A grief counselor is a professional within the field of psychology who is trained to help people who have experienced devastating loss cope with the negative emotions that often come along with grief. How counselors who specialize in grief counseling will assist their patients depends entirely upon which stage of grief the patient is in. The entire purpose of counseling a patient who has dealt with loss is to get them through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression so that they can reach the stage of acceptance.
If you believe that you can counsel and comfort individuals who are dealing with loss, you might be interested in learning how to become a professional counselor. This can be a fulfilling and rewarding career, but it does require formal training and experience in a practical setting. Read on, and learn about the steps that you must take to become a professional grief counselor.
Step 1: Enroll in a Bachelor's Degree Program
The very first step you must take to pursuing a career in grief counseling is to enroll in a 4-year undergraduate program. You will need a Bachelor's degree in a relevant field like counseling or psychology where you will cover coursework that will prepare you for the world of counseling. The key is to take the right classes in addition to the required curriculum so that you are ready to enter an advanced studies program.
Step 2: Earn Your Master's Degree
Your education does not end when you earn your 4-year degree. You will also need to complete a 2-year advanced degree program where you will earn a terminal degree program. While not all grief counselors need a Master's, most employers and state licensing boards do require candidates who want to work in a practical setting to complete a graduate program. You may major in counseling or in a more specific degree program like gerontology or thanatology so that you are prepared to specialize specifically in the sub-field.
Step 3: Check Licensing Requirements
You should check with the state board or with your county to see if there are licensing requirements in the state where you plan on practicing. Many times it is the local government agency that will set these licensing requirements for counselors who deal with patients that are grieving. It is possible that you do not have to be a licensed counselor in some areas.
Step 4: Get Certified
There are several different specialties within the field of grief counseling that you can choose. If you really want to show your commitment to an area in grief counseling, getting certified will help you build your reputation. You can get certified through the American Academy of Grief Counseling in Pet Loss, Child & Adolescent Grief, Christian Grief and other areas.
After you complete your formal training, be sure to consider completing a fellowship program. You are generally eligible for these fellowship programs once you have been certified for 3 years. Fellowship status will make it so that you are more knowledgeable and more demanded in the field. Be sure that you compare all of the degree programs that you can take online or in the classroom. Once you decide on the right program, enroll and get started on your mission to become a grief counselor.