Nine Benefits of Working as a Counselor for a Nonprofit

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A counselor and her client.

The need for counselors in the non-profit industry is growing, as organizations seek to provide specific services and meet needs that the government is either unwilling or not able to provide.1 Organizations respond to needs that arise from changes in the political climate, often expanding their services and adding new ones. This creates the need for more personnel.

While nonprofit positions sometimes offer a lower salary than more traditional jobs, the pay gap is closing as organizations see the need for recruiting and retaining high-quality talent. There are also several additional benefits to working as a counselor for a non-profit, both professional and personal.

Non-Monetary Benefits

Nonprofit organizations usually can’t promise stock options or huge year-end bonuses, but they can offer other benefits not always found in more traditional counseling settings.

  • Vacation Time: Many nonprofits offer their employees more vacation time than traditional jobs, making it easier to take time off.
  • Flexible Scheduling: Nonprofits are often more inclined to give counselors control over their own schedules, providing better opportunities for clients as well as flexibility for employees.
  • Casual Dress Code: Often, human service and counseling work for nonprofit organizations is with underprivileged populations, and typical corporate dress can be off-putting. The dress code is often casual.

Working for a non-profit can give you a certain amount of autonomy in your work and vacation schedules along with allowing you to be more comfortable at work.

Skill Set Development

Working for a nonprofit can enable you to develop some important skills, some that you will use daily in your practice and others that will help enhance your professional career.

Nonprofits are embracing technology to help them be more efficient. From telemental health to mental health apps, the use of technology in the counseling field is becoming more prevalent and in many ways increases efficiency. Counselors are able to:

  • Allow a client to participate from his or her home where they may feel more comfortable.
  • Meet with clients more regularly.
  • Meet with clients they wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise.
  • Handle crises in a more timely manner.
  • Conduct initial interviews and assessments before the patient arrives in-person, speeding up the intake process.2

Mental health apps are also gaining popularity, and non-profit counselors often teach the use of them to help with care when they are unavailable to their patients or just to assist with therapy between sessions. These apps help patients to record, analyze and reflect on negative thoughts or feelings and relax or practice their breathing among other things.

Using telemental health channels and teaching clients to use mental health apps requires a different skill set and more knowledge of IT, and nonprofits are investing more in technology in 2017 than they ever have before.3 This offers counselors working with them a great opportunity to build these skills.

Also, since nonprofits often operate with a smaller staff, counselors may play more than just one role. This means you could be involved in fundraising, planning events, or any number of other activities not necessarily in a standard job description.1

These skills can allow you to lead teams and give you the opportunity to apply them in ways that can promote innovations in counseling.

Resume Building

All of these skills you learn also look good on a resume. Even if you choose not to stay in the nonprofit sector, you can easily transition to more traditional counseling roles and back again. Many counselors do both: running their own practices and working part-time for nonprofits.

When employers are looking to hire counselors, they are not only looking for experience and the time you have spent working in a certain field or with certain individuals but also look for specific traits:

  • Leadership abilities.
  • Ability to listen and communicate clearly.
  • Showing empathy for clients and co-workers.
  • Exhibiting patience when things don’t go well.
  • Persistent and goal-oriented.
  • Adaptable and flexible in different situations.
  • Perceptive when it comes to patient and organizational needs.
  • Organized.
  • Reliability, someone that can be depended on.

These traits can all be further developed and proven while you are working for a nonprofit.4  These can enable you to move forward in the counseling field whether or not you choose to stay in the nonprofit arena.

Expanding your Network

A counselor for a nonprofit often works with peers and leaders from government agencies, other nonprofit groups, and educational institutions, and cooperates with them to meet clients’ needs and build a better community.

This level of cooperation offers unique networking opportunities with community leaders, executives, and other counselors you might not otherwise come in contact with. This network can be utilized to keep up with changes in the counseling field, new outreach and counseling efforts in the community, and the changing nonprofit scene.

This network can also be leveraged in the event you are job seeking, whether that is to work with another organization, change specialty fields, or work with a government entity.

Keeping a Good Work-Life Balance

Nonprofits tend to take a more holistic approach to manage personnel. Leaders want employees to care for themselves and their families and take appropriate amounts of time away from work.

Some of the non-monetary benefits like vacation time and flexible schedules apply in this area as well. A nonprofit is more likely to be flexible with your schedule to enable you to achieve personal goals or manage the needs of your family than many more traditional companies.

Avoiding Office Politics

Those who work at a nonprofit usually have similar goals and passions. This means much of the intraoffice politics found in some counseling practices are much less likely in a nonprofit.

People who share these goals and passions also tend to have similar political beliefs, are likely to share moral values, and employees at nonprofits tend to be more collaborative because so many roles are shared.

Many people are motivated to work for a non-profit because they want to do good in their community, serve populations who are disadvantaged or make a difference in some other way.

This may mean a lower monetary compensation, but there are many other non-monetary, personal, and professional benefits for a counselor who works for a nonprofit, and those often balance out and make the effort worthwhile.

Nonprofit organizations are seeking talented and well-educated counselors. An Online Master’s in Counseling from Wake Forest University will teach students the skills they will need to enter the counseling field and make a difference in their communities.