High School Therapist Careers – Become a High School Therapist [2024 Guide]

What is a High School Therapist?

A high school therapist is a specific type of school counselor, where the individual works closely with teenagers. School counselors have the education and training to work with all education levels of children from elementary school to university. A high school therapist is someone who is dependable and informative for their student.

Compassion is necessary for this job in order to work with various personalities, interests and any future plans students have. The work involves developing and setting realistic goals in academia, social situations, and their career path.

Therapists in high schools help students develop necessary skills to be successful in school and their future goals.  They also find their strengths and weaknesses to help with a student’s improvement and goal completion.

High school therapists offer positive growth and development, monitor health and wellness, and may need to report abuse or neglect. This is a rewarding job filled with pride in helping communities and society as a whole succeed by developing students who will become an integral part of both.

What is the Work Environment for a High School Therapist?

High school therapists work in demanding environments, in both the public and private sector schools, where students are edging closer toward adulthood. Students are challenging authority, concepts, and figuring out who they are going to be as an adult.

High schools provide therapists with a full-time schedule based on school hours and may include working during summer school.

What Does a High School Therapist Do?

High school – talk about a whirlwind of an experience. Teenagers have it rough as it is, dealing with raging hormones and overprotective parents. Add that with the drama of high school and it can seem like a recipe for disaster.

High school combines the pressure to get good grades, the heartache of crushes and breakups, the misery of bullying, the struggle to fit in, and the embarrassment of not belonging – all under one roof. And beyond all that drama, high school is a time to find out college plans, career paths, and make some pretty important decisions.

So how does a high school student – who has trouble picking out an outfit and not being late to school – deal with the struggles of adolescence in addition to sort out the rest of their life? They seek guidance from a high school therapist or counselor.

High school therapists help students make that transition into adulthood – one that involves moving out, exploring the world, and gaining true independence. On the path of this journey, high school students are faced with pressure from all angles – pressure to use drugs and alcohol, have relationships, get into the top colleges, and be seen as ‘cool.’

High school therapists employ an array of methods to guide students to the best of their ability, despite these outside pressures.

A student might be interested in pursuing a career in the medical field as a physician. A high school therapist would assess the student’s academic strengths and weaknesses and help prepare a plan for medical school, detailing how to get there and what to do now, as a high school student, to pave the way.

Or maybe a student has pictured a future as a pharmacist, but did not realize the high involvement of chemistry in that field of study. Upon taking an advanced chemistry class his senior year and not doing well, a high school therapist might guide him in a different direction.

Beyond academic problem solving and planning, high school therapists help with emotional and social issues as well. Students learn coping skills from these professionals to help deal with breakups, feeling alienated, or overcoming a fight with a best friend.

Paperwork is part of a therapist’s job to record sessions with students. The main focus is for the high school counselor to be there to listen, guide, and improve weaknesses for the student.

Behavioral and social guidance are also a job duty; however, focus on both occurs in elementary and middle school. In high school a therapist may need to help with developing behavioral or social issues or work on childhood problems for more improvement.

What are the Requirements to Become a High School Therapist?

High School Therapist Education

Education begins by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, or social work. The degree program is four years long with an emphasis on the core courses: psychology, counseling, and social work electives.

Following the bachelor’s degree, candidates need to complete two more years of college to earn a master’s degree with a specialization in school counseling and therapy. A typically master’s degree program includes counseling techniques, and approaches to social, academic, and behavioral issues.

Continuing education courses are necessary throughout the high school therapist’s career to keep up with changes and new developments in their field.

High School Therapist Training

Before a candidate is hired they need to complete a mentoring or internship program. The qualified person will work with an experienced counselor observing their work in order to learn on the job. Many states require a mentorship program before full employment.

High School Therapist Licensing/Certification

Licensure and certification requirements vary from state to state (and employer/job position). However, most states require some form of licensure or certification. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) provide school counseling related certifications.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) offers a list of state requirements for certification. Information does change on the website, contacting ASCA by phone (703-683-2722) provides the most up to date, state by state requirements.

Opportunities for Advancement

High school therapists may advance as administrators, educators or become mentors to students. They may also move into supervisory positions to oversee training and work of other counselors on staff.

What Skills are Required for a High School Therapist?

Successful high school therapists have excellent listening, oral and written communication skills. They are professional, detail oriented, and organized. They also need to maintain formal and detailed records and think critically.

High ethical and professional standards are a must to ensure therapists maintain their legal responsibilities based on state laws with regard to reporting suspected neglect and abuse, as well as handling delicate situations.

Understanding, compassion, and enjoyment in working with high school students are helpful for therapists. High school therapists must be able to judge student potential and personalities to help guide them. Their help, along with the decisions students make, have an impact on their entire life.

Related Reading: How to Become a School Psychologist

What is the Salary for a High School Therapist?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for May 2022 states median salaries are $64,200 per year or an hourly wage of $30.87. For high school therapists’ salaries are dependent on the state and type of school, where salaries can vary from $31,920 up to $86,680 according to US News and World Report. The private high school sector may pay more.

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