A Master’s Degree In Mental Health, Rehabilitation Or School Counseling: Which Is Right For You?

As opposed to psychologists – who must have a doctoral degree – counselors and therapists typically must have a master’s degree and a state-issued license. But as you may have discovered, master’s degrees in counseling can vary substantially in focus. Which one should you choose? It depends on the type of counselor you’d like to become.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common:

Master’s Degree in School Counseling: Earning your master’s in school counseling specifically prepares you to become a school counselor. These counselors partner with students, parents and education professionals in order to promote academic, social and personal success among students of all ages. They’re not only trained to counsel students, but parents and teachers as well, and they’re equipped to administer tests and assessments to evaluate students’ abilities and interests in matters of education and career. A degree in school counseling prepares school counselors to teach classes about subjects like bullying, drug abuse and college or career planning.[1] [2]

Master’s in Mental Health Counseling: A master’s degree in mental health counseling prepares graduates to become licensed professional counselors (also called “licensed clinical professional counselors” or “licensed mental health counselors”). These professionals are trained in individual, group and family therapy methods to help patients with an array of issues, ranging from the diagnosis and treatment of emotional, mental and behavioral problems and disorders, to personal, social, educational or vocational issues. They work in many areas, including (but not limited to) mental health and substance abuse treatment centers, private practice, colleges and hospitals.[3] [4] [5]

Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling: A master’s in rehabilitation counseling prepares graduates to become rehabilitation counselors. Rehabilitation counselors understand the effects of physical injury, disease or disabilities on an individual, and are prepared to offer counseling and to work with other professionals (such as doctors or physical therapists) to help the patient adjust and heal. Job responsibilities are wide-ranging and encompass not only the physical, but emotional, social and mental disabilities at various stages of life. Rehabilitation counselors are often found in vocational rehabilitation centers, nursing and residential care facilities, and state government facilities (such as Veterans Administration programs), excluding education and hospitals.[6] [7]

Accreditation: Whether you’re exploring mental health, rehabilitation or school counseling programs, it’s advised that you choose a program accredited by CACREP, an independent agency which accredits master’s degree programs in multiple counseling disciplines. For more information, see CACREP.org.

Here are a few tips to help you decide which program might be right for you: -Do your research online about what you can expect in this career specialization; -Ask those that know you well if they believe the specialization is a good fit for you; -Contact a local individual in the field and ask if they would mind answer some questions; -Seek out a facility that offers these services to inquire about volunteer opportunities; -Talk to the university’s alumni services for an idea of potential job oppertunities after graduation.

[1] BLS OOH, “What School and Career Counselors Do,” www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/School-and-career-counselors.htm#tab-2 (Retrieved 6 Feb 2013) [2] Georgia State University, “School Counseling,” education.gsu.edu/CPS/4512.html (Retrieved 6 Feb 2013) [3] American Counseling Association, “Who Are Licensed Professional Counselors?” www.counseling.org/PublicPolicy/WhoAreLPCs.pdf (2011) [4] BLS OOH, “Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists,” www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-1 (Retrieved 6 Feb 2013) [5] Georgia State University, “Mental Health Counseling,” education.gsu.edu/CPS/4504.html (Retrieved 6 Feb 2013) [6] BLS OOH, “Rehabilitation Counselors,” www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm#tab-1 (Retrieved 6 Feb 2013) [7] Georgia State University, “Rehabilitation Counseling,” education.gsu.edu/CPS/4510.html (Retrieved 6 Feb 2013)

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