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Counseling 101: 5 Tips for Finding Your Next Gig as a Counselor

CounselorSo you have your master’s degree or doctorate in counseling or social work, and you need to find a job. A variety of settings hire mental health counselors and therapists, giving you choices based on your training and specialty areas. Here are five common employment options for therapists with some information on what it’s like to work in each setting.

Private Practice

Many counselors own their own businesses, renting office space and charging hourly rates for their services. One benefit of this job is that you have autonomy over your work life. You can flex your schedule as you wish, depending on the income you prefer. However, you do have to deal with the headaches of self-employment, which include finding a customer base, keeping books, billing insurance, paying insurance, etc.

Community Mental Health

Community mental health agencies provide vital mental health services are provided for people who cannot afford to pay for therapy or in-patient care. Community mental health is a great way for new counselors to gain rich clinical experience in a supervised setting early in their careers. The work is difficult and often heart-rending, but community mental health workers gain connections in the community that are useful in later private practice or in finding a job with a different kind of agency.

Mental and Physical Health Facilities

Substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, and private mental health facilities also hire counselors. These jobs are often with large health care organizations which provide the financial security of a salary and liability insurance protection.

Colleges & Universities

All colleges and universities have a campus counseling center that offers counseling services to students, usually on a short-term basis. Staff support is provided through Employee Assistance Programs, and trained psychologists/social workers also work in employee training programs. Professors who teach in counseling programs often also have their own private practices or offer counseling services on campus.

Group Practice

Working in a group practice involves doing the kind of one-on-one, group, or couples counseling that you’d do in private practice, but without the benefits and headaches of self-employment. Dealing with managed care insurance companies and getting client referrals is easier for a group, and a group practice shares office space, secretarial and billing services, and other infrastructure to supports the business.

As a licensed counselor, you have a wide variety of options for your career and workplace. Look to for more information on what your clients will go through in the recovery process. Using your interpersonal skills and empathy to help people is a richly rewarding career, so find what you want to do and go do it.

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