The most important question that counselors can ask themselves is this: “How can I improve the life of another person?” While questions about salary and job outlook remain important, the most rewarding aspect of counseling is the counselor’s use of their skills to inspire, motivate, and enrich the lives of others.
Self-reflection and supervision
For passionate and driven counselors, self-reflection and supervision are two critical aspects of ongoing professional development.
Self-reflection, or reflective practice, is one of the most important aspects of a counselor’s professional development. In a report titled “Reflective Practice, Supervision & Self Care,” the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors (AIPC) states, “The quest for self-awareness or self-understanding is a major component of effective reflective practice. Counsellors need not only to be aware of their skills, knowledge, and performance as professionals, but also mindful of any personal factors that may interfere or impede their ability to provide an effective and objective service.”
By examining their thoughts, feelings, and actions in the context of their professional practice, counselors can uncover and analyze the biases, assumptions and emotional reactions that could potentially prove harmful to the relationships and work they do with their clients.
Methods for counselors practicing self-reflection include discussions with partners, family members, or friends; thinking alone; and personal journaling. If counselors feel safe being completely honest and authentic with themselves, then journaling can be a particularly effective method to practice reflective counseling.
To practice reflective counseling, counselors develop an awareness of their own strengths and limitations. Self-reflection in counseling is a mindful practice. Counselors are constantly monitoring, evaluating, and refining their performance after each counseling session. Maintaining a reflective practice proves a counselor’s commitment to their ongoing personal growth and professional development. Self-reflection not only helps a counselor grow personally but also professionally – which is to say, it helps improve a counselor’s service to clients.
The processes that can aid effective self-reflection for counselors include evaluating their own performance, developing self-awareness, monitoring the potential for burnout, and ensuring adequate self-care.
A useful tool for counselors undertaking self-reflection is to follow the reflective practice cycle. The structure can be described in five steps.
What issue or situation requires reflection?
Develop new goals and strategies based on the data
The reflective practice cycle assists counselors in learning how to guide their questions. Structuring the process of self-reflection in such a way enables counselors to better understand the process and can make it easier for them to make sense of their findings.
Supervision is another critical aspect of a counselor’s professional development. While studying for their master’s degree, a prospective counselor will complete the necessary supervised field experience, including practicums and internships. This gives counselors-in-training the opportunity to work under licensed counselors’ supervision in real-world settings.
It’s beneficial for counselors, whether they’re experienced or new to the profession, to have regular professional supervision. Supervisors act as mentors to counselors-in-training, providing emotional support as well as information and guidance. In “Reflective Practice, Supervision & Self Care,” the AIPC claims: “Supervision is perhaps the most important component in the development of a competent practitioner.” Supervisors can work with counselors to help resolve issues and avoid burnout in this challenging occupation.
Supervisors bring a higher degree of objectivity to a counselor’s evaluation of their own performance and skills. By discussing counseling sessions with a supervisor, counselors can obtain feedback and view their previous performances and existing skills in a new light. Such conversations provide the opportunity for counselors to learn and practice new skills as well as find better ways to help clients. Since the relationship between a counselor and their client is personal and the content of their sessions is often sensitive, it’s easy for a counselor to become overly involved. If a counselor becomes overly involved with a client, professional boundaries can become blurred. With the support of a supervisor who can spot such tendencies, a counselor can learn to take a step back and stop before their involvement becomes a problem.
Maintaining professional ethical standards is paramount to a counselor’s practice. Talking about any ethical dilemmas with supervisors ensures counselors are better equipped to assess those dilemmas and continue a path to upholding professional standards.
Counseling can be very stressful. Stress-induced burnout is a danger for all counselors but particularly for those new to the profession and those working in agencies with large caseloads. Supervisors can help put strategies in place to prevent burnout for counselors at risk.
The emotional support as well as the information and guidance a mentor provides is invaluable to a counselor seeking to not only grow as an individual but also to improve the lives of their clients.
Become a counselor in the United States
If you’re an empathetic, compassionate, and emotionally intelligent person who wants to improve the lives of others, then a career as a counselor could be a rewarding path to take. Walsh University can give you the opportunity to lead the future of counseling and create meaningful change with its Master of Arts in Counseling and Human Development program. The program offers three specializations that prepare students to become Mental Health Counselors, school counselors, or specialists in dual clinical mental health and school counseling. While the university is in Northeast Ohio, Walsh University Online allows students to complete the program 100% virtually. No on-campus visits are required, which means you can complete the degree entirely in your area.
The top three counseling professions
The three primary counseling professions in the United States include career counseling, school counseling, and clinical mental health counseling.
Career counselors assist their clients in identifying their passions, skills, and interests and then matching them with suitable career options. Career counselors know the local and/or national job market inside and out. They can identify areas in the job market with the fastest growth and, therefore, the most opportunities for their clients. Career counselors are often employed by colleges and universities to assist post-secondary students in navigating the job market after graduation.
School counselors work with students in elementary, middle, and high schools to inspire, motivate, and direct them in their personal, educational. and career pursuits. School counselors act as an essential and accessible resource for children and young adults facing today’s challenges. School counselors bear responsibilities to both students and their parents. It’s important for a school counselor to not only think in terms of schooling but also to look through a wider lens at the societal shifts affecting students and their families.
Clinical mental health counselors help clients by diagnosing, treating, and managing mental health conditions. They work with clients experiencing eating disorders, substance abuse, mental illnesses, and behavioral disorders. Job titles in this area include substance abuse counselor, behavioral disorder counselor, and mental health counselor. It’s essential for clinical mental health counselors to be emotionally stable, communicative, and self-aware so they can put their clients’ needs first. Clinical mental health counselors’ efforts are essential to improving and enhancing the lives of others.
It’s always a good time to become a counselor
It’s fair to say the job outlook for counselors is favorable. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 10% job growth for career counselors and advisors between 2021 and 2031. The same forecast applies to school counselors, which suggests abundant career opportunities for graduates.
In addition to the projected job growth, school counselors can earn a median annual wage of $60,500 per year in the United States. The figure is the same for school counselors; however, it can rise to $63,500 on average depending on the institution. Clinical mental health counselors can earn $48,520 per year (up to £78,000) depending on their placement and expertise.
With good median annual wages and strong projected growth, counseling is an attractive career. While it’s important to know how much a counselor makes or what the current job outlook for counselors is, the most important question for prospective counselors should be, “How can I improve the life of another person?”