If you see yourself working in mental health and helping others, it can be helpful to earn a graduate-level degree in the psychological field of your choosing. Counseling psychology is a popular area of study for many graduate students. Earning your master of arts in counseling psychology is a crucial step toward preparing you for a career in several jobs. But what exactly can you do once you’ve earned this degree?
If you have earned a BA in psychology for your undergraduate studies, you will be able to navigate the next steps of your education. This article will describe what counseling psychology is, what you can do with your degree, and what future careers in psychology it can prepare you for.
What Is Counseling Psychology?
Counseling psychology is a psychological discipline that focuses on how people function both individually and within the context of interpersonal relationships with family, friends, and coworkers.
Counseling psychologists help their patients address challenges in their lives such as anxiety, emotional duress, problems sleeping, and family dysfunction. They may specialize in marriage and family, gender and sexuality, and rehabilitation.
What Do Counseling Psychologists Do?
Counseling psychologists provide general health services in professional psychology.
Counseling psychologists focus on how people function personally and in their relationships throughout all stages of life. They help people alleviate feelings of distress, improve their sense of well-being, and resolve issues to become more productive. Counseling psychologists can also assess, diagnose, and treat various psychological issues ranging from mild to more serious.
Counseling psychologists use a holistic approach centered on emotional, educational, behavioral, and social concerns to improve their clients’ quality of life. Counseling psychologists may also work with psychologically stable individuals seeking relief from stressors in their life due to their work, chronic pain, family dynamics, romantic relationships, and substance use.
What Are the Responsibilities of a Counseling Psychologist?
Some of the responsibilities of a licensed counseling psychologist may include:
- Providing patients with better coping and communication skills
- Writing reports and completing patient evaluations
- Assessing and diagnosing clients with various mental health conditions
- Identifying and assigning resources to help clients manage their stressors
- Creating effective treatment plans for clients
- Observing behavioral patterns among clients
- Developing programs for public, community, and hospital education
- Collaborating with family members, healthcare providers, social workers, or case managers
- Assisting patients during crises
Counseling psychologists address clients’ issues within an individual context and as part of a set group to tackle low self-esteem and ease states of emotional or mental distress. Counseling psychologists also teach and research how environmental factors and human traits such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and ability affect one’s psychological well-being and behavior.
Can You Counsel With a Master’s in Counseling Psychology?
Once you have received your counseling psychology master’s degree, you will be able to continue your education to receive a doctorate. After earning your master’s, you may choose to complete either a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D degree). Most states, including California, require counseling psychologists to complete a doctorate before earning clinical licensure as a psychologist to counsel clients or practice under the direct supervision of a licensed doctorate-level psychologist.
However, some states may allow those with a master’s degree in counseling psychology to gain limited licensure to practice psychology. Counseling psychologists with a master’s degree may counsel clients as wellness coaches, school counselors, health educators, or community health workers.
What Is the Difference Between Clinical Psychology and Counseling Psychology?
To find the best psychological field for you, it can help to distinguish between clinical and counseling psychology. While clinical psychology and counseling psychology overlap in terms of work, they also differ in their focus areas. While clinical psychologists receive a wealth of training in psychoanalytic, behavioral, and cognitive-behavioral theoretical foundations, counseling psychologists ascribe toward humanistic and individual-centered practices such as behavioral and vocational programs.
Compared to counseling psychologists who help their clients with various social, physical, and emotional stressors in their lives, clinical psychologists tend to work with patients living with more severe forms of mental illnesses. Clinical psychologists work with many psychopathological diagnoses, like major depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others. A clinical program may require in-depth treatment of specific illnesses and disorders, whereas counseling psychologists have a more generalized psychological education.
How Much Do Counseling Psychologists Make?
While salaries for counseling psychologists can vary, a counseling psychologist in California makes a median of $79.8k per year as of May 2020. Earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology can prepare you for a range of high-paying positions in professional psychological practices. Counseling psychologists in private practices can set their own hours, while those in hospitals, schools, and other healthcare facilities may have to work full-time schedules during regular business hours.
Where Do Counseling Psychologists Work?
Counseling psychologists provide a variety of counseling, assessment, and consultation services to different client populations. As counseling psychologists can work in a wide range of settings, they can provide services to individuals, couples, families and even businesses as corporate counselors. The spaces counseling psychologists typically work in include:
- Rehabilitation centers
- Mental health facilities
- Long-term care facilities
- Public counseling centers
- Correctional facilities
- Independent or private practices
Counseling psychologists can work anywhere there may be a need for talk therapy and direct communication with people facing challenges. As a counseling psychologist, you may find employment in colleges and universities as a professor, researcher, or service provider in counseling centers. Counseling psychologists can also serve businesses, industrial organizations, and rehabilitation agencies independently.
What Can You Do With a Master’s in Counseling Psychology?
If you’re wondering what a master’s degree in counseling psychology can help you achieve, the following list is an excellent start. You can become a therapist with a master’s in psychology, but several future career titles for graduates of a counseling psychology master’s program may include the following:
- School counselor: A counseling psychologist can help students with mental health issues, academic challenges, career development plans, and social skill improvement. A counseling psychologist can offer guidance and advice to students within an educational setting based on insights regarding the school social sphere. School counseling psychologists may also serve as general psychology teachers, researchers, and other mental health service providers.
- Clinical social worker: Counseling psychologists may work as clinical social workers to provide mental health services and an improved living environment. Clinical social workers can work with military members or veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and various losses. They may also work with survivors of trauma or abuse and develop long-term treatment plans to boost their sense of well-being.
- Organizational counselor: An organizational counselor works within organizations and other professional workspaces with employees. Organizational counselors help workers and employees to reach higher levels of efficiency and productivity by promoting emotional and psychological balance. They may also oversee workplace strategies, recommendations, and interventions to help employees to achieve their goals.
- Adult and geriatric counselor: An adult and geriatric counselor assists the elderly and works to understand their needs to ensure they remain mentally sound and healthy. Counseling psychologists must possess the patience and compassion to work with older adults and provide psychological and physical assessment services, counseling, and care solutions. Adult and geriatric counselors also address problems that may interfere with their patients’ overall quality of life.
- Group counselor: Counseling psychologists may work in a group setting to help people experiencing similar issues. Group counselors help individuals better themselves as a unit by facilitating safe and supportive meetings in which they can share experiences. Group-oriented therapy effectively treats mental health on a larger basis and helping a more significant number of people improve their quality of life and personal well-being.
- Sports psychologist: A counseling psychologist can even serve athletes by helping them achieve goals in their athletic careers and personal lives. Sports psychologists help athletes utilize psychology to enhance their sports performance, maintain stability throughout their daily lives, and overcome limitations and mental hurdles. Sports psychologists may often also seek to understand the relationship between exercise and improved mental health.
- Health psychologist: A health psychologist may help people live with chronic illnesses, navigate recovery, and determine the most effective ways to control pain and promote healthier habits. Health psychologists must understand how social, biological, and psychological factors can affect their clients’ illnesses to maximize their clients’ functional capabilities.
Counseling Psychology Career Path
Typically, people interested in counseling psychology will study psychology as an undergraduate student, receive their master’s, and continue on to receive their doctorate to hold educator and supervisory positions. If you find fulfillment in offering help to and supporting others, a career in counseling may be an excellent fit for you. When you decide to pursue job opportunities for counseling psychologists, a master’s degree can help set the stage for many more counseling jobs. Counseling psychology careers combine compassionate people skills with analytical psychology skills.
These jobs vary depending on the specifics of the position, but there are many similarities across counseling careers. Whether one-on-one sessions, family or couple meetings, or group therapy, the fundamental skills that you will need remain constant. If you can help clients discuss emotions, communicate effectively, reflect on how to better their lives, and examine issues from substance use to marital strife.
How Many Years Does it Take to Earn a Counseling Psychology Degree?
At Holy Names University, you can earn your counseling psychology degree in an average of one and a half to two years as a full-time student. To become a therapist, it usually takes several years of graduate schooling to qualify for licensing.
To become a psychologist or therapist, you must also meet all supervised clinical experience licensing requirements, pass your state board exam achieve strong grades in your degrees, and commit to continued education to ensure your license renewal. Depending on your particular psychological license, California requires that you meet several specific licensure criteria.
How to Get a Degree in Counseling Psychology
Our courses in counseling psychology prepare graduates for careers in counseling and psychotherapy across a wide array of settings with an emphasis on community mental health. Our master of arts in counseling psychology will prepare you for work in hospitals, community clinics, academic institutions, and private practices.
At Holy Names University, we also continually update our program to meet the requirements of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Our counseling psychology master’s degree allows you to obtain real-world experience by completing a mentorship or field placement with a partnering agency. Our flexible course schedule also allows you to balance your classes across afternoons, evenings, and even weekends.
As you study to obtain your counseling psychology degree, you will learn from a faculty of experienced clinicians and researchers. You will also be able to attend regular campus lectures and workshops with working professionals.
Counseling Degree Requirements
Over the course of your counseling psychology master’s degree, you will complete 63 total course units over a broad range of subjects. Holy Names University students gain theoretical knowledge in counseling and are able to apply it practically in therapeutic, supervised field placement settings. As a counseling psychology master’s student, you will think critically, develop treatment plans and apply and integrate theoretical competency into your professional work.
In addition to conducting and critiquing research, applying evidence-based practices in clinical and scholarly activities, and practicing fluency and efficacy in their writing, our students hone their awareness of the ethical and legal standards to which they will hold themselves. We also promote an understanding in our students of the importance of cultural competence and diversity by encouraging self-reflection and empathy-informed awareness. Our master’s students are conscious of their own implicit biases and monitor their impact on others while engaged in their professional activities.
At Holy Names University, our master’s counseling psychology students graduate with full preparation to sit for licensure with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) as a marriage and family therapist or as a licensed professional clinical counselor.
Enroll in the MA Counseling Psychology Program at Holy Names University
If you are ready to hone your skills in helping others and supporting mentally health-conscious practices, a master’s degree in counseling psychology can lead you into an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career. As a private, Catholic university, Holy Names University offers individualized attention for our students with small class sizes and a low student-to-faculty member ratio. With opportunities to engage with the surrounding Oakland, CA community, Holy Names University can support you in your desire to support others in a way that fits your lifestyle.
Our graduate degree program will guide you through the complexity of the human experience and learn evidence-based practices with empathy and compassion. As you pursue your counseling psychology degree, our program will allow you to obtain real-world experience in a field unit that will prepare you for various future professional environments.
Contact us to request more information and consider applying today to begin the first steps of your journey into the field of counseling psychology. Learn more about life at HNU and everything you will love about our university in Oakland, California!