When you think of counselors, who do you think of? Therapists working with individuals, couples and families? Social workers helping people live healthier and more productive lives? If either of these careers is your first thought, you aren’t wrong, but there are many other counseling specialties that are just as valuable. While each of the following jobs has its own requirements in terms of education and experience, they are all fulfilling and rewarding options that allow you to make a difference in the lives of others.
Geriatric, or gerontological, counseling is becoming more popular as our population ages. These counselors work with individuals and families and help navigate issues related to the aging process, most notably dealing with loss. Not only are older adults dealing with the loss of spouses and friends as they get older, many struggle to live with changes in their own lives due to the loss of their independence, hearing, vision or mobility.
Geriatric counselors may provide assistance and support to those who enter assisted living facilities and are having difficulty accepting the changes in their lives. Another important job for a geriatric counselor is evaluating patients for depression and/or cognitive ailments. Because the signs of depression and conditions like dementia can be very similar, geriatric counselors are often called upon to help make a diagnosis. Because of the increased demand for services, there is also increasing demand for counselors trained in this specialty, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting an increase in new jobs of nearly 40 percent by 2024.
Veterans are another group that often needs help and support in managing transitions in their lives. A significant number of veterans returning from combat have injuries or stress-related conditions such as PTSD, as well as grief, depression and guilt over their experiences in the war zone. However, veterans aren’t the only ones who need help. Military families often face significant stress, and counselors can help teach them coping skills and strategies to deal with the unique aspects of live in the armed services.
A veterans counselor specializes in working with these individuals, and may even specialize further, e.g. working with individuals with PTSD. The primary employer of counselors in this area is the Veteran’s Administration, which requires counselors to attend specifically accredited programs. Although there aren’t any degree programs specifically focused on counseling veterans, there are a number of continuing education options, including training through the National Center for PTSD.
When people feel stuck in their jobs, or they are looking for new ideas to further their careers, they may turn to a career counselor for help. Using their knowledge of human development and behavior, skills and personality assessment, motivation and coaching, career counselors help people figure out what they are good at and what they want to do and then set and achieve goals to help them succeed in their careers. Career counselors might work with schools, public agencies or in private practice, helping others find fulfilling careers. Career counselors also tend to be well-paid, with starting salaries in the mid-$50,000 range for private practice.
Community and Multicultural Counselors
If you want to put your online classes for social work to use, community and multicultural counseling might be a good option for you. A relatively new counseling specialty, multicultural counselors are a unique hybrid of counselors and social workers, who put their knowledge to work recognizing and addressing the mental health issues impacting communities. They become experts in working with specific communities, which might be based on ethnicity, race, religion, family makeup, economic background, etc., and developing counseling approaches that respect and acknowledge the specific aspects and values of those communities. The focus on the cultural factors that contribute to individual and community mental health issue as a means of addressing issues on a larger scale. As communities become more diverse, the need for knowledgeable individuals to provide these services will increase.
Advocacy encompasses a wide range of potential careers, from working with victims of domestic or sexual abuse to holding positions in hospitals as child life specialists, helping kids facing serious medical issues or procedures. An advocate’s work might include taking statements from clients, helping develop plans to ensure their safety, helping prepare for court appearances, access social services and myriad other tasks. Essentially, they are there to provide necessary support to people who are referred by law enforcement, schools, doctors and others. In addition to earning a degree in psychology or social work, advocates are often required to complete additional training in specific areas.
These are just a few of the potential counseling jobs that you may not have thought of before. If you are looking for a field with diverse opportunities for helping others, counseling is well worth looking into.