According to Childhelp®, more than 3 million child abuse reports (representing more than 6 million children) are made in the United States each year.
Neglect makes up the highest proportion of child abuse cases (78.5% of cases in 2011); physical, child sexual abuse, psychological, medical neglect and other/unknown forms make up the remainder of these tragic circumstances, reports Childhelp®, a leading American non-profit dedicated to helping children who are abused and neglected.
• In the United States, a child abuse is reported every 10 seconds.
• Every day, more than four children die from child abuse.
• Children under the age of 4 make up around 80% of child abuse fatalities.
• Approximately 30% of victims who were abused or neglected as a child continue the cycle to abuse their own children.
Child abuse counselors are also dedicated to helping young victims deal with the horrific traumas they’ve experienced. “I believe that children need to hear, see and feel affirmations and a sense of value from an outside source,” says Patty Kuntz, (M.S., LPC, NCC), a counselor specialized in the treatment of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. “Rapport is the single most valuable part of a therapeutic relationship regardless of training or specialty; and it is something that is either there or isn’t. No one can fake great rapport.”
Kuntz, like other successful counselors build rapport with their patients so that they can process the traumas they’ve experienced and gradually heal.
Child Abuse Counselors At a Glance
- Degree Level Requirements: Master’s Degree
- Licensure Requirements: Licensure requirements vary by state
- Specializations: Domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, PTSD, anxiety, etc.
- Median Annual Salaries: $40,080*
- Job Outlook: 37% growth from 2010 to 2020**
Career & Job Description
Depending on the child abuse counselor, they might only treat children; alternatively, they might treat children and also adults who experienced abuse during their childhood.
Counselors who help victims of abuse may also work with patients that have other concerns as well (depending on their training and specialties).
Specifically in cases of child abuse, examples of duties performed by the counselor include:
- Determine counseling needs and perform an initial assessment. For example, in the case of a child where abuse is suspected, the counselor may need to assess symptoms and other indicators of abuse.
- Record and discuss the patient’s or client’s history and background information.
- Develop treatment plans; when appropriate this should be done collaboratively with the patient and parents/caregivers.
- Establish a rapport and trust with patients while respecting boundaries.
- Applying counseling/therapy techniques that are compatible with the patient or client’s needs (and that the counselor is trained in). These may include play therapy, art therapy, trauma therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing)…
- Aside from individual counseling, in some cases, child abuse counselors may lead group, family or parent-child therapy. When treating children, working with the entire family (when appropriate) is vital.
Kuntz adds that with continued education and training, child abuse counselors can take on additional specialized roles. “There is so much that counselors can do with their degree and their specialties…and most don’t even know it,” she says. “For example, with a little extra training I am able to do domestic violence evaluations for the courts, as well as family mediation and soon child custody evaluations. I think it is important for counselors to have a few areas of expertise, but many ways to apply their knowledge; it helps reduce burnout, makes the profession more rewarding, and increases professional competency.”
Specializations / Concentrations
Throughout one’s career, through experience and continued training/education, child abuse counselors become specialized in certain treatment areas. These may include:
• Sexual Abuse (to learn more, read Behind Closed Doors – Child Sexual Abuse)
• Physical Abuse
• Psychological Abuse
• Domestic Violence
• Grief & Loss
• Missed developmental milestones due to neglect
• Personality Disorders
“Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education,” states Childhelp®.
Explore Your Career Path
The Educational Journey
To practice as a counselor, you need to complete a Master’s degree. Specifically it is a good idea to complete courses/internships/projects in such areas as child development, trauma, family therapy and play therapy; it’s also advantageous to have some knowledge and experience in both clinical and counseling psychology.
Should you decide to take a break from school in between your undergraduate and graduate degree, you can gain some valuable experience through employment. (You will be eligible for a number of positions with a Bachelor’s degree.)
- Bachelor’s Degree: If you know you would like to be a counselor working with child abuse victims, some relevant degrees include a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Sociology, Elementary Education or Social Work.
- Relevant Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree: Teacher (if you have a Bachelor’s degree in Education), crisis center worker, child life specialist, family services worker, youth probation officer, early childhood behavioral specialist, family or youth shelter case manager, community recreational coordinator, teacher assistant, etc.
- Master’s Degree: Relevant degrees include a Master’s in Counseling; a Master’s of Education in Counseling; a Master’s in Counseling Psychology; a Master’s in Clinical Psychology; a Master’s in Counseling with a specialization in Marriage, Family & Child Therapy, etc.
Note: It’s also quite common for Social Workers (which requires a Master of Social Work) to practice child abuse counseling.
To practice as a child abuse counselor, you must be licensed, i.e. as an LPC (licensed professional counselor) or LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist). Licensure requirements vary by state. Generally speaking to become licensed you must have a Master’s degree, completed a certain number of supervised clinical hours and passed a licensure exam. Find out what your state’s requirements are by visiting www.nbcc.org/directory, the National Board for Certified Counselors state directory page.
Some final words from Patty Kuntz (M.S., LPC, NCC)
“The rewards of this profession are great and amazing…clients don’t forget a good counselor. They occasionally drop an email saying how much they appreciate the work that you did together and how they are doing now. They return as a client again when needed, send referred clients and invite you to graduations and weddings…They are the ultimate reward for the work that we do.”
A special thanks to Patty Kuntz, owner of Blossom Counseling and Evaluations for sharing her experiences and expertise!
- Reference & Data Information Provided by the Following:
- * May 2012 (for Mental Health Counselors, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- ** May 2010 (for Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- † Salary data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211014.htm
- ‡ Job Outlook data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
- Other Sources/References
- Patty Kuntz, M.S., LPC, NCC, Owner of Blossom Counseling and Evaluations