Becoming a Depression Counselor – Schooling and Degree Guide [2024 Guide]

Last Updated: June 1, 2024

What is Depression Counseling?

Depression counseling revolves around a counselor creating an environment of support and care in which they can work collaboratively with their client to address depression.

Although the goal of depression counseling is to help individuals overcome their depression for good, the manner in which that goal is accomplished can vary widely depending on the theoretical orientation of the counselor.

Some depression counseling focuses on the way in which the client thinks. This type of counseling, called cognitive therapy, is geared toward helping clients catch themselves thinking thoughts that lead to deeper depression. In that regard, depression counseling focuses on helping clients catch these negative thoughts and challenging them.

For example, depression counseling of this form might involve activities that help the client change negative thoughts about the end of a relationship into positive thoughts about growth and change for the better.

Other depression counseling focuses on the individual’s behavior as the source of depression. As a result, depression counseling that focuses on behavior will involve activities that seek to change the way the client acts. For example, behavior-based depression counseling might involve an exercise that helps change the way a client reacts when they receive negative feedback from a loved one.

Interpersonal therapy is another popular iteration of depression counseling that focuses on the social aspect of depression. Clients work with counselors to determine the historical source of depression, but the focus of counseling is on working to improve the status of relationships in the present. This takes the form of gaining personal insight into one’s behaviors and thoughts, as well as building skills for more effectively coping with a wide range of emotions.

While much depression counseling takes place in a one-on-one setting, some group depression counseling does occur. Group therapy typically involves a small group of clients that share their feelings and struggles and support one another on their journey to recovery. In this situation, depression counseling is focused on building a strong network of support that enhances self-esteem, reduces loneliness, and builds social ties.

What Does a Depression Counselor Do?

A depression counselor is a trained mental health professional who will listen to clients in a non-judgmental and compassionate way, and who can be objective to the client’s situation, needs, and circumstances.

A depression counselor helps individuals with various forms of depression, such as clinical or chronic depression, manic depression/bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seasonal affective disorder (SAD), anxiety disorder, post-partum depression, and so on.

In an ideal situation, a depression counselor is the primary point of contact and safety resource for his or her clients. This individual’s role is to provide guidance, mentorship, validation, and emotional support to clients in need.

Depression counselors must be objective and detached enough to give concrete unbiased information and advice, yet also connected to the client in a manner that cultivates trust. Needless to say, this requires a delicate balance. A good depression counselor will deliberately guide each interaction to further the therapeutic relationship and to achieve the predetermined goals.

In certain situations, depression counselors see clients on a short-term basis in order to assist them through particularly difficult life transitions. If a client is facing situational life changes, such as the loss of a job, or the loss of a loved one through death or divorce, he or she might seek the assistance of a counselor to process and to help navigate that situation.

Related: Substance Abuse Counselor Career Information

More long-term counseling situations might be the result of difficulty with clinical depression caused by a chemical imbalance – a condition that could be ongoing and might benefit from collaborative treatment from a counselor and a psychiatrist or family doctor, and perhaps medication.

Other long-term counseling relationships result from situations in which the clients have experienced trauma in their lives. Survivors of abuse or assault stand to benefit greatly from a therapeutic relationship in which they can fully trust another individual, and find a sense of safety and stability.

A depression counselor can utilize a variety of techniques, including cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy, as well as somatic experiencing, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), when processing traumatic events.

Where Does a Depression Counselor Work?

Depression counselors typically work in schools, rehabilitation centers, outpatient mental health clinics, hospitals or other specialized organizations. Many depression counselors also opt for private practice.

Why Do We Need Depression Counselors?

Depression counselors are a very important part of society. With depression being one of the most common mental illnesses, counselors are need to help people deal with the cause of depression which is usually common life questions.

Although sadness is the one of the most dominant symptom of depression, counselors can help deal with the side effects of depression such as fatigue, hopelessness, eating disorders, concentration, and the feeling of irritability.

The main part of depression counseling is helping people recover from depression. Although psychiatrists can help with medication for patients, they only treat the symptoms of depression and help people cope with the present. Counseling can help people recover from depression and get off the medications that got them through the tough times.

Also, there are many types of depression and getting to the source of the depression is the only way to recover from it. This is something that a depression counselor does on a daily basis.

With millions of people diagnosed with depression on an annual basis, it is important to have depression counselors. While psychiatrists are helpful, counselors are able to help people get to the source of their depression and teach people how to cope and begin the healing process.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Depression Counselor?

Specializing in the field of depression is a great way to make an impact on individuals and the quality of life they have. People suffering from depression often have lost their jobs, have relational problems, financial problems or other social issues.

By coming to a counselor these individuals are seeking out hope. Through your education, training and work experience you will learn how to provide hope to individuals suffering from depression.

Depending on the type of employment you are seeking it might not be necessary to become a fully licensed mental health counselor. Some non-profit groups offer peer counseling for individuals suffering from depression. Peer counseling will require some specialized courses and sometimes a certificate but typically all work can be completed in a minimal amount of time.

Other education options include completing a bachelor’s degree in counseling, social work or other mental health specialty. Upon completion of your bachelor’s degree you will have to consider if continuing on for a graduate degree is something you will need for the job you are seeking.

Most large organizations, hospitals and counseling businesses will require you to have a master’s degree and licensure. But smaller non-profit organizations and help groups may use individuals as counselors when they have only an undergraduate degree.

Why Become a Licensed Counselor?

If you hope to make a living as a depression counselor it will be beneficial to become licensed in the state you would like to work. Licensing requires more education, training and work experience but does offer a better salary than working as a peer counselor can offer you.

After earning your master’s degree in counseling and working for approximately two years under the supervision of your advisor and clearing the state licensing test, you can apply to become a licensed counselor. Information related to state professional counselor licensing boards is available on American Counseling Association website.

Working as a depression counselor is a rewarding job, which requires educational commitment as well as commitment to your ongoing training. Counselors are typically required to obtain continuing education credits on a yearly basis to maintain their state licensure.

What Skills and Qualities are Required for a Depression Counselor?

  • Objectivity. A depression counselor must remain objective and impartial at all times in order to accurately assess his or her clients’ needs.
  • Empathy. The capacity to empathize with one’s clients will ensure that clients feel understood, validated, and cared for, which in turn builds trust.
  • Assertiveness. Although compassion is important, being assertive and setting clear, professional boundaries is equally important. Often, people who come from difficult circumstances were never taught proper boundaries. Boundaries make the situation safer for both the counselor and clients.
  • Dedication. Clients need to know that the counselor is committed to their wellbeing, and that he/she will work hard with them to achieve the better quality of life that they are seeking, provided that they are committed to the work also.
  • Intelligence. A depression counselor must have a good working knowledge of the field, and be able to demonstrate this confidently to the clients. This inspires trust and confidence in them.
  • A sense of humor. Clients will sometimes discuss the most horrifying and difficult things. When it feels appropriate, (especially if they initiate it), a counselor must allow some levity to be part of the equation.
  • Self-care. The field of depression counseling is incredibly rewarding and it is also stressful. It is imperative that a counselor establish ways to be kind to him/herself.
  • Open-mindedness. Clients need to know that the counselor is not judging them. A depression counselor should keep an open mind, and listen. Listening is key. This may strengthen the therapeutic relationship.
  • A willingness to call a spade a spade. Sometimes clients need to know that what they are saying is incorrect. One should be truthful. This builds trust.
  • Stability. A depression counselor should be a force of stability in clients’ lives. One should be consistent, firm, and trustworthy.

What is the Job Outlook for Depression Counselors?

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics mental health counseling jobs are expected to grow faster than average over the next ten years. No matter what type of economic times our country is having, depression counselors are needed. During poor economic times they might see an increase in jobs available, but even in really good economic times, counselors are still needed.

To increase your job outlook you can cross train in other areas and not just in depression. You could also take special courses in addiction, stress management, couples counseling or family counseling. These additional classes or trainings may allow you to work with clients who are suffering from depression but at the same time have additional issues they would like to deal with during their counseling seasons.

What Occupations are Related to a Depression Counselor?

Depression counseling is a highly specialized form of counseling in which workers treat only individuals that are suffering from depression or a related mental health disorder. Despite this specialization, there are numerous career paths that are closely related to this field, including:

Psychotherapist – Psychotherapy is a specialized treatment for mental disorders. Therapists that utilize this type of treatment are referred to as psychotherapists. These individuals utilize one-on-one and group therapies, usually that are based on talk therapy, to help their clients overcome issues in their lives. Commonly treated conditions are depression, anxiety, personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder, just to name a few.

Counseling psychologist – Workers trained in counseling psychology typically focus on helping clients achieve their highest possible level of personal functioning and achievement at each stage of their lives. This is done by working with clients on overcoming problems related to their emotional, social, occupational, developmental, and educational functioning. For example, a counseling psychologist might work with a person that is experiencing depression and help them overcome that obstacle to achieve improved functioning at home and at work.

Sport and exercise psychologist – One of the primary duties of a sport and exercise psychologist is to help athletes achieve their optimum mental health. Because depression is so common, many workers in this field are often tasked with helping athletes deal with their depression, improve their performance in their sport, and facilitate improved mental health functioning across the board. Sport and exercise psychologists also often investigate the positive impacts that exercise has on a person’s mood.

Community psychologist – One aspect of working as a community psychologist is to determine factors that put communities at risk. For example, community psychologists might look at the incidence of depression among specific members of the community, like teenagers or particular minority groups, and explore interventions and treatments that could be implemented to reduce the prevalence of depression among that group.

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