Online School Counseling Programs
For individuals who already have a bachelors degree in addiction, school and general mental health counseling, online school counseling programs represent a way to obtain their master’s degree in counseling while working full-time in that field. While a few states allow counselors to practice with a Bachelor of Science degree and completion of certain continuing education courses, most require practicing counselors to have completed a master’s program as well as several hundred hours of internship experience.
What Types of Online School Counseling Programs are Available?
Several online schools offer online addictions counseling programs to assist students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in attaining licensing as substance abuse counselor.
A substance abuse counselor works with individuals who are suffering from an addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or food. By using therapeutic techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy or positive psychology therapy, a substance abuse counselor is responsible for managing group or individual counseling sessions in a private practice setting, rehabilitation treatment facility or community mental health center.
Coursework offered by online school counseling programs that culminate in a master’s degree include advanced chemical and alcohol dependency prevention techniques, pharmacology, ethics, case management, preventing addiction relapse and family counseling methods. Counselors can also choose to specialize in alcohol or illegal drug use and work in clinics specifically designed to treat individuals addicted to certain substances.
States vary in regards to required licensing and certification procedures. For example, Ohio demands that a chemical dependency counselor (Level II) have at least 6000 hours of documented work experience under the supervision of professional chemical dependency counselors.
Alternately, a licensed independent chemical addictions counselor practicing in Ohio needs to earn a master’s degree in a behavioral science field in addition to 6000 hours of paid employment in a chemical dependency counseling setting. Four thousand of those 6000 hours must be comprised of documented clinical supervisory experience as well as coursework instruction involving ten different areas of counseling addiction.
Students interested in obtaining a master’s degree or receiving continuing education credits by taking online school counseling programs should contact their state’s health and human services department to obtain a list of state licensing requirements.
Elementary, Middle School and High School Counseling
School counselors work for public or private schools and provide support for students between the ages of four and 18 who are suffering mental health, family and/or academic issues. Online school counseling programs provide counselors with continuing education opportunities as well as the ability to earn a master’s or Ph.D while gaining experience in an internship environment. Some states allow people to work as school guidance counselors with a Bachelor of Science degree but usually require that the individual is working on obtaining their master’s degree.
School counselors help students who exhibit behavioral and academic problems that often results in the student receiving detentions, suspensions and poor grades. Because most children referred to a school counselor come from dysfunctional families, the school counselor must also know how to deal with family relationship dynamics that often include physical or sexual abuse and chemical dependency.
General knowledge of childhood psychological and pervasive developmental disorders is also required of school counselors who must be able to recognize serious problems in order to refer them to more qualified personnel for treatment as soon as possible.
Some online schools offer Master of Education degrees in school counseling that consist of a 36-hour program, internship opportunities and courses providing instruction regarding individual, group and cross-cultural counseling. Others provide a Master of Education degree in school counseling that can only be taken by individuals who have a bachelor’s degree and two years of teaching experience. Programs similar to this one are taught mostly online but may include several on-campus practicums as well as a supervised internship.
Marriage and Family Counseling
A licensed marriage and family counselor generally has one of the following titles: MFT (marriage and family therapist), MFCC (marriage, family and child counselor) or LCSW (licensed clinical social worker). Family therapists are employed as private practitioners or can be found working in behavioral treatment centers and psychiatric institutions.
MFTs use any one of a variety of counseling techniques and theories to help families learn how to interact with each other in meaningful and productive ways. Some popular theories utilized by counselors include cognitive behavioral therapy, client-centered therapy, the biopsychosocial model of human behavior and existential therapy.
While marriage therapy focuses on a couple’s communication problems, family counseling deals with all members involved in a problematic and often dysfunctional situation. Consequently, an MFT needs to be familiar with individual counseling techniques as well as clinically effective approaches to group therapy.
Online school counseling programs focus on individuals needing to earn their Master’s degree in order to become a fully licensed family and marriage counselor. Intensive coursework and several thousand hours of field experience are just a few of the general requirements demanded by most states before a license is granted. Always research your state’s licensure information before enrolling in online school counseling programs to ensure you are receiving the correct prerequisites per your state’s requirements.
The American Counseling Association American Counseling Association provides information regarding certification and licensing requirements in addition to valuable resources for individuals interested in earning a counselor’s license.
Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs
The CACREP is an accrediting agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation specifically to endorse master’s degree programs concerning addiction, mental health, marriage/family and school counseling. The CACREP is also responsible for accrediting doctoral programs in education and supervision counseling.
The agency’s website provides a list of all online school counseling programs that they have accredited along with links to that school’s website and date on which accreditation expires.
Job Outlook for Counselors
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the counseling profession is expected to grow nearly 20 percent over the next decade, which is slightly faster than average for all other occupations. The annual salary of an entry level counselor was about $55,000 in 2010, or $26 an hour. As with many other jobs in the mental health services sector, the need for professional counselors continues to rise due in part to the recent economic collapse and the problems created by the stress of unemployment and financial hardship.