A counseling psychologist listens to and help those who are going through a crisis in their lives. You will be working with those who have just lost a beloved family member in an unexpected accident, with couples undergoing upheaval in their relationships because of the infidelity of one party or with driven men and women who are at the crossroads of their career.
You will be working with people from all stages of development—from young children to the middle-aged to seniors. You’ll get the chance to help kids with learning deficiencies and enable adolescents to adjust socially to a new environment. You might have the chance to help an adult who won’t anymore be able to do the regular things he is used to doing because of the sudden onset of a disability. You will have the opportunity to guide retirees who feel depressed at not having anything to do after they stop working.
Unlike a clinical psychologist, your focus will be on helping clients who don’t have mental disorders. Your clients are psychologically healthy individuals who are simply undergoing challenges in their lives and need help in overcoming these in positive and healthy ways. You are a generalist in that you know a repertoire of therapeutic techniques to help your patients. While clinical psychologists also possess this knowledge, they typically focus on those who have serious mental disorders like schizophrenia or substance abuse.
In a typical day, you will be meeting clients and encouraging them to share the issues that are bothering them. You may opt to subject the client to other assessments, such as by letting him take standardized tests and comparing these with the typical results for someone in his demographic. Once you have read the results and talked with the client, you will come up with an explanation as to why he is feeling the way he does or is undergoing such difficulties. You will then formulate a treatment plan which you’ll recommend to your client and set the regular dates for the succeeding sessions to carry out this intervention.
To succeed as a counseling psychologist, you need to be genuinely concerned about people’s welfare and be truly interested in listening to their problems. You also need to be very observant especially with your client’s mannerisms, gestures and words as these provide very rich clues about the problems he is facing. You also need to be patient since therapy can take a long time. You also need to be very good at keeping detailed records of each patient since this is what you will use to determine if you are making progress with the interventions you are giving. You also need to be trustworthy since you need to keep your client’s problems to yourself as this is the foundation of trust between you and your patient. This is also a requirement in your profession.
One of the reasons to become a counseling psychologist is the satisfaction one can stand to get in being able to help people get through the darkest moments in their lives. Whether it is aiding a recently-orphaned child to process his grief or helping a young adult discern where he stands as far as his gender identity is concerned or counseling those who are new to the workforce, a job as a counseling psychologist is always satisfying.
On the practical side of things, psychologists are set to be in high demand in the coming years as more people realize the benefits of going through counseling. Moreover, it also pays very well.
Counseling Psychologist Work Environment
Counseling psychologists can work in schools and educational institutions. They may also work in community treatment centers, hospitals and clinics. Of course, those who have substantial experience in the field can opt to establish their own private practice. The work environment of counseling psychologists is often fulltime and done at regular business hours. However, those who have their own practice have the flexibility of setting their own hours and meeting clients in the evenings or weekends to accommodate their schedules. They may also do part-time work as consultants or as college professors.
Counseling Psychologist Salary
The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wages of clinical, counseling and school psychologists is $72,710. This is a bit lower than the $87,960 paid annually to industrial-organizational psychologists. All other psychologists earned $88,400. There are psychologists who receive six-figure incomes.
Counseling Psychologist Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that the job outlook for psychologists is expected to be positive in the next few years. For the decade covering 2012 to 2022, the employment rate of clinical, counseling and school psychologists is expected to increase 11 percent which is about as fast as the national rate for all types of jobs.
The more stressful lifestyles of today will fuel the demand for more counseling psychologists. As more people deal with job stress, marriage and family issues and other emotional difficulties, more counseling psychologists will be needed to help them cope in healthy and productive ways. The growing population of retirees will also contribute to the demand as counseling psychologists will be needed to help them cope with the transition from work to retirement.
Counseling Psychologist Degree
The educational preparation for a career as a counseling psychologist begins with a bachelor’s degree in psychology or related field. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, aspiring clinical psychologists usually need to work towards obtaining a doctoral degree in counseling psychology. This step typically takes about five years to complete. In the first four years, students are taught concepts in the classroom and are asked to do research and pass their dissertation. The fifth year is reserved for internship.
After completing a doctoral degree, counseling psychologists need to get a license before they can practice their profession. Passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology is just one of the requirements to obtain a license.