Child Abuse Counseling Careers

What is Child Abuse Counseling?

Child abuse counseling is a specific area of practice within the realm of mental health counseling that focuses on helping children and adolescents effectively deal with the trauma of abuse. Counselors in this area of work are concerned with a myriad of abusive behaviors, including that which is mental, emotional, physical, and sexual in nature. Child abuse counseling seeks to shed light on why abusive behaviors toward children occur in the first place, and how to develop treatment strategies to ensure perpetrators of abuse have the skills and tools they need to change their behavior.

Many counselors that specialize in treating child abuse work with the victims themselves. In a clinical setting, the counselor might help a child work through traumatic memories and feelings in order to emerge with a more intact sense of self. There may be a focus on building skills as well, such as improving a child’s ability to manage their anger. Developing strategies for improved communication and increasing a child’s ability to express their emotions in an effective manner are common as well. Typically, topics that child abuse counselors tackle with their clients include fear, distrust of others, feelings of betrayal, intimacy issues, and lack of impulse control. Work on these subjects may take place in the context of play therapy, individual therapy, or group therapy.

Other child abuse counselors also work with perpetrators of the abuse. Work with offenders takes a preventative stance and generally focuses on the root cause of their violence toward children. Child abuse counselors will often conduct this work in a group setting in which several offenders work together to gain insight into their problems. Many child abuse counselors likewise work with families that have a history of abuse or neglect to improve the family dynamic by helping parents acknowledge their role in abusing their child.

Related: Trauma Social Worker Career

What is 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 need 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 child counselors interact 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 their education and experience they can offer each child a chance to work through their past and look forward to their future.

As a counselor in this field it is necessary to understand the relationship between acting out behaviors and the mental health issues behind them. Child counselors help children work through the trauma and move towards living a happy life. It is also important for a child counselor to understand the daily paperwork necessary, as they have to provide clinical documentation to social services, parents, case workers or the court system.

What is the Nature of Work for a Child Abuse Counselor?

As a child abuse counselor it is common for professionals 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 individual sessions the child counselor 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 a counselor will need to have for the children as this population of client will not trust adults easily, mainly because of their past experience. This type of employment is extremely emotionally draining on counselors so it is important to take care of one’s own mental health.

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.

Why Do We Need Child Abuse Counselors?

Although it would be a beautiful thing if child abuse did not exist, unfortunately it is an all too real reality of this world. Abuse can leave a child with a lifelong battle to face. While abuse can be a horrific event for a child, it is crucial that they receive the proper guidance and support from a professional counselor. Children who are left to struggle alone often face uncertain and difficult futures.

Without child abuse counselors, some children would be left without anywhere else to turn. What would these children do if there were no counselors that could help them? While work has been done to reduce the number of children suffering from abuse, there are still plenty of children who are still suffering. Child abuse counselors work with children and caregivers to provide effective intervention strategies. These intervention strategies can vary depending on the individual needs of the child and caregivers, from attachment-trauma therapy to trust development and repair. However, one thing is clear, these children need professional and experienced individuals to help them.

It takes a great deal of skill and expertise to provide intervention strategies that are truly effective. Child abuse counselors possess the passion to not only help these children but also the knowledge and expertise it takes to develop the most effective solutions. Child abuse counselors are able to provide incredibly life changing treatments and interventions for these children. If it were not for child abuse counselors, there would be a lot of children facing a dark and uncertain future.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Child Abuse Counselor?

Since the difficulty of dealing with children who have suffered abuse at the hands of loved ones is so great, child abuse counselors are required to hold at least a master’s level degree although many counselors in this profession hold doctoral level degrees.

Before enrolling into a doctoral or master’s level program, students wishing to enter this profession will usually complete their bachelors in related fields, such as counseling psychology, although most programs don’t have strict requirements. These programs attempt to inform their students about counseling theories, strategies, ethical and legal issues related to the field, how to work with younger subsets of the population, abuse, drugs and alcohol, and so on. As a result, a large portion of their foundational courses will center on these topics.

Depending on whether or not a student is pursuing a master’s or doctoral level degree, his or her education can last anywhere from six to eight years. The supervisory periods and practicums in this field vary heavily between states and institutions. It is common for states to require roughly 3,000 hours of supervised counseling before potential counselors are given the opportunity to apply for licensure.

Where Does a Child Abuse Counselor Work?

Child abuse counselors generally work in the following environments:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Children’s homes
  • Homeless shelters
  • Social service centers
  • Juvenile detention centers
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Private practice

What is the Salary for a Child Abuse Counselor?

The salary you can expect will be based on the education level you have completed. A licensed mental health counselor can expect to make a median pay of $46,050 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics. If you are working during the year after graduation and have not become licensed, you may not receive the normal rate of pay for your child abuse counselor position, instead you may get a lower rate until you become licensed in your state.

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