A career in counseling can be rewarding, and it can give you the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many people, young and old alike. When you are a counselor, you help people overcome their fears, insecurities, and addictions. You give them a space in which they can talk and share, and you give them the opportunity to talk about what they are feeling and experiencing – perhaps both mentally and physically. As a counselor, you get to see raw states of mind and raw emotions, and you get the opportunity to try and help people resolve issues they may currently be experiencing – all through the power of words. So, when you have decided that a career in counseling sounds like it could be just what you are looking for – what should you do to start taking the first steps?
Motivation and Dedication
Training to be a counselor and gaining the experience, education, and skills you need to become certified and able to practice is a process that can take between two to four years to complete. Counseling is not just a career that you can walk into one day – a lot of motivation and dedication are required. You will be dealing with people’s emotions, feelings, and states of mind, as well as talking about issues that may be related to drug or substance abuse or other mental health issues. Of course, you need to understand these areas, and this is why training to be a counselor takes time. Trying to rush the process is not going to be beneficial to you or your career or to your professional development. Establishing and maintaining motivation and dedication to the role you will play, to your professional development, and to your education is crucial. Without this motivation and dedication, you may not give the role everything you have to offer, and ultimately,this means your patients or clients will not get the best treatment that they need.
Start Building a Support Network
When you are building a career as a counselor, you can find that the process is isolating and physically and emotionally demanding. Trying to deal with everything by yourself is not recommended. Building a support network of friends, family members, and other working professionals is important. There will be times when you need to talk about how you are feeling, and there will be times when you need to share or vent your emotions. If you are not giving yourself the opportunity to do this within safe and secure surroundings, then you may find that your own thoughts and feelings consume you when you are at work and liaising with patients – and this is, of course, not professional.
Adopting a New Mindset
When you are helping others overcome their issues and problems, you need to also look inward and focus on the mindset you have. To succeed in counseling, you must have a strong mindset that is focused on growth. When you are focused on growth, you will be focused on lifelong learning and development. Without this mindset, you will struggle to build a sustainable and long-lasting career. To adopt a new mindset, you must think about what you want to achieve inyour career. The mindset that you begin to carve (even in the early stages) will set you and your career up. If you are struggling to adopt a mindset that you feel is suitable or what you are expecting for your new career, then you may want to look at getting a professional coach on board. Sometimes,wanting to make a change and actually making a change are things that never align – however, when you get a coach on board, they can help everything fall into place for you.
Getting a master’s in counseling
Most states require you to have a master’s in counseling to practice. Without a master’s in counseling, you will not get your license or certification from the state within which you wish to work. To get your master’s, you need to be prepared to commit two to four years (dependent on when you study). You can study online, and this will enable you to study flexibly around your family and life commitments. When you are choosing where to study, you need to be sure that the university or college is as invested in you as you are in them. Take time out to research providers and take time to get in contact with them. Reach out and see what they are offering. Not all master’s programs are created equal, and not all providers offer the guidance and support you need. When you are embarking on a new career, you want to have support in place and you want to be sure that you can get this from the provider that you choose.
Choosing a Specialism
There are a lot of areas and fields within which you can work in counseling, and it is important to establish which area or specialism is right for you. For example, would you like to assist and help families, or are you wanting to focus on those who may be suffering from other health issues, such as mental health issues and struggles? What is important to you, andwhich direction do you see your career going in? If you are unsure about which specialism to choose, then you must look at the advantages and disadvantages of each and try and gain voluntary experience (where you can) when you are studying to establish exactly where you want to focus your efforts. Take time out to focus on a specialism, and choose one that is right for you; this will then allow you to focus all of your effort on your future.
Focusing on Future Plans
Even as you are just embarking on a new career in counseling, it is still important to focus on future plans. Establishing what you want to achieve within your career and establishing goals is crucial to your success. So, would you like to succeed in a counseling career that supports families within the next five to ten years? Or would you like to help those adults who may be struggling with addictions? What are your future plans, and how are you going to bring them to fruition? When you are establishing future plans, it is a good time to start formulating a career plan and an action plan – especially if you are kickstarting your new career around a family and around being a parent. When you have an action plan, you can establish where you need to focus your time and your energy. When you align a career plan with an action plan, you can be sure that the two meet in the middle.
Professional Development and Education
Once you have your plans in place, you then have to continue focusing on your education and on your continued commitment to professional development. Methods of practice, ways of working, and skills required for counseling will change over time, and it is important that you always invest in your education and development. If you do not, then you may find that you do not become the counselor you once hoped you would be. Embracing lifelong learning and shifting your mindset to pursue development, education, and learning is important. When you are first starting out in a new career, you will have setbacks, you will face criticism, and you will most likely be challenged. To improve what you are doing, and to focus on a career that lasts, you must be prepared to accept this, and you must be prepared to learn (especially within your first year).
Gaining Valuable Experience
All experience that you can gain within your new career will be game-changing. Whether you seek out paid or voluntary experience in counseling – it will all be valuable and useful in helping you build a reputation and, eventually, a sustainable career. Utilizing your support networks to help you land suitable positions – as well as making good use of youreducational provider – will help you get your career off to the best start.
Building Your Skillset
To achieve the career that you want, you have to invest in yourself. Investing in every area of your career will help you achieve your long-term career goals. Part of investing in yourself involves building on (and improving) your skillset. As a counselor, you will have occasions where you will have to liaise with a multitude of professionals (you will not always be working on your own). The skillset that you will have and utilize in these situations can aid a patient or it can be a setback. Improving weak skills and enhancing stronger skillsis what you should be focusing on. For example, if you are excellent at communicating and listening but not so good at delegation, work on this – as you will not be able to do everything on your own all of the time.
Looking at previous work experience and how you deal with social situations will help you see what skills you need to build upon for career success.