How Do You Become a Grief Counselor?

When you become a grief counselor, you have the chance to work with those dealing with periods of intense grief. You might work in a public health center that offers affordable counseling for people living in the community, in a church that offers group sessions for those mourning the loss of a loved one or even for a funeral home or mortuary. You typically need a bachelor’s degree to work as a counselor, but you may need to meet other requirements in your state too.

Get a Bachelor’s Degree

You might think that you can work as a grief counselor because you have experience grieving a loved one, but most employers will not hire counselors without some type of college degree. Studying psychology in college is a good option, because you will take classes on human behavior and learn more about the mental illnesses related to grief. You may want to major in social work instead. Many social work programs include courses on death and dying, suicide, grief counseling and similar subjects. Once you finish one of these programs, you can apply for a social work license in your state.

Check State Requirements

Do not assume that once you have your degree in hand that you can go out and land a counseling job. Many states require that you have a license or certificate before working as a counselor, and states have their own requirements for who can get a license. Some states will only award licenses to medical professionals, including those who work as doctors or nurses. Other states will only grant licenses to those with counseling experience or those who worked in funeral homes in the past. You may need to pass a criminal background check too.

Obtain Certification

Though you may need a license to work as a grief counselor in your state, getting certified is a voluntary process. You should check into getting your certificate though because it will increase your chances of finding a job. The American Academy of Grief Counseling is one of the main organizations that grants this type of certification. According to its website, you must meet one of its prerequisites before signing up. The certification program is only open to licensed funeral home directors, practicing doctors and nurses, ministers and other professionals as well as those with a graduate degree.

Look for Jobs

Once you meet all the requirements to become a grief counselor, you still need to find a job. One of the first places to look for open positions is in funeral homes in your city. Funeral homes hire counselors to meet with the families and friends of departed people to help them make decisions regarding what to do next. You may find work in a counseling center, including private treatment centers and community health centers. These facilities hire counselors who can work with patients having a hard time overcoming their grief or depression after losing a loved one.

Related Resource: What Careers are in Christian Counseling?

If you have good communication skills and feel comfortable working with different types of people and helping them recover from loss, you might find a career as a grief counselor highly rewarding. To become a grief counselor, you must meet all the requirements in your state to get a license as well as a college degree in psychology, social work or a similar field.