Counselor Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Counselor, or Mental Health Counselor, works with patients to help them overcome and manage different mental and emotional challenges. Their duties include meeting with patients to listen to their problems, diagnosing their mental or emotional disorder and building treatment plans and coping strategies for the patient to follow.

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Counselor duties and responsibilities

Typical duties and responsibilities as a Counselor include:

  • Perform initial evaluations of client needs and develop customized treatment plans.
  • Educate staff and clients on stress and trauma coping mechanisms.
  • Provide individuals with the resources they need to reach personal goals.
  • Monitor client progress and modify their treatment plans as needed.
  • Coordinate with social and medical agencies, healthcare providers and community outreach programs to provide clients with needed services.
  • Complete continuing education courses to maintain National Certified Counselor certification and stay up-to-date on the latest practices.
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What does a Counselor do?

A Counselor works for healthcare facilities or educational institutions, working with patients and students to assess and diagnose their mental health or emotional issues. They may meet with patients regularly to develop treatments and goals to help improve their mental wellbeing. They’ll record the patient’s progress throughout each session and will teach the patient about the most effective coping mechanisms to help overcome their mental health challenges.

Counselor skills and qualifications

A successful candidate will have the following minimum skills and qualifications needed for the job as Counselor:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to empathize with clients
  • Ability to consider internal and external resources to develop a client treatment plan
  • Willingness to work on-call or at a sudden notice
  • Organizational skills

Counselor salary expectations

The average salary for a Counselor is $16.18 per hour. Exact salary may vary depending on the applicant’s education, experience level, geographical location and exact job duties. The typical tenure for a Counselor is less than one year.

Counselor education and training requirements

The education and training requirements of a Counselor must meet company, state and local regulations. At a minimum, a candidate should possess a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work or counseling and either possess or be able to obtain a National Certified Counselor certification prior to employment. A master’s degree or doctorate in a related field may also be required. 

Counselor experience requirements

Counselors may need experience writing assessments and reports to monitor client progress, working directly with clients or patients in an office or hospital setting or gaining experience as an intern under another Counselor. Any relevant experience working with people one-on-one is a plus.

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Frequently asked questions about Counselors


What are the different types of Counselors?

There are a wide variety of counseling careers for an individual to specialize in and pursue. Marriage and Family Counselors work closely with couples and family members to help overcome their issues with loved ones to help them build stronger relationships with each other. Guidance Counselors work in academic institutions like high schools and colleges to offer emotional support to students struggling with their school and personal lives. 

Mental Health Counselors work in an abundance of settings offering their guidance and support to individuals, family members, couples and other groups as they overcome mental health problems like bipolar, personality or anxiety disorders. 


Which settings do Counselors typically work in?

Most Counselors work in healthcare facilities regularly meeting with patients. Some of them work in hospital settings treating patients with more severe issues by providing them with emotional guidance. Other Counselors work in rehabilitation facilities helping patients overcome addictions like substance abuse. 

There are also Counselors who work for high schools, providing emotional and educational guidance. They often act as Career Counselors, helping students determine which career to pursue and mapping out the educational path to get there.


What makes a good Counselor?

Effective Counselors are great at speaking with people and have advanced listening abilities. They must also have strong empathy as they show patients they care for them and are committed to helping them overcome challenges. 

Great Counselors should also be in control of their emotions, as they may listen to difficult stories and must be confident and stable enough to help the patient overcome their problems. Critical thinking abilities are also important for candidates to have, as they must find solutions and treatment plans that help increase a patient’s mental and emotional health. 


What's the difference between a Counselor and a Therapist?

Counselors and Therapists share many similarities, but the main difference is that Therapists are usually licensed in their state and hold a specialty in the type of therapy they perform. They can specialize in fields like social work, marriage and family and mental health illnesses. When they select one of these specialties, they usually work primarily in this field and receive their state license in it. Most Counselors don’t require a license or specialty and can often easily work in different fields as they please.

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