What Does A Counselor Do?

Those who are compassionate, good listeners with excellent interpersonal skills may do well to pursue a career as a counselor. Counselors are responsible for helping people – many of whom may have mental and emotional disorders – work through issues with family or relationships. Counselors listen to clients one-on-one; they ask relevant questions to help make sense of problems, then work to develop plans and improve their lives.

On a daily basis, counselors have several appointments, one after another. The counselor encourages each client to share emotions and experiences. While a range of tools and techniques are used to draw information, cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common. This approach is goal-oriented. It aims to help people recognize damaging thoughts, behaviors and beliefs, and replace them with healthier ones. Sometimes it makes sense for a counselor to help guide people through difficult life decisions, such as whether to remain in a relationship.

Based on these conversations, counselors will make diagnoses such as anxiety or depression, and then create individualized treatment plans. Counselors can refer their clients to helpful community resources or services in their area like support groups, drug rehabilitation facilities, adult education opportunities, etc.

When medication is required, counselors refer patients to doctors or psychiatrists who have prescribing capabilities.

Work Environment

One benefit counselors enjoy is the variety of settings in which they can find work. Some choose to work in private practices; others work in mental health centers, drug rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, churches or colleges.

It’s common for counselors to find it difficult to maintain work-life balance. This is why, during their education, counselors receive guidance on self-care techniques to help them manage work-related stress.

Most counselors work full time. Because clients can be juggling families and careers, appointments sometimes need to be scheduled during evenings or weekends. A counselor may also find themselves traveling to meet with clients from time to time, especially in emergencies.

Expectations: Salary and Career Advancement

While the salaries for counselors will vary based on experience, education, location and other factors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in May 2012, mental health counselors earned an average annual wage of $40,080. As a greater number of people obtain insurance that covers counseling and mental health services, and as more military service members and veterans seek counseling, this career is expected to grow 29 percent between now and the year 2022.


To become a counselor, most states require a master’s degree in psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy or a related field, plus licensure. However, those who wish to work for the church may find it fruitful to pursue a degree in theology.

Campbellsville University offers three degree programs that will help prepare a student for a rich career in counseling: the Associate of Science in Christian Studies, the Bachelor of Science in Pastoral Ministries and the Master of Theology. All are offered fully online.

Counselors seeking licensure typically need to complete between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of supervised clinical sessions after graduation. They must also pass a state-recognized exam and participate in continuing education.