Counseling and related helping professions can be highly valuable for people who are struggling to cope with specific events in their lives (Constantine, 2007). Some people see counselors individually, and others go as a couple, group, or family. There are many reasons why people see counselors, depending on the areas of life with which they are having trouble. For those who get into counseling as a profession, there are different areas to choose from and specialties to consider in each one of those areas (Vogel, Wade, & Hackler, 2007). In order to be an effective counselor and help the largest number of people, it is very important to find a helping profession or counseling specialty with which a person is comfortable. That will allow that person to provide the most benefit to the largest number of people. Addressed here will be the specialties of several different kinds of counseling, their similarities and differences, the requirements and organizations related to those types of counseling, and the preference and interests of the writer.
The Specialties of Family Counseling
In family counseling there are many different specialties. These can include generalized family therapy, parenting problems, teen and adult anger issues, management of stress, physical and other types of abuse, codependency, blended family issues, and conflict resolution (Dillon, Worthington, Soth-McNett, & Schwartz, 2008). By addressing one or more of these areas, a person is more able to focus on the value and good in life, and he or she becomes better at putting problems into a more realistic perspective (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). With that in mind, many counselors who are focused on family counseling specialize in one or more of the specific areas within that counseling realm. That allows them to have a higher level of knowledge regarding how to help their clients and what kinds of issues are more specific to those clients and their families.
The Specialties of Couples Counseling
Where couples counseling is concerned, improving communication is a specialty. So are issues like love and intimacy, overcoming infidelity, sex therapy, separation and divorce difficulties, infertility, and gay and lesbian issues (Swift & Callahan, 2008). Couples counselors today are going to see more same sex couples than they did in the past, and that is something that they will need to be aware of and prepared for (Dillon, Worthington, Soth-McNett, & Schwartz, 2008). Specializing in gay and lesbian issues is not yet common, but there are more counselors who are moving in that direction. They see the need for all couples to feel comfortable going to see a counselor for their marital or relationship concerns, without worry over whether their sexual orientation will be judged or not accepted. Feeling accepted is vital to getting couples to go to counseling if they feel they need the assistance, regardless of whether they are gay or straight (Shaffer, Vogel, & Wei, 2006).
The Specialties of Rehabilitation Counseling
Rehabilitation counseling is focused on helping individuals achieve their goals. These can be personal or professional, or can be related to independent living (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). Those who have physical, mental, cognitive, developmental, or emotional disabilities can really struggle with their goals and dreams, but it is possible for counselors to help these people get through difficulties in their lives and work toward achievement of the things that matter to them (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). Some of the specialties seen in rehabilitation counseling include mental health counseling, employee assistance programming, job development, career placement, life care planning, return to work coordination, school and education counseling, career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and vocational evaluation (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). Many people who have been injured or have had a debilitating illness need rehabilitation, and getting counseling at the same time can help them come to terms with their limitations, as well as get past the limitations that they are able to work through and/or control (Spengler, et al., 2009; Swift & Callahan, 2008).
The Specialties of Addictions Counseling
Counselors who work with addictions specialize in both physical issues like drug and alcohol addiction and mental issues like codependency and internet addiction (Constantine, 2007). Having both options can be very helpful for a counselor. However, he or she may want to focus only on one or two specialties, in order to make sure clients can get the most benefit for their time spent with the counselor. Those who choose to be addictions counselors often have a difficult road with many of their clients, as well. These counselors know that their clients are struggling with problems that they may never be able to be free from, despite ongoing counseling and support. The job can be stressful and difficult, but can also be highly rewarding for those who enjoy the effort required to counsel addicted people (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006; Vogel, Wade, & Hackler, 2007). Some of them have only mild additions, or they seek out counseling before a problem develops and takes complete hold of them. Other people do not seek out counseling until they are forced to, and they can be more resistant to counseling and change.
The Specialties of Pastoral Counseling
Pastoral counseling is based on religious principles (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). Often those principles are Christian in nature, and the specialties seen under the pastoral umbrella can be broad and far-reaching. In other words, most of the specialties seen in pastoral counseling are simply standard forms of counseling that would be seen from other counselors. The difference is the religious slant that is used and taught in this type of counseling. Specialties can include marriage and family counseling, addictions counseling, couples counseling, or any other type of counseling that will help individuals live better lives and focus on ways to improve their quality of life and seek treatment for the problems they face (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). For those who are religious, pastoral counseling can be an excellent way to get treatment in a setting where the person can feel comfortable and understood. Non-pastoral counseling may make religious people uncomfortable if there is no religion being brought into the equation, so pastoral counseling can be an excellent choice for the devoted Christian or other religious individual (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006; Shaffer, Vogel, & Wei, 2006).
The Specialties of Forensic Counseling
In forensic counseling, a person may specialize in providing sentencing recommendations, expert testimony, competency evaluations, evaluations based on the reoffending risk, and evaluations based on child custody (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006; Swift & Callahan, 2008). Most of the clients who see a forensic counselor are not there voluntarily. They may have been arrested for something, or have otherwise been incarcerated. They may have also been placed on a psychiatric hold or into a treatment facility against their will. When they see a forensic counselor they may or may not be cooperative with the process, and that will completely depend on the individuals and the issues they are facing (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). Forensic counselors often do other work in addition to that area, because what they can do from a forensic standpoint is relatively limited in scope. Working in forensics and also working in other areas allows them to have more clients to work with and more types of work to do in their chosen field (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006).
Similarities and Differences
Most types of counseling are relatively similar. The largest differences are with forensic counseling and pastoral counseling (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). Without the religious aspect of pastoral counseling, it would essentially be the same as more secular options. Forensic counseling is by far the most unique, and is not easy to compare to other counseling styles (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). While some of the techniques used are the same as would be seen with other clients, most of the clients of a forensic counselor are not there willingly and may be uncooperative. That can lead to diagnoses being made that are based on behavior and other criteria, not on what was said by the client. Testifying about a client's issues is also unique to forensic counseling, and is one of the main differences between that style of counseling and others.
Educational and State Requirements
The educational requirements for counseling vary depending on the state a counselor is working in and the type of counseling he or she wants to do (Swift & Callahan, 2008; Vogel, Wade, & Hackler, 2007). Generally, the requirement is a minimum of a master's degree in psychology, social work, or counseling (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). The type of degree chosen will be important, because it will directly affect which areas of counseling can be entered into without additional requirements or a subsequent degree. Continuing education credits and supervised clinical experience may also be necessary when it comes to working as a counselor (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2006). Since each state may be different, it is very important to make sure the state's requirements are understood before moving forward on a degree path or other plan. Not every…