Becoming a Community Program Counselor

Community Program Counselors help people to overcome physical, mental and emotional problems resulting from various concerns such as health care, career, immigration concerns, discrimination issues, elder care, unemployment, family disputes or other social issues. They create awareness and educate individuals or a community to promote physical, spiritual and emotional wellness. Their responsibilities include interviewing and evaluating their clients, identifying their needs and goals, designing strategies for solving the problems and helping to implement and maintain those strategies. They also act as a liaison between the service providers from different areas and the people of all ages, groups and families.

Community Program Counselors are employed in varieties of settings, such as health care centers, rehabilitation facilities, prisons, educational institutions, NGOs or private practice. They usually work full-time in an office setting and may work in nights, evenings and weekends depending on their responsibilities and the size of the settings. They may also travel different places on the demand of their clients.

Educational Requirements

To become a Community Program Counselor, the aspiring candidates need to earn a two-year master’s degree in community counseling, psychology or a related discipline from an accredited institution. The course work includes topics on psychology, human development, social and cultural diversity, research, program evaluation etc.

Licensure and Certification

The requirement of licensure differs for Community Program Counselors depending on their field of specialization. For instance, all marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors need to be formally licensed in all the states, while substance abuse and rehabilitation counselors need not to be licensed in many states.

These professionals can obtain exam-based certification from different organizations according to their areas of work. For instance, the Association for Addictions Professionals (NAADAC) offers different types of certifications to those who wish to work in substance abuse counseling.

Skill Set

Community Program Counselors possess varieties of traits such as ability to show empathy and compassion to the clients, willingness to ask questions and accept feedback, ability to work collaboratively with diverse professionals, crisis management and decision making abilities, understanding patients’ emotions, ability to maintain clients’ privacy, tolerance of occasional awkward behavior from clients or their family members, ability to motivate people, effective communication and interpersonal skills etc.

Job Outlook and Salary

The job outlook for a Community Program Counselor remains outstanding across the USA. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the growth rate for job opportunities in this profession may rise 29% during 2012-2022. The average annual salary of Addictions Counselors differs as per their specialization. According to the BLS in 2011, the average salary of a School and Career Counselor was $57,000, while Marriage& Family Therapists and Behavioral Disorder Counselors earned around $49,000 and $43,000 respectively.