Community Counselor

”A community counselor is perhaps one
of the most compassionate roles in the field
of counseling in in that the community counselor
helps those who would never be able to find help in any
other way.”

What Does a Community Counselor Do?

Community counselors respond to client’s needs by:

  • Diagnose and treat a variety of mental illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression to personality disorders, etc.
  • Work with clients on processing emotions and discussing experiences.
  • Act as a support and a guide for a client as they navigate through difficult decisions and milestones in their life.
  • Provide resources for outside services, support groups, religious organizations, or additional forms of treatment in the community.
  • Provide marital and/or family counseling when necessary to aid in the client’s treatment.
(“Mental Health Counselors And Marriage And Family Therapists : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics”)

The Clients

Community mental health counselors differ from other mental health counselors in that
community counselors normally work in a variety of community settings.For the most part, community counselors focus their careers on meeting the needs of those people who may have high mental health needs without a great means to pay for services.

Clients may include:

  • The unemployed
  • The homeless
  • Those who have mental health conditions combined
    with a physical disability
  • Those who have genetic disorders or fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Those who have traumatic brain injuries

At times, however, some community counselors choose to go into private practice, and under these circumstances, they can expect to work with a large cross-section of the population which will more than likely include a clientele from all walks of life regardless of socioeconomic background.

Settings in Which Community Counselors Work

  • Employment Agencies- Counselors may work in employment agencies helping people to identify their strengths and interests in the job market. They may also help people write resumes, conduct job searches, and help prepare them for the interview process.
  • College Counseling Centers- In the college setting, community counselors may work with students on Identifying career goals. They may also help students cope with the ongoing challenges they may face throughout their college life.
  • Courts/Court-related Settings- Community counselors may find themselves called to be advocates and support people as they are going through difficult court cases, or they may be called by judges to give their professional opinion on the mental health state of clients.
  • Correctional facilities- Community counselors who choose to work in a prison may lead groups on substance abuse or domestic violence for example. At times, counselors may meet with inmates individually to discuss challenges they are facing or goals they would like to set.
  • Rehabilitation or Substance Abuse Counselors- Counselors in these setting help clients to recognize and admit they have a problem that needs to be addressed and then work to help them address the underlying issues that have led them to a life of substance abuse. Counselors also strive to help clients develop new tools for coping and navigating through life without the use of harmful substances.
  • Domestic Violence Agencies- In this setting, community counselors work with victims to regain a sense of empowerment and self-esteem as well as help them develop a plan of action for staying safe and functioning as a strong and independent person in the future so that the same patterns of abusive relationships are not repeated.
  • Pastoral and Religious Agencies- Pastoral counselors normally have additional training provided by a church/related institution or gained by attending a specially designated conference, etc. Counselors in these setting attend to those who are spiritually and religiously oriented. Normally, these counselors may join an organization known as the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC) or the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC).

Continuing Education

Continuing Education Credits or CEU’s are required to be obtained on a regular basis in order for a community counselor’s license to remain valid. This requirement applies to all mental health professionals. CEU credits can be obtained by attending seminars offered in various locations or by
completing workshops online. Many times employers will pay for their employees to attend CEU’s if the subject matter is relevant to their particular line of work.

The International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) was set up in 1968 by the Department of Education. It is a special task force which has been put in place for developing and managing continuing education and training.

Sara Meier, executive director of IACET explains that as a part of the general guidelines for CEU’s in counseling 10 credit hours is equal to one hour or sixty minutes of continuing education. Each state
differs with regard to its requirements for the number of contact hours it requires a counselor to maintain on a yearly basis in order to see that their license remains valid.

The State Department of Education can be contacted for specific guidelines related to these requirements.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements for a community counselor vary state by state. In most states a person
is required to complete 60 credit hours of a master’s program at a CACREP accredited institution.

In some states, however, such as Rhode Island a person is only required to complete 48 semester hours.

Many online institutions meet the education requirements for a community counseling degree. However, it is often suggested that a person who is interested in receiving a degree in community counseling check with their state department of education regarding requirements before pursuing a degree through an online institution.

Most states will require the community counseling master’s program to include an internship of 600-900 hours before graduation.

Licensing and Certification

Some states require all community counselors to obtain a license before they are able to work in any mental health setting, however, many states allow community counselors to work without a license as long as they are under the supervision of a licensed and properly certified mental health professional.

In most cases, it is advantageous for a person who is serious about working in the field to obtain a license. More and more employers are leaning toward hiring counselors who are licensed. Not to mention that many of the higher paying jobs go to those who have a license. Furthermore, once a person obtains a license in community counseling, she is not limited to working in the public sector.
A license in community counseling allows a person to work in private practice and to also have the opportunity to accept insurance for their services.

  • Reference & Data Information Provided by the Following:
  • “Mental Health Counselors And Marriage And Family Therapists : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics”. N.p., 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.
  • “Licensure Requirements”. N.p., 2016. Web. 6 June 2016.
  • “IACET – International Association For Continuing Education & Training”. N.p., 2016. Web. 6 June 2016.