How to Become a Counseling Psychologist

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The world is starting to recognize and understand the importance of addressing mental health issues and mental wellness. This simply means that professionals in the field will continue to be in high demand everywhere. Remember, mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps to determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health wellness is essential at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Who then assists individuals with Mental Health challenges? Yes, you guessed right. Counseling Psychologists have been the superheroes saving challenged persons from a total mental breakdown. Should you have a keen interest in joining this league of professionals, read on to learn how you can become certified and then, understand the skills that help you become successful in the career.

What is Counselling?

Before we delve into the Who and What of Psychological Counselling, you should understand what Counselling is all about. Counseling is a field that is concerned with helping people going through situational and/or long-term problems. It is often referred to as therapy in recent times as it has advanced tremendously due to research and treatments carried out. You should also take note of these:

  • Only a licensed, certified mental health counselor performs professional counseling.
  • Counseling involves patient confidentiality.
  • There is a wide range of specializations within the field.
  • Counseling is often done in an outpatient clinic or private office.
  • Anyone with or without mental health problems or simply looking for someone safe to talk to can go for counseling.
  • Counseling is based on scientific theories.
  • Counseling is still a developing science

What is Counselling Psychology?

Counseling psychology is a field within the larger discipline – Psychology. It focuses on personalities, human strengths, person-environment interactions, education, career development, and environmental challenges. Practices in the field also include using psychological principles to develop the positive growth, well-being, and mental health of individuals, families, groups, and the community at large.

In other words, a counseling psychologist assists people with emotional and mental health issues to improve and get rid of feelings of distress. They are responsible for bridging the gap between psychology and humanity. With their help, there have been advances in neuropsychological studies.

Responsibilities of a Counselling Psychologist

  • As a Counseling Psychologist, you will assess your patients and identify the problems they have. This includes an assessment of their mental health needs, the risks they are exposed to, as well as psychometric testing.
  • Counseling Psychologists also engage patients in discussions that make them feel comfortable. Doing this helps them establish a working relationship with the patient and activate trust and respect. Such relationships often make it easy to formulate psychological explanations on patients’ issues.
  • Being a Counseling Psychologist, you will have to plan and implement psychological treatments that will help patients understand their feelings and behavior.
  • You will encourage your patients to make positive changes to their behavior.
  • Your duty equally includes constantly monitoring and evaluating patients’ responses to treatments as well as the outcome of treatments.
  • You will organize counseling plans that involve collaboration with other Psychologists and teams of experts. This collaboration may include multiple visits to meet the needs of patients.
  • A Counseling Psychologist is expected to communicate all the complex information to clients, their families, and their care-givers. You must do this clearly – both in writing and in spoken form.
  • You will also be expected to keep detailed records of your patients’ mental health history and contribute to research, either individually or as part of a team.
  • Counseling Psychologists receive regular supervision from senior psychologists to improve their expertise.
  • Lastly, you have to keep learning to develop your personal and professional knowledge and update your skills.

Skills of a Counseling Psychologist

Just as it is with other fields, you need some specific skill sets to thrive as a Counseling Psychologist. This can be through training and education or from different experiences and events in your life. Some of the skills you need are:

Empathy: This refers to your ability to understand and identify with another individual’s experiences, even when they do not explicitly tell you their thoughts or how they feel. As a Counseling Psychologist, you must have the ability to empathize with a lot of people, you must understand their choices and feelings even if you do not agree with them. You will also need to be emotionally attuned to your patients’ individual needs and must be able to help them identify and explain their feelings.

Active Listening Skills: As a Counseling Psychologist, you will need to listen actively to your patients, mirror their thoughts to them, and remember details of the important events and feelings that they spoke to you about. Active listening here also means that you will pay attention to the things your patient is not saying and figure out what that means. If you find that you cannot listen or allow others to contribute to conversations, you must develop active listening skills before attempting to become a Counseling Psychologist.

Good Social and Communication Skills: To become a successful Counseling Psychologist, it is important to have social skills as well as great communication skills. Social skills will help you through the first few meetings with your patient when they might be uncomfortable because they do not know you well. When talking on the phone or via email, good communication skills will help the patient feel comfortable. Patients are more likely to create a good relationship with a Counseling Psychologist that communicates very well as it shows that they are confident.

Critical Thinking Skills: As a Counseling Psychologist, you need to have critical skills so that you can diagnose and develop treatments for your patients. This is because the first treatment plan might not always work and you will need backup treatment plans if the first one does not work. When you lack critical thinking skills, you will not be able to identify what is working and what is not for your patients. You could also fail to detect what is below the surface and miss vital behavioral patterns and explanations.

Some other skills are:

  • IT skills.
  • Awareness of religious and cultural diversity.
  • Ability to work as part of a team and individually
  • Open-mindedness and sensitivity to clients.#

counseling psychologist

Educational Requirements for Counseling Psychologists

To become a Counseling Psychologist, you must earn a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Advanced degrees are also necessary, so you will need a Master’s degree or Doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology. Many institutions offer Psychology as an undergraduate degree. Here are some reputable ones.

  1. De-Montfort University in the United Kingdom: Offers a Psychology BSc (Hons). The program covers core areas including biological, cognitive, developmental, and social psychology. You will learn personality and intelligence, research methods, and historical perspectives. Also, the university has dedicated computer laboratories with the latest analysis software, individual research cubicles, interview rooms, and an observation suite, all supported by its psychology technicians. The tuition for international students is £14,250. The duration of the program is 3 years full-time.
  2. Kent State University in the United States of America: Offers a Psychology-B.S. degree. The program is designed to prepare students for graduate studies in psychology and other related fields. Students learn about stress and trauma, the neural basis of learning and memory, social and biological influences on mental and physical health, growth and development of children, and diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders. The tuition for international students is $20,463.
  3. Curtin University in Australia: Offers a Bachelor of Psychology degree. The degree is designed to teach cognition, emotion, personality, behavior, interpersonal relationships, and how psychologists examine, explain, and predict what people do as individuals and in groups. The duration of the program is four years full-time. The tuition for international students is $37,200 (Australian dollars).

Job Outlook and Salary for a Counseling Psychologist

The expected job growth for Counseling Psychologists from 2016 to 2026: 14% (Faster than average).

  • According to Payscale, the average salary for Counseling Psychologists is £33,278 in the United Kingdom.
  • According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a Counseling Psychologist is $72,661 in the United States of America.
  • Neuvoo lists the average salary for Counseling Psychologists in Canada as  $97,451 annually, with entry-level positions earning $78,438 and experienced workers making up to $117,467 per year.

Cousneling Specialist in a session

Typical Employers of a Counseling Psychologist

Counseling Psychologists can find jobs in many clinical, health, and social settings. Places like private hospitals, health centers, general hospitals, and psychiatric hospitals hire Counseling Psychologists.

A Counseling Psychologist can also work independently, either alone or in a group practice, or as an organizational consultant in the public or private sector, where they may be involved in training, development, or conflict resolution.

Famous Psychologists

  1. Susan Blackmore: Susan began her career in psychology as an advocate of the paranormal. Her work has developed over the years and her recent research interests include evolutionary theory, consciousness, meditation, and memes. She is a visiting professor at the University of Plymouth and has degrees in psychology and physiology from Oxford University. Her Ph.D. from the University of Surrey is in parapsychology, and no longer works on the paranormal. Now she writes for the Guardian newspaper, Psychology Today, and is the author of more than eighty book contributions.
  2. Brenda Milner: Despite being 95 years old, Brenda still works as a Counseling Psychologist. She is recognized as the pioneer and founder of neuropsychology. She is a professor at McGill University’s Department of Neurology and works as a visiting professor of psychology at Montreal Neurological Institute. Her contributions have earned her the prestigious Gairdner Award and more than twenty honorary degrees. Her recent research includes Brain Region Identification and the association of spatial memory and language. In 2014, she was awarded the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience.
  3. Amelio D’Onofrio: Amelio is a clinical professor and director of the Psychological Services Institute at Fordham University. He is the founder of the Institute of Psychoanalytic-Existential Psychotherapy at Fordham. He specializes in looking deeper into the patient understanding, focusing on unconscious processes, and how they play important roles in therapy. He operates a part-time private practice in Westchester and New York City. He also offers consultation to numerous academic institutions and agencies on clinical practice and patient well-being.

Careers Similar to Counseling Psychology

Mental Health Nurse: Mental Health Nurses specialize in working with specific groups, such as children or older people, or in a specific area such as eating disorders, psychosis, personality disorders, drugs and alcohol, depression and anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Psychological Wellness Practitioner: PWPs work to assess and support adults who are experiencing common mental health difficulties such as mild to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and low mood. As a Psychological Wellness Practitioner, you will offer several low-intensity, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based interventions that will help your patients to manage their recovery.

Mediator: Mediators provide equal opportunity for people involved in a dispute to speak without being judged or interrupted.

Postgraduate Options for a Counseling Psychologist

Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology (DCounsPsych) at The University of Manchester: This program will introduce you to a pluralistic approach in therapy, with a focus on humanistic counseling during the first year and cognitive behavioral therapy in the second. The duration of the program is 3 years. The tuition for international students is £19,000.

Psychology MSc from the University of Bradford: This program is designed to allow you to engage in practical work. You will be able to use the extensive psychological laboratory that has been made available in the Division of Psychology. The duration of the program is 1 year and the tuition for international students is £16,840.

Professional Certifications for Counselling Psychologists

American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) Certified Sexuality Counselor: The Certified Sexuality Counselor certification is designed for individuals with a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and two years of professional counseling experience but are yet to be licensed. Core knowledge and supervised clinical experience are required to get this certification.

Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist (CCBT): For you to become a certified cognitive-behavioral therapist, you must have a masters or doctoral degree in psychology, counseling or related field, six years of post-graduate experience providing cognitive-behavioral therapy, letters of recommendation, and successful completion of an introductory certification program in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapist (CBGT) certification is also available.

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