The final option for pursuing a counseling career in this field is through licensure as a Clinical Psychologists. This path is the least preferred by upcoming students seeking counseling careers, since it requires a Doctorate in Psychology and clinical training for state licensing.
Regardless of which path you choose towards your career, your educational training can include an in-depth look at the counseling techniques that are beneficial when working with the Geriatric population. These tools can assist you with providing comfort and healing to your clients as they progress through the later stages of their lifetime.
What is Geriatric Counseling?
Geriatric Counseling is a subfield of general counseling that involves providing specialized care to adults in the Geriatric population. These individuals may face certain adversities that make them more prone to emotional disturbances, as well as common psychological illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
As a counselor in this field, you can work with clients that are nearing the end of their life or those that are working through detrimental illnesses that impair their overall quality of life. In some instances, you may also work with individuals and their families as they find healthy ways to cope with the changes associated with late-stage aging.
Some of the most common issues addressed by Geriatric Counselors can include addressing the loss of friends and family, assisting with despair associated with memory loss, and coping with long-term illness or hospice care. Some counselors may even work for hospice care agencies as a source of support for clients and their loved ones.
The aging population may be subject to many sources of anxiety through their changing health and quality of life. The counselor's role in the process may be to help clients re-focus their outlook on positive experiences, time with family, and achieving end-of-life goals.
Counselors in this field can potentially assist Geriatric patients with recognizing achievements in their life and identifying meaningful relationships for support along the way. Some counselors in this area of expertise may also include family members in the therapeutic process.
Geriatric Counseling may also involve some of the standard counseling functions found in the generalist field. Mental health assessment, application of common individual and trauma-focused therapies, and continued treatment planning during the treatment cycle.
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Available Geriatric Counseling Degrees
Geriatric Counseling degree programs can provide you with the education you need to address and treat common issues related to mental health in the Geriatric age group. Your educational level can determine what type of services you provide to your clients, as well as the type of treatments you can provide in your career.
This specialized field is attainable through a combination of degree sources for optimum certification and licensure. Your choice of degree programs can influence the amount of time you spend in a degree program and the total time it takes you to become licensed.
Bachelors of Counseling
At the very beginning of your educational experience, you can expect to complete bachelor's level programs as a baseline for your future licensure. The Bachelor's in Psychology is the most common option for undergraduate education, with Bachelor's of Counseling and Social Work following close behind.
Masters in Counseling Focused on Geriatric Counseling
Master's level education is a minimum requirement in most states for licensure, as well as program accreditation. The Master's in Counseling can be a great option for upcoming mental health counselors seeking certification in Geriatric Counseling.
To complement your Master's in Counseling program, you can also participate in a Gerontology or Geriatric Counseling post-graduate certificate program. These certificate programs can provide you with more insight into this population specifically and allow you to cater your counseling techniques to the specific needs of those at geriatric age.
Master of Social Work
If you choose to take the social work path to becoming a counselor, the Master of Social Work can be your next step towards a career in this field. Licensing as a MSW can allow you to provide counseling services to the population while under the direct supervision of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
Some students may choose to go even further with their degree program in order to provide high quality services to their clients. Doctoral counseling programs can be found online and in traditional universities all over the country.
Students taking the psychologists path to becoming Geriatric Counselors may completed Doctoral programs in Clinical Psychology as part of their educational requirements. Doctoral programs can include more educational credit requirements and extended clinical requirements in the field.
Online Master's in Geriatric Counseling Programs
Students that are interested in becoming licensed counselors for the Geriatric population must take into consideration the accreditation of their degree program prior to enrolling. The leading agency for accreditation for counseling is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
CACREP does not currently have online programs in Geriatric Counseling included within their available accredited programs. However, students can participate in accredited online programs that focus on general mental health counseling that can be applied in the Geriatric setting.
Online and accredited counseling programs can be found through universities like Colorado Christian University. This school currently offers an accredited online Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - which could provide an excellent foundation of knowledge for future Geriatric Counselors.
This program can take around 3 years for most students to complete and includes a clinical experience component to help students tie their knowledge of counseling to the field experience it results in. Clinical mental health specialties can also prepare students for a wide range of presenting mental health symptoms common in Geriatric patients.
Concordia University is another accredited provider of online Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. If you are prepared to enter in-depth programs focusing on treatment of common and uncommon mental health disorders, this could be a collegiate option for you to consider.
Some upcoming students of master's programs also choose to pursue accredited specializations like rehabilitation counseling as a means for connecting with the Geriatric client base. This specialization can allow students to explore different coping mechanisms for adults that are managing debilitating illnesses and injuries associated with old age.
The CACREP offers online programs in both specialized areas for you to consider. Our team encourages you to explore the online program database for more information about programs holding current accreditation.
Sample Geriatric Counseling Courses
As you sort through the different online degree programs available in your field, you should explore the curriculum associated with each one. The courses that you take during your degree program can assist you in developing treatment strategies based on the historical development of the field and common practice in counseling today.
While some of the courses along your path may focus on the standard aspects of counseling, you may also take classes that can allow you to further your knowledge in the aspect of Geriatric treatment planning and administering of counseling tools.
Psychopathology in Geriatric Counseling is a course that provides students with the skills necessary to assess and diagnose mental illness within their Geriatric clients. Students in this course can be taught to utilize the DSM-5 as a tool for providing diagnostic care to their clients, which can establish a baseline for therapy in the future.
Counseling for Groups can also be part of the Geriatric Counseling curriculum, since some of the work you can do in the field may include groups of families. Theories of communication, coping, and recognition between members of family groups can be learned throughout this course, which can be beneficial to families struggling with internal relationships.
The names and topics of courses can vary depending on where you are enrolled and your unique degree program. You can expect to engage in courses related to ethical considerations in counseling – which can be general and found within all counseling degree programs.
Historical foundations of psychology and counseling, research in counseling, and Geriatric Counseling theories can also be commonly found within your chosen program. As you sort through the numerous degree programs being offered in your area, explore some of the courses associated with each one to get a better grasp on what is ahead.
Path to Working in Geriatric Counseling
- Bachelor’s: The bachelor’s degree is the foundation of learning for future Geriatric Counselors. You can pursue the Bachelor’s in Psychology, Counseling, or Social Work depending on which educational path you plan to take, which can be around 4 years of learning through online or traditional schools.
- Master’s: The Master’s in Counseling is the most popular degree choice for upcoming Geriatric Counselors. Graduates of Master of Social Work programs can also provide counseling services after licensure, but with certain restrictions not present in counseling fields.
- Certification: Students that do not participate in accredited Geriatric Counseling degree programs may require additional certification after their completion of the Master’s in Counseling program. Certificate programs in Gerontology and Geriatric Counseling can help to provide more specialized knowledge that can be beneficial when working with Geriatric clients.
- Experience: Any counseling degree program leading to licensure will include supervised experience components of varying degrees. In most states, students must participate in clinical experiences lasting around 2 years under the supervision of Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs).
- Examination: All of the hard work and intensive studying during your educational and supervision experience can lead to the final step on your licensure journey. The National Counselor Examination is a board examination required by all licensing prospects. You can register for and complete this test once all of the other components on your path have been completed.
- Licensure: When you are ready to apply for licensure, you should submit your application through your state’s licensing agency. This can include an application for licensure, licensing fee, official transcripts, counseling certification, and proof of experience.
Important Geriatric Counseling Organizations to Know
Professional organizations can be an important supportive resource for new counselors seeking validation and community during their career. There may be numerous professional agencies available for Geriatric Counselors to consider, many of which consisting of professionals from both the counseling and Geriatric care communities.
American Counseling Association
Licensed counselors in all specialized disciplines can purchase membership to the American Counseling Association (ACA) as a means for furthering their knowledge after licensure. This organization is one of the leading options for counselors in the field and likely one of the most populated.
The ACA can provide you with the opportunity to explore constructive research studies, which can allow you to learn about new treatments and techniques as they emerge. In addition to this learning aspect, you can also participate in conferences and meetings with other licensed counselors in diverse fields.
American Geriatrics Society (AGS)
If you are interested in joining an organization focused specifically on the quality of care for Geriatric clients, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) can be an excellent option to consider for membership. This organization takes a multidisciplinary look at the overall quality of care of this population, including viewpoints from a multitude of professional providers.
Participation in this group can enlighten you to the various presenting issues faced by the Geriatric population, which can contribute to the type of counseling services you provide in the field. Membership to this group can allow you access to research and professional networking within members.
Geriatric Counseling Career Options
Completing your degree program and obtaining your professional license in counseling can be an exciting and exhilarating experience. Once you have met these milestones in your educational career, you can pursue Geriatric Counseling careers in the field.
Like many other counseling careers, you may find that there are diverse areas that you can apply your expertise depending on your preferences for settings and the availabilities within you area. As you explore job openings in your area, consider what type of influence you would like to have throughout your career.
Geriatric Counselors can often be found in rehabilitation and hospice care settings. The role of the counselor in these areas may be to assess clients and provide therapeutic services associated with their current level of functioning, mental health, and presenting need.
Counseling professionals in Geriatrics may also be found commonly in mental health agencies, since these facilities are often known to provide widespread and diverse mental health services to clients with varying needs. Some professionals choose to work in the general mental health setting so that they can exercise both their general counseling certification alongside their Geriatric specialization.
Geriatric Counselors can also be employed by local hospitals or long-term care facilities that service the aging population. Having Geriatric mental health specialists on staff can help to promote the overall quality of care of Geriatric patients.
In addition to working in health care and mental health practice, licensed counselors in this field can also work in private practice. This is a common career choice for specialized counselors seeking to work directly with the clients within their specialization.