How Do I Choose The Right Counseling Career Path?

The diversity of specialties in the field of counseling can make it difficult to narrow down a specific counseling career path. Among the specialties and degree paths for counselors are school counseling, addiction counseling, marriage and family therapy counseling and professional counseling. Each one of these career paths has different requirements, most of which include a masters degree and passing a state examination. Which one of these career paths as a counselor is right for you and how do you know? Here are some specific benefits and requirements for each to assist you in your decision.

Addiction Counselors

Addiction and substance counselors work with individuals that suffer from alcoholism, drug abuse of all kinds, eating disorders and other specific addiction problems. The work location for a substance abuse counselor can be varied. They may work in hospitals or community centers, they can work within the school system or for the government. They may also run programs in prisons or churches. They may also own their private practice, and depending on their credentials they may be able to receive payment from insurance companies. Each location may have their own requirements for addiction counselors, and if you choose this as your counseling career path, you will need to check your state and company requirements, the education requirements may be just a high school diploma with training to a masters degree. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average salary of an addiction counselor is $38,520.

Marriage and Family Therapists

A Marriage and Family Therapist or MFT, must have at least a masters degree in order to practice. Following schooling which usually includes an internship, a prospective MFT must log supervised hours and then may sit for the board exam. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy states that MFTs look at the behaviors in an entire family to address patterns of dysfunction that may influence an individual’s behavior. Marriage or Family Therapy is usually focused on the solution, therapy is temporary and there are well defined, attainable goals. On average, 12 sessions is sufficient to address the problems that couples and family groups bring to therapy. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) states that average annual pay for an MFT is $49,270. If you are solution focused and like to see the bigger picture, how relationships affect an individual, the MFT counseling career path may be right for you.

Licensed Professional Counselor

Licensed Professional Counselors, LPCs, hold at least a masters degree in counseling and may work in a variety of situations. Along with MFTs, the LPC must have supervised hours and sit for the national exam prior to being licensed to practice. LPCs provide mental health services to individuals, and some may work with couples and families. An LPC can provide services for a wide variety of issues, and within the LPC framework there is a lot of freedom to specialize in one of the many areas of counseling, including working with children, focusing on depression or anxiety, etc. The BLS has an average annual salary for LPCs at $43,290. An LPC counseling career path is good for individuals who like to treat a variety of issues, or do not know specifically in what area they may specialize in the future.

Counseling is a diverse and varied field, with many intriguing potential career paths to choose from.  Check out “The Nutrition of Mental Health” for more information.