Dr. Cindy Nelson is a graduate of Texas Woman’s University and has been a practicing family and marriage therapist since 2001. She specializes in: grief counseling, relationship issues, trauma recovery, depression, help with transitions and major life changes.
While completing your master’s degree, there is plenty of information you will learn regarding theories and techniques needed to become a skilled counselor. However, schools can fail to inform students about less academically centered components of their career and you should start focusing on them as soon as possible. Here, I’ve listed a few pieces of advice for you to consider as you prepare to become a counselor. Whether you attend school part time or full time, you need to be aware of the time necessary to complete a semester of study. Class attendance is mandatory, but it is a small percentage of your time invested in each three month semester. Reading class materials so that you are prepared for class discussion, writing papers, and planning presentations are among the requirements for success in graduate school. I remember saying to myself, “School vacuums up 3 and ½ months of your life each semester.” Don’t let that distract you from your goal. Just know that there is a commitment involved. Research shows that perseverance is a stronger predictor of success in college than almost any other variable. In other words, perseverance counts more than external factors like standardized test scores, income levels, and whether the student’s parents are college graduates. Also important is choosing a college that is accredited and that offers the course curriculum you are most interested in. When it comes to the type of counselor you can become, there are many options. Are you interested in teaching? Many universities offer programs that prepare you for teaching in public, private and college settings. College teaching also gives you the opportunity to do cutting edge research in your field of interest. Further, agency work is a great place to hone your craft and get excellent supervision and experience. From local, private, non profit agencies to state and national government organizations, like MHMR, you will find many opportunities to enter the field right out of college. Many corporations, large and small, employ licensed counselors and psychologists. You can work in their in-house human relations department, helping those who may be going through an emotional challenge. You can also help create business policies and business models that improve quality of work life within the organization. Counselors may also assist in employee screening. Finally, sales and marketing will often use a psychologist’s understanding of human behavior to reach a targeted audience or develop a strategy to grow sales. What is most important in choosing a college, however, is knowing that it is accredited, that it offers the course curriculum you are most interested in, and that it prepares you for licensure. You must have a solid foundation in the major theories and in ways to apply them to the general population. Having that sold foundation will prepare you for any of the areas I’ve just mentioned.