There are many different types of psychologists practicing all over the world. Some conduct studies of human behavior and thinking. Some teach classes on the foundations of psychology. But counseling psychologists are unique in their one-on-one treatment with patients.
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Counseling psychologists evaluate and asses patients’ issues by speaking privately and confidentially with them, and by both observing the patient and looking at their case history. For example, one patient’s history of being neglected or abused as a child can lead to problems in adulthood, such as addiction or mental health disorders. The overall goal of a counseling psychologist is to help patients achieve more effective personal, social, educational, and occupational adjustment and development.
Adressing issues of patients
Some of the issues that counseling psychologists address have to do with changes in work or education (losing a job or transferring college due to poor performance), relationship difficulties (a devastating breakup or an estranged relationship with a parent), stress management (from work, illness, death, or life in general!), substance abuse and addition, and mental health disorders (anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders). A counseling psychologist may have a specialty, which could help someone seeking very specific treatment get the kind of help they need. [i]
Mental health disorders affect millions of Americans each year and they may need the assistance of counseling psychologists in order to recover or adjust. Just mood disorders alone affect 20.9 million people and 11 million people face anxiety disorders nationwide [ii]. Counseling psychologists also sometimes conduct group therapy so that people dealing with an issue such as substance abuse or the death of a child don’t feel alone and can connect with other people going through the same struggles as they are. As of 2014, there were 145,000 counseling psychologists in this country and that number is projected to increase with 55,900 job openings from 2012 through 2022 [i].
Education is crucial
Most counseling psychologists need to have earned a doctoral degree—either a PhD in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree. In order to use the title of “psychologist,” practicing counselors need licensure or certification in most states, especially when practicing independently. Requirements for each state and position will vary, but practicing counseling psychologists are typically required to have a doctorate in psychology, have completed an internship, have at least 1 to 2 years’ experience, and a passing score for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. There are also specialty certifications that the American Board of Professional Psychology awards when those criteria are met. [iii]
The goals of counseling psychologists straddle personal and professional lines—helping patients to become better adjusted and navigate difficult issues is a very humanity-based and relatable ambition. Sometimes psychologists are even treated by therapists themselves in order to maintain their own sense of mental health. If you have a passion for helping others through skills of critical thinking and treatment development, you may want to consider going to school to earn your degree in counseling psychology.