3 Types of Counseling Specialty Areas and Careers

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Clinical Mental Health Counseling | View all blog posts under School Counseling

Counselors help people from all walks of life overcome their problems. Couples may seek out the help of a marriage counselor to help them resolve interpersonal issues, while students may ask school counselors for help if they’re being bullied.

Professional counselors work with individuals, groups and families to help people achieve their career, education and wellness goals. Consequently, individuals interested in pursuing this career path will need to decide which types of counseling services they’re interested in providing, as there are a myriad of specialty areas and careers they can choose from. From school and career counseling to mental health counseling and substance abuse counseling, the opportunities for those considering pursuing a Master of Arts in Counseling are plentiful.

School and Career Counseling

In an age of cyberbullying and in-school lockdown drills, the role of a school counselor is more important than ever. Children of all ages are at risk of feeling overwhelmed, regardless of whether it’s due to problems at home, arguments with friends or something they’ve seen on the evening news. School counselors do more than help students have a positive educational experience. In many cases, they’ll be called upon to provide social-emotional support.

In addition to providing support, counselors who work in a high school setting are also charged with helping students make career plans and fill out college, scholarship and trade school applications. Career counselors, on the other hand, focus on helping job seekers identify their interests and aptitudes as a means of helping them define their professional goals. They work in a broad range of settings, including high schools, colleges and government agencies. Some choose to work in private practice. The primary role of career counselors is to help students and/or private practice clients develop interviewing, networking and job searching skills, and they may provide guidance on how to resolve conflicts within the workplace as well.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs for school and career counselors will grow by 13 percent between the years 2016 and 2026, which is faster than the average projected growth for jobs in all occupations. As of May 2018, the median annual wage for professionals working in either role was $56,310, with those earning salaries in the top 10 percent of the range making more than $94,690.

Mental Health Counseling

Professionals who choose to pursue a career in mental health counseling will be responsible for providing psychotherapy treatment to individuals, couples, families and groups. Although some choose to work with specific demographics, such as children or the elderly, others provide services to people of all backgrounds and age groups. The primary role of mental health counselors is to promote mental and emotional health. Specifically, mental health counselors  may help patients with issues relating to marital problems, substance abuse, self-esteem and stress management.

Employment of mental health counselors is projected to grow by 23 percent between the years 2016 and 2026, which is faster than the projected rate of job growth for all occupations. As of May 2018, the BLS reported the median annual wage for these counselors was $44,630, with those earning salaries in the top 10 percent of the range taking home more than $72,990 each year.

Substance Abuse Counseling

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2017, an estimated 19.7 million Americans aged 12 or older were battling a substance abuse disorder. Because of the prevalence of this important issue, a third type of counseling that master’s degree candidates may be interested in pursuing relates to addiction support. Substance abuse counselors work with clients individually or in a group setting, and in some cases, they may also work alongside registered nurses, physicians or psychiatrists to coordinate care and develop treatment plans. These professionals may choose to specialize in providing services to specific populations, such as veterans or teenagers, while others work with clients who have been referred to a treatment program as part of a court order.

Data from the BLS indicates that employment of substance abuse counselors is projected to grow by 23 percent between the years 2016 and 2026, which is faster than the average projected growth rate of all occupations. The May 2018 median annual salary for addiction counselors was $44,630, with those earning salaries in the top 10 percent of the range making in excess of $72,990.

Essential Skills All Types of Counselors Need

Students who are pursuing a master’s degree in counseling will have a number of specializations to choose from, yet there are several skills that all counselors need to develop in order to be effective.

Empathy for the Client

People who seek help from counselors are often feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Aspiring counselors will need to learn how to show empathy so they can build trust with their clients. This is important because it can help improve clients’ willingness to be open and forthcoming about their problems.

Creating a Safe Space for the Client

In order for counseling to be effective, clients need to feel as if their thoughts, behaviors or feelings aren’t being judged. Clients who feel that their counseling sessions provide a safe space for them to discuss their problems, without fear of disapproval, are more likely to share information freely.

Communicating Positive Intentions to the Client

Counselors who understand how to be genuine and authentic with their clients show they are trustworthy. Authentic communication, which involves speaking to clients simply, clearly and respectfully, helps encourage clients to express their true thoughts and feelings.

Inspiring Active Participation

A counselor is not a mechanic who fixes client problems while they wait. Today’s counselors want clients to take an active role in their own progress, because the more clients put into sessions, the more they will get out of them. Counselors can help clients to take responsibility for their own success by encouraging them to work hard on change between sessions, to share experiences with other participants during group sessions and to be open to alternative perspectives. Thus an essential skill for all counselors is the ability to inspire clients to be engaged and involved.

Choosing Your Path as a Counselor

The choice to pursue a master’s in counseling is about seeking an opportunity that will help you to effectively help others. The online Master’s in Counseling program at Wake Forest University has been designed to provide students with the skills and education they’ll need to take the next step in their career.

Discover how the online Master of Counseling program at Wake Forest University can help you reach your goal of serving others as one of today’s counselors.


Recommended Reading

How to Become a Clinical Social Worker

What Is Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Why Is It Important?

What to Expect in Counseling Courses



American Addiction Centers, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Statistics

American Counseling Association, What Is Professional Counseling? American Psychological Association, “Contextual School Counseling Approach: Linking Contextual Psychotherapy with the School Environment”

Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Counseling Today, “Connecting with Clients” The Education Trust, Why School Counselors Matter

True Self Counseling, Unconditional Positive Regard

Wake Forest University, Online Master of Counseling Curriculum