Clinical counseling is a branch of clinical psychology that helps people as they navigate emotional or mental health difficulties. Clinical counseling can also be considered part of professional counseling and social work fields.
Bethany Lohr, PhD, faculty chair in Capella University’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences Department of Psychology, outlines the basics of the profession and career opportunities that exist in the field.
Q. What kind of skills are important in clinical counseling?
A. Practitioners help individuals, couples, and larger groups as they deal with personal issues, ranging from divorce to the death of a loved one. In addition, practitioners can diagnose and treat disorders like depression or anxiety.
Empathy is important, of course, but so is education and experience. In today’s world, the impact of those with a background in psychology is both deep and wide-ranging: A seasoned and trained psychology practitioner can help people successfully navigate challenges ranging from substance abuse to family conflicts to work stress.
Q. What career opportunities are worth exploring for someone with a degree in this field?
A. Those with a degree in clinical counseling may work in a variety of settings. They might work in a hospital, assisting patients or doing assessments. They could work in a community-based agency, at almost any level. In some cases, they set up their own small business and work in private practice.
When in practice, they can choose the kind of population they want to work with, such as adults, adolescents, older individuals, or people with disabilities, to name a few. They may work with all these groups or exclusively with one of them, depending on the nature of their particular counseling practice.
Q. What skills and abilities do you develop in a clinical counseling program?
A. To succeed in a program in clinical counseling, students must hone their communication and analysis skills. They need to be able to talk with clients and colleagues, analyze research, and apply research findings.
It’s also essential that they understand the importance of professional and ethical standards in the field. Integrating key theories of psychology with real-life practical situations is a vital component of clinical counseling education.
Q. What kind of education is required?
A. In most states, a master’s degree is required to practice as a professional counselor or therapist. In all states, a doctorate is required to be a licensed psychologist. Typically, undergraduate students with an interest in going into a clinical counseling program begin with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, education, or human services and then move on to a master’s degree.
Master’s-level education in clinical psychology is rooted in evidence-based practice. Students immerse themselves in psychological theory and apply this knowledge to help solve problems with people with whom they work. They learn to assess clients’ strengths and weaknesses through psychological testing and effectively communicate psychological concepts.
Q. Does licensing matter?
A. It does. States require individuals to be licensed in order to ensure that they are fit to practice and benefit clients. The requirements for licensure vary by state, but often they require not only a master’s degree or higher but also the completion of specific coursework, fieldwork, and/or passing an exam.
Learn more about Capella’s Master’s in Clinical Psychology, Clinical Counseling program.