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The Different Types of Counselors

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High school counselors advise on college majors, admission requirements, entrance exams, and financial aid, and on trade, technical school, and apprenticeship programs. They help students develop job finding skills such as resume writing and interviewing techniques.

College career planning and placement counselors assist alumni or students with career development and job hunting techniques.

Elementary school counselors observe younger children during classroom and play activities and confer with their teachers and parents to evaluate their strengths, problems, or special needs. They also help students develop good study habits. They do less vocational and academic counseling than secondary school counselors.

School counselors at all levels help students understand and deal with their social, behavioral, and personal problems. They emphasize preventive and developmental counseling to provide students with the life skills needed to deal with problems before they occur, and to enhance personal, social, and academic growth.

School counselors work with students individually, in small groups, or with entire classes. They consult and work with parents, teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, school nurses, and social workers.

Rehabilitation counselors help people deal with the personal, social, and vocational effects of their disabilities. They may counsel people with disabilities resulting from birth defects, illness or disease, accidents, or the stress of daily life. They evaluate the strengths and limitations of individuals, provide personal and vocational counseling, and may arrange for medical care, vocational training, and job placement. Rehabilitation counselors interview individuals with disabilities and their families, evaluate school and medical reports, and confer and plan with physicians, psychologists, occupational therapists, and employers to determine the capabilities and skills of the individual. Conferring with the client, they develop a rehabilitation program, which may include training to help the person develop job skills. They also work toward increasing the client's capacity to live independently.

Career and employment counselors help individuals make wise career decisions. They explore and evaluate the client's education, training, work history, interests, skills, and personal traits, and may arrange for aptitude and achievement tests. They also work with individuals to develop job seeking skills and assist clients in locating and applying for jobs.

Mental health counselors emphasize prevention and work with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental health. They help individuals deal with addictions and substance abuse, suicide, stress management, problems with self-esteem, issues associated with aging, job and career concerns, educational decisions, issues of mental and emotional health, and family, parenting, and marital problems. Mental health counselors work closely with other mental health specialists, including psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, and school counselors.

Other counseling specialties include marriage and family, multicultural, or gerontological counseling.
  • A gerontological counselor provides services to elderly per-sons who face changing lifestyles due to health problems and helps families cope with these changes.

  • A multicultural counselor helps employers adjust to an increasingly diverse workforce.
Counselors provide special services, including alcohol and drug prevention programs and classes that teach students to handle conflicts without resorting to violence. Counselors also try to identify cases involving domestic abuse and other family problems that can affect a student's development.

Counselors use interviews, counseling sessions, tests, or other methods when evaluating and advising students. They may operate career information centers and career education programs.


The following have been identified by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, as key components in successful career guidance and counseling programs:
  • A planned sequence of activities and experiences to achieve specific competencies such as self-appraisal, decision making, goal setting, and career planning

  • Accountability (outcome oriented) and program improvement (based on results of process/outcome evaluations)

  • Qualified leadership

  • Effective management needed to support comprehensive career guidance programs

  • A team approach in which certified counselors are central to the program

  • Adequate facilities, materials, and resources

  • Strong professional development activities so counselors can regularly update their professional knowledge and skills

  • Different approaches to deliver the program such as outreach, assessment, counseling, curriculum, program and job placement, follow-up, consultation, referral.

Anyone can benefit from career and vocational counseling. Career exploration can begin with young students in the primary grades and continue through the secondary years. Career counselors also work with adults-male and female-disabled, disadvantaged, minorities, non-native English speakers, the incarcerated, school dropouts, single parents, displaced homemakers, teachers, administrators, parents, and employers.

Vocational and educational counselors hold about 175,000 jobs nationwide. Counseling programs are offered almost everywhere: elementary, junior, and senior high schools; community colleges; technical institutes; universities and career resource centers; correctional facilities; human services agencies; health care facilities; community and business organizations; skill clinics and employment and placement service centers; job training, career development, and vocational rehabilitation centers; social agencies; and residential care facilities such as halfway houses for criminal offenders and group homes for children, the aged, and the disabled.

Counselors also work in organizations engaged in community improvement and social change, as well as drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and state and local government agencies.

A growing number of counselors work in health maintenance organizations, insurance companies, group practice, and private practice. This growth has been spurred by laws allowing counselors to receive payments from insurance companies and requiring employers to provide rehabilitation and counseling services to employees.
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