An interest in helping people during a time of crisis may have you interested in becoming a grief counselor. Grief counselors are also sometimes called bereavement counselors, because they help people during times of stress following a major loss, such as the death of someone they love or other difficult losses or unexpected changes. The role of a grief counselor can be an important one and requires a good deal of training. You may be wondering what kind of education and training you need in order to qualify as a grief counselor.
The Work of a Grief Counselor
Because people in all walks of life experience grief, counselors specifically trained to help them deal with grief in healthy ways end up working in a variety of places and situations. If you become a grief counselor, it’s possible you might have your own private practice, but it’s also likely that you could work in conjunction with other organizations such as hospitals, the military, mental health facilities or retirement communities. Although grief counselors do sometimes work with people dealing with milder forms of grief, perhaps stemming from life transitions such as job loss, many of the clients that grief counselors work with closely will have lost someone they love due to illness, accident or through some other event.
Most grief counselors have at least a master’s degree in counseling, and many have a doctorate in counseling. What state you work in and what types of grief counseling you do may determine the level of your education. Different states have differing requirements for becoming a grief counselor, but most of the time those requirements involve mentored field work in addition to getting a degree. You will also need to pass an exam prior to getting your license. (See: Guide To The Certification Process)
Before obtaining either your masters or doctorate, you will of course need to finish a bachelor’s degree. Many students go on and pursue a counseling degree at the bachelors level, though sometimes students who know they are specifically training to work in the grief field will get degrees in thanatology (the study of death) or in social work.
Differences in Counseling and Psychology Degrees
Although you will likely take courses in human development and psychology when you work to complete a counseling degree, you do not need a psychology degree in order to become a licensed grief counselor. Psychology degrees provide preparation for those who want to become licensed clinical psychologists, all of whom generally hold a doctorate. Psychologists are often trained in assessment skills, while counselors focus more on listening and counseling skills. The two fields both deal with mental health and people’s needs, but they are different fields requiring different kinds of training and approaches.
Working as a grief counselor can be important work. As a trained counselor, you would provide listening skills for people at extremely difficult times of their lives and also assist them in learning coping skills as they grieve. If you think that kind of work fits your skills and could be meaningful for you, then you might want to look into becoming a grief counselor.
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