A Guide to Counseling Specialties

There are many different types of counseling, from mental health and substance abuse, to family and marriage counseling. Here are some of the top counseling program specialty areas. Click one of the links for the full program review.

There are many different types of counseling degrees. In some cases (not all), undergraduate students tend to pursue a more general Bachelor's in Counseling, but keep in mind if you are seeking a Bachelor's degree in Counseling, there are specialties that you might consider if you know exactly what you want to do. Meanwhile, students seeking a Master's degree in Counseling have a better idea of the specialty they want to pursue, and there are numerous options. Review the list below to see which counseling specialty programs are available.

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Counseling can be defined as a professional relationship in which counselors and clients work together to help clients accomplish particular mental health, educational, lifestyle or career goals.

As you consider a career in this profession, be aware that counseling takes many forms and provides diverse opportunities to make a difference in the lives of clients. A good first step for any aspiring counseling student is to survey the many counseling specialties that are available.

Counseling specializations differ in terms of salary expectations, client population served, day-to-day duties and more. However, one constant is the need to develop core skills through a counseling degree program.

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What Types of Counseling Are There?

In considering different career opportunities, it’s natural to ask what types of counseling there are. Consider a few of the most common examples.

Career Counseling

As a career counselor, you will have the opportunity to work with recent and soon-to-be graduates as well as other types of job seekers to help them plan for their educational and vocational future.

  • Example job titles: Career counselor, career advisor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $58,120 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS])

Child Development

After gaining expertise in child development, you can counsel children and adolescents through a wide range of social, academic and behavioral issues, while verifying they are on a healthy developmental path.

  • Example job titles: Child development counselor, child development researcher, child life specialist
  • 2020 annual median salary: $60,380 (BLS)

Cultural Counseling

Cultural counseling professionals help clients from diverse backgrounds, cultures and religious affiliations manage daily stresses and obstacles according to the values that mean the most to them.

  • Example job title: Cultural counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $69,600 (according to BLS data for social and community service managers, a closely related field)

Cognitive Therapy

A degree in cognitive therapy will prepare you to study how the brain receives, stores and retrieves information and sensory data, allowing you to counsel clients who struggle responding to external stimuli.

  • Example job titles: Psychologist, cognitive researcher
  • 2020 annual median salary: $82,180 (BLS data for psychologists)

College Counseling

College counselors work in an academic setting, advising students on their next educational and vocational steps.

  • Example job title: College counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $58,120 (BLS)

Color Therapy Counseling

Color therapy, also called chromotherapy, uses different colors of light during the therapeutic process. The central idea is that different colors can have different therapeutic effects, such as lowering anxiety, increasing energy or soothing the emotions.

  • Example job titles: Color therapist, alternative therapist, holistic therapist
  • 2020 annual median salary: $47,660 (BLS data for the related field of substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors)

Crisis Intervention

As a crisis intervention counselor, you will help clients who are experiencing acute mental health crises as they process their emotions. The ultimate goal is to help keep them from harm.

  • Example job title: Crisis counselor
  • 2022 annual median salary: $42,500 (PayScale)

Depression Counseling

One of the most in-demand counseling specialties, these counselors help clients cope with the effects of depression and manage the symptoms of this chronic mental health disorder.

  • Example job titles: Depression counselor, mental health counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $47,660 (BLS data for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors)

Developmental Counseling Psychology

Developmental psychologists assess social, emotional and behavioral development over the course of a lifetime. The field explores the influence of biology and the environment to draw conclusions about how and why individuals develop certain personalities, behaviors and practices.

  • Example job title: Developmental psychologist
  • 2020 annual median salary: $82,180 (BLS data for psychologists)

Domestic Violence Counseling

Domestic violence counselors work directly with individuals who have been victims of violence and abuse in their household, specifically from a spouse or domestic partner.

  • Example job title: Domestic abuse counselor
  • Annual median salary: $47,660 (BLS data for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors)

Eating Disorder Therapy

An eating disorder therapist provides individual and group counseling for individuals who struggle with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorders.

  • Example job title: Eating disorder therapist
  • 2020 annual median salary: $47,660 (BLS data for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors)

Educational Counseling

Educational counselors may work in public or private schools, helping students navigate academic issues and also plan for their educational future.

  • Example job titles: Educational counselor, school counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $58,120 (BLS)

Marriage and Family Counseling

Marriage and family therapists focus on interpersonal dynamics within a marriage or family, helping clients navigate issues and resolve conflicts.

  • Example job titles: Marriage and family therapist, marriage counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $51,340 (BLS)

Genetic Counseling

A genetic counselor assesses clients’ genetic test results and provides them with important information about their propensity for certain diseases or hereditary conditions.

  • Example job title: Genetic counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $85,700 (BLS)

Geriatric Counseling

With expertise in gerontology, geriatric counselors help their clients cope with the effects of the aging process, including grief and dementia.

  • Example job title: Geriatric counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $37,530 (BLS data for rehabilitation counselors)

Guidance Counseling

Guidance counselors work directly with students as they progress through emotional, physical, academic and vocational issues and challenges.

  • Example job titles: Guidance counselor, school counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $58,120 (BLS)

Mental Health Counseling

A mental health counselor helps clients as they navigate the effects of a mental illness, whether that means anxiety, depression, trauma or another condition.

  • Example job titles: Mental health counselor, psychologist
  • 2020 annual median salary: $47,660 (BLS data for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors)

Military Counseling

As a military counselor, you might work with active service members, veterans, or military family members to help them cope with different types of emotional impairment. Treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a big part of the job.

  • Example job title: Military counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $47,660 (BLS data for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors)

Music Therapy Counseling

In this vocation, you will use music to treat various cognitive, emotional, physical and social needs on behalf of your clients.

  • Example job title: Music therapist
  • 2020 annual median salary: $47,710 (BLS data for recreational therapists)

Rehabilitation Counseling

As a rehabilitation counselor, you will work with clients who have disabilities, helping them cope with their limitations while they are also finding housing, completing school, and/or succeeding in their chosen vocation.

  • Example job title: Rehabilitation counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $37,530 (BLS)

School Counseling

Like guidance counselors, school counselors work directly with students as they progress through emotional, physical, academic and vocational goals. The main distinction is that school counselors tend to be more focused on emotional and social issues, while guidance counselors focus more on academic concerns.

  • Example job titles: Guidance counselor, school counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $58,120 (BLS)

Spiritual Counseling

Spiritual counselors employ the language and beliefs of particular religious traditions to help their clients navigate problems in their life.

  • Example job title: Spiritual counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $56,560 (BLS data for members of the clergy)

Substance Abuse Counseling

One of the most in-demand counseling specialties, substance abuse counselors provide direct intervention and treatment plans for individuals struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

  • Example job titles: Substance abuse counselor, drug abuse counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $47,660 (BLS)

Transformational Counseling

By using talk therapy, transformational counselors help lead their clients toward personal growth.

  • Example job title: Transformational counselor
  • 2020 annual median salary: $47,660 (BLS data for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors)

How to Pursue Counseling Specializations

No matter which of these counseling specializations you choose, there are some basic steps to follow.

  • Obtain an undergraduate degree. Most counseling psychology specializations require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology or a related field.
  • Consider an advanced degree. Depending on the type of counseling you want to pursue, a master’s or even doctoral-level degree may be required.
  • Pursue licensure. For most counseling psychology specializations, licensure at the state level is required. Some counseling professions will also require you to re-apply for licensure, showing proof of continuing education credits.
  • Gain work experience. Also keep in mind that gaining supervised experience is needed before licensure for most counseling professions.

Sources:
American Counseling Association, What is Counseling?
PayScale, Crisis Counselor
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Child Life Specialist
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Clergy
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Genetic Counselors
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Marriage and Family Therapists
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Recreational Therapists
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Rehabilitation Counselors
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors and Advisors
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social and Community Service Managers
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Counseling Career Guide

Still Looking for a Counseling Degree?

Here are some of the most popular online counseling programs. On each page you will find a detailed write-up of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.