You were 14, and you thought you were living a normal and affluent life in Nassau County, one of the wealthiest enclaves in New York State. Until one day, you had to go to a meeting in a divorce lawyer’s office hired by your mother. You sensed that there had been tension for quite some time, but they try to keep a façade. Later, they would apologize to you profoundly and claimed that they were protecting you.
You didn’t quite know what to make of the divorce, much less understand their apology. The months that followed were tough. But there were good, tender, and insightful moments, like the bond you formed with the family therapist hired by your rich dad to try and keep the family together. Unbeknownst to you then, that bond would help shape some of your beliefs and aspirations.
Money and going to the best schools were not a problem, so you went straight to take up your M.A. in Psychology after your undergraduate program. You now want to follow in the footsteps of Ms. Penny Rostenkowski, the family therapist. Are you ready to become a professional psychologist? How does one become a successful counselor?
Here are some of the things that you need to know:
A Career in Psychology or Counseling
You made the right decision to take your M.A. immediately. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates that it’s the minimum requirement for an entry-level position as a marriage and family therapist. The same goes if you want to become a school and career counselor.
Either way, the starting salary is between $50,000 to $56,000, with the career counselors getting a slight edge. The number of schools and career counselors is about 324,500, while marriage and family therapists number about 55,300.
Exploring the Options
You need to decide what your specialization would be. Here are a few more things for you to consider:
- Deciding your path. Apart from the ones cited in the preceding discussion, you can also think about becoming a substance abuse, mental health, or rehabilitation counselor. Substance abuse counselors assist people with alcohol, drug, or even gambling addictions. Mental health counselors work with people with various types of mental disorders, like anxiety, depression, self-esteem issue, and even phobia. Rehabilitation counselors help in reintegrating into society people with either physical or emotional disabilities, e.g., amputee war veterans and those who have PTSD.
- Key skills and qualities. Compassion, empathy, and flexibility are the top three skills required to become a successful counselor. Future practitioners need to calibrate their compassion and empathy so that they do not assimilate their patient's suffering. Flexibility is essential because you need to take in and understand people’s perspectives no matter how crazy or unreal, they are.
- Licensing. It’s not required for every work setting, but you need to do your research on what your state allows. There is the National Board for Certified Counselors that confers the National Certified Counselor certification. It’s an option, but these credentials always look good on your CV.
These are some of the broad ideas that you need to bear in mind when you finally go out to the world and offer your services. It’s a short list, but it’s a good start.