with other psychologists or other types of health care professionals. Some end up teaching at a university.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website the estimated 2013 median annual wage for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $72,710, while the mean hourly wage was listed at $34.96.