WHEN PEOPLE imagine a counselor at work, they tend to think of a comfy chair in a quiet room, where a counselor is listening to a client speak. And while that is very often true—there are a lot of counselors who have their own private practice, and rent office space or a counseling room in a business center—counselors actually work in a very wide array of settings.
Let’s take a look and answer the question, «Where do counselors work?» Grammar Schools, Middle Schools, and High Schools It’s not easy being a kid! Children and teens are under a tremendous amount of pressure from parents, siblings, and from other young people. They often have very intense personal issues that they need to deal with, and no one who they can really trust. That’s where a school counselor can really make a difference. School counselors work with students to ensure that they are achieving scholastically, but also work to maintain mental health and emotional stability. Just like teachers, school counselors have weekends, holidays, and summers off, and many also have a private practice to increase their income.
Colleges and Universities Just as younger students need a listening ear, university students often need someone to talk to. Many college students are living on their own for the first time, and the transition can be difficult. Because college-aged students often face a number of very specific life problems (drinking, drugs, dating, sexual activity) as well as all the routine difficulties of life (relationships, home responsibilities, and the pressures of being an adult), they often need someone who they can turn to for support and counseling. Just like school counselors, university counselors have weekends, holidays, and summers off, and may have a private practice in order to make some extra cash. Hospitals and Medical Settings In every hospital in the United States, there are people who are suffering from various conditions. Hospital counselors are employed to help people deal with diagnoses, learn to live with diseases—or prepare for their passing.
They may hold family counseling sessions and help family members increase their communication and problem-solving skills, or they may run support groups for people who all have the same illness. Hospital social workers often work with a health care team, that includes a medical doctor, a team of nurses, a social worker, and a rehabilitation expert. Psychiatric Units The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that one in four Americans suffers from some type of diagnosable mental health condition. When those conditions become very serious, some people require focused care, and spend time in a psychiatric unit. Counselors in a psychiatric unit provide counseling services for people who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
They may also counsel family members, and provide psycho-education classes to the local community. Like hospital counselors, they often work with a health care team, in order to provide comprehensive care for patients. Mental Health Clinics Every state has a number of mental health clinics (usually one or more per each county). Each of the clinics will offer mental health services to community members, and provide free counseling sessions, support groups, and referrals to other government-sponsored mental health programs. Counselors are hired to provide therapeutic services, and often work with local social workers to provide assistance for community members who are in need. Click here to find local mental health clinics in your area.
Rehabilitation Centers The term «rehabilitation center» can refer to a wide number of settings, include drug and alcohol rehab centers, to physical rehabilitation centers for people who have suffered a debilitating accident or disease. Counselors in a rehabilitation center provide encouragement, problem-solving strategies, and relationship-building activities for clients. They may also run support groups, or hold family counseling sessions to aid those who are not directly involved with the patient, but who are also heavily influenced by the issue. Nursing Homes Not all nursing homes offer counseling services, but the current trend is that many long-term care facilities offer therapeutic interventions for residents and their family members. Work with aging is called gerontology, and it is a growing and important field of counseling that deals with later-in-life issues, physical health, and services available to senior citizens. Counselors are often employed by nursing homes, and like hospital counselors and psychiatric unit counselors, may work with a health care team to care for the patient. Military Bases The life of a serviceperson can be extremely difficult.
Among soldiers, there is a very high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and many soldiers suffer greatly both during the term of their service, and afterward. Trained counselors are often employed to help soldiers with mental health disorders related to service. It is important to mention, however, the PTSD is not the only issue that soldiers suffer: the rate of sexual assault on female soldiers is incredibly high, with some research suggesting that a female is more likely to be sexually assaulted when she is in the armed forces than when she is a regular civilian. Military sexual trauma is a very severe problem in the armed forces, and counselors are trained to provide interventions related to sexual assault.
A police officer’s professional life is filled with high-pressure, high-danger situations, and many suffer mental health disorders because of their employment. A counselor is often employed to help police officers process difficult experiences, and may provide interventions to promote positive expression of emotion. A counselor in a precinct setting has a difficult job, because police officers are often reticent to share their feelings, but many find the work very satisfying, and feel that they are providing a valuable service and «giving back» to their community. Prisons and Correctional Facilities The incarcerated population often has a number of personal issues that they need to work through. They may have suffered abuse, have addiction issues, or come from a disenfranchised area.
Many would like to lead more satisfying lives, but have a difficult time finding guidance. A counselor in a correctional facility can provide therapeutic interventions, motivational interviewing, and community support for an incarcerated person who wants to experience personal growth. Private Practice Last, but not least! A very high number of counselors decide to open up their own practice, and see clients from their own communities. They may advertise their services using local media, or may get clients from referrals from health insurance companies. Many counselors in private practice enjoy the ability to make their own hours and determine their scope of their practice; others find that they miss the interactions they had with other counselors when they worked in a larger setting.
We’ve written a longer post about private practice, that details some of the positives and negatives. Wrap-Up and Final Thoughts When they ask, «Where do counselors work?» many people are surprised to hear that therapists have opportunities to work in a number of different settings. It makes sense that counselors would be hired by prisons and military bases, but it’s not the first setting that comes to mind. Do you have any questions about counselors and the work settings they inhabit? Or have we forgetting a few other settings where therapists work? If so, leave a comment below and let us know!