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Counseling Psychology

Counseling Psychology, a subspecialty within the field of professional psychology, focuses on emotional, vocational, educational, social, developmental, and organizational concerns for people of all ages. The goal is to facilitate the ease and efficiency in their personal and interpersonal functioning. Psychology comes from the Greek words meaning the study of the psyche or soul. Counseling comes from the Latin, meaning advice or consultation. The two combine involve advice for the psyche and soul.

What We Do

Counseling psychologists collect information about a person by interviewing them, taking a case history, observing them, giving them tests, and using other assessment tools. They use this data in their counseling, either individually or in groups. The goal is help an individual understand her problems and deal with chronic or crisis situations. The psychologist helps the client define her goals and come up with action plans that are realistic.

Other duties can include supervising interns and psychologists in training, analyzing data, consulting with agencies and other professionals, referring clients to specialists, and evaluating methods for reliability and usefulness.

Why It’s Hot

More people turn to therapists for help with self-improvement, figuring themselves out, and professional help in moving beyond dysfunctional behaviors. Boomers are aging and looking for answers before it’s too late. Parents are intervening earlier when children exhibit problems socially and in school.

Those with doctorates will encounter competition from therapists with master’s degrees, but the field continues to grow. Overall, the field of psychology is growing at a very healthy 12% annual rate, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Work Environment

Counseling psychologists usually work in an office where they counsel clients. Teachers work in a classroom. Some may work in community mental health facilities, hospitals, military organizations, jails, rehabilitative settings, and retraining centers.

How to Do It

Students need to go through an accredited master’s and doctoral training program, then become licensed by their state after graduating. Here is a list of accredited programs provided by the American Psychological Association.

Pros & Cons

There are many benefits when you choose to become a counseling psychologist, including:

  • Helping people with their problems.
  • Good pay, about $73,000 average in 2011.
  • Job growth estimated from 12 to 22%.
  • Choice of settings to practice in.
  • Appealing to those who enjoy being self-employed.

But it can have downsides. Here is a look:

  • The cost and time involved in 9 years of education.
  • It can be emotionally draining to listen to people’s problems on a daily basis.
  • Often requires evening and weekend work, as well as time spent on call.
  • Continuing education is a must to stay updated on new trends and research.

Career Paths

Here is a look at five career paths for which training in counseling psychology can be used.

  • Private psychotherapy practice: trained psychologists can set up a private practice to counsel individuals or groups to help them function better in day-to-day life
  • Community practice: counseling psychologists can offer therapy at community mental health facilities, in the military, in jail settings and hospitals
  • Research: this is usually done in a hospital or academic setting. Skilled counseling psychologists can analyze data and create studies to develop better methods and to assess how current modalities are working.
  • Vocational counseling: this is often done in an academic setting, helping students decide on careers. But it is also necessary in rehabilitative settings, jails, retraining centers, for the military, in government agencies and other places where people are trying to decide on the best career
  • Academic: counseling psychologists can be professors at universities

Financial Aid

There are a number of scholarships available to students who plan a career as a counseling psychologist, include the below five.

  • Minority Marriage and Family Therapy: This scholarship is offered by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and is directed to minority students.
  • Rehabilitation Counseling: This scholarship is offered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration to other institutions to provide financial assistance to those pursuing rehabilitation counseling as a career path.
  • Occupational Therapy: Offered by the American Occupational Therapy Foundation, it is available to graduate students who choose to work in occupational therapy.
  • Addiction and Substance Abuse: This funding is provided by the American Psychological Association for students who want to work with those suffering from substance abuse and addiction issues.
  • Child Psychology: This scholarship is made available by the American Psychological Association for those interested in child counseling.

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Further Reading

For additional information, below are five important publications that can educate you about the profession of counseling psychologist.

  • Psychology: Counseling & Psychotherapy, pamphlet by Inc. Bar Charts, 2011, is a short guide that provides a detailed look at counseling and psychotherapy that is useful for students. It defines the different treatments and their methods.
  • Counseling Psychology, by Charles J. Gelso, Elizabeth N. Willliams and Bruce R. Fretz, 2014, is an updated version of a well respected overview of the profession of counseling psychology. It is helpful for students who want to understand more about this field.
  • Insiders Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology, Revised 2014/2015 Edition by John C. Norcross and Michael A. Sayette, 2014. This is an annual bestseller for students aiming for a graduate counseling psychology program that is best suited for a student’s needs. It has in-depth profiles of more than 300 programs in North America.
  • Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy, Gerald Corey, 2012, this best selling book, in its 9th edition, compares and contrasts therapeutic models.
  • The Counseling Psychologist is an academic journal published since 1969 in association with the Counseling Psychologist Association. The peer-reviewed articles cover the gamut of topics of interest to those practicing in this field.

Suggested Websites

Here are four websites that contain valuable information for students and practitioners.

http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/03/cover-sunny.aspx: The American Psychological Association offers an overview of the job picture for counseling psychologists. It is the site of and offers a range of information.

http://www.div17.org/about-cp/what-is-counseling-psychology/: This is the site of the Society of Counseling Psychology, offering a wide variety of information helpful for students and practitioners.

http://www.abpp.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3364: The American Board of Professional Psychology is an important resource for anyone seeking to work in the field.

http://www.science.fau.edu/student_services/handouts/counseling psychology.pdf: This paper, from Florida Atlantic University, offers a detailed look at the differences between counseling psychology and clinical psychology.

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