People that have experienced a loss can experience a profound change in emotions that can take a toll on overall health. When a person goes through a loss, such as that of a love one, relationship, or even career, it can leave that person with feelings of overwhelming despair.
Working in the field of grief counseling can give you the ability to stand beside those that are going through this trauma, and help to improve their state of mind and quality of life. The ultimate goal of professionals working in this field is to assist people with accepting their loss and moving forward in a health and proactive way.
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What Does a Grief Counselor Do?
People who are experiencing long-lasting or complicated grief may look to grief counselors to help them cope with their feelings. A grief counselor may gather information through an initial intake assessment, which encompasses overall health, date of loss, family support system, and past mental health diagnoses.
Grief counselors can assist patients throughout the grieving process. Their duties can include:
Educational programs focusing on grief counseling may outline the importance of creating individual therapeutic plans to accommodate each person’s grieving process. Students should be taught that it is vital to interpret each person's experience individually so that their plan can have the most positive effect.
Programs to Consider
If you are set on becoming a grief counselor, finding the right school for your education can be a good way to start down your career path. For many students, online grief counseling degree programs can be a convenient way to learn. The quality of an online education is comparable to that of a standard in-person education, with most programs using the same instructors for both on-campus and online programs. Our experts have found some relevant master's and certificate programs below for you to browse.
University of Maryland — Death, Dying, and Mourning: Applied Thanatology Online Graduate Certificate Program
The certificate program at the University of Maryland consists of 12 credit hours of postgraduate education in thanatology. Students can explore specialized topics including nursing home care, hospice and hospital care, and bereavement counseling. The program offers schedule and course flexibility for students who may have other obligations.
Marian University — Online Master’s in Thanatology and Online Graduate Certificate in Thanatology
At Marian University, students are provided with two options for pursuing a career in grief counseling. The master's in thanatology program is delivered online and can be completed in two years or less. The one-year certificate program is designed for those who have already earned a master's-level degree in another subject and contains coursework that is specific to bereavement and loss.
Breyer State University — Master’s in Grief Counseling
In Breyer State University's online Master of Science in Grief Counseling program, students have the opportunity to increase their awareness of bereavement and the constituents of grief. Counseling techniques may be sharpened during this program, giving students a better understanding of what people need emotionally when going through a loss.
What Will You Learn in an Online Grief Counseling Degree Program?
Some people may find it difficult to talk about a lost loved one, which can slow their process of moving through the grief cycle. Although people may find it hard to talk about a loss, it is necessary to start therapy with this introduction. Highlighting positive attributes of a lost person, memories, and experiences can help in the mourning process.
Many online grief counseling degree programs teach trauma-focused therapies in addition to those related to grief. Trauma theories are often implemented since loss is sometimes accompanied by trauma. Students learning about grief can help people distinguish trauma from grief and help them to separate one from another and heal in both realms.
Through in-depth educational programs, students learn to implement different therapeutic practices including:
Why Do We Need Grief Counselors?
Most people experience similar emotional stages in grief, including stages of anger and denial. Although most people can move through these stages smoothly, there are some instances in which people find themselves stuck in certain patterns. People who experience long periods of depression or anger associated with their loss may require the assistance of a grief counselor who can assist them with moving forward positively.
Grief counselors can help people learn different ways of mourning that can improve their overall state of mind. People can expect to suffer from one or more instances of loss throughout their life, which may increase the importance of grief counselors all over the country.
Common Education Requirements to Become a Grief Counselor
The minimum requirement to become a licensed counselor is a master’s degree, so this should be your goal along the way. In some cases, it can be hard to find a master’s degree that focuses solely on grief counseling, so some students choose to pursue a general master’s in counseling and then follow up with a postgraduate certificate program in grief counseling, thanatology, or bereavement.
Our team wanted to give you the best information regarding educational requirements for this career field. Take a look at the educational road map listed below.
In the beginning, you should consider a bachelor’s program that is relevant to the career that you wish to pursue. For grief counseling, you should consider degree programs that focus on psychology, counseling, or other closely related human service fields. The general education requirements for this degree program will likely mirror degree programs in other subjects, but the specialized courses pertaining to psychological theory and counseling can prove to be beneficial to you as you move into higher-level degree programs.
The bachelor’s-level degree generally takes four years to complete. Once this step has been completed, you may be expected to take a graduate-level entry exam such as the GRE prior to enrolling in a master’s-level program.
Most counselor roles require you to have a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling or psychology. Some universities offer online grief counseling degree programs or grief counseling as a specialty alongside their general degree program. If you are looking at a school that does not currently offer a specialty in grief counseling, you can pursue a generalized degree in counseling or psychology and then complement your degree with a postgraduate certificate later on.
Throughout the master’s program, you may be expected to take part in individualized learning assignments such as writing projects, case studies, and research. In the online domain, you can participate in class discussions and activities that broaden your learning experience. The entirety of the master’s program can be completed in two to three years, depending on the university.
Although not always necessary, some master’s program graduates choose to move forward into a relevant certificate program as part of their journey toward becoming grief counselors. A master’s degree in counseling consists of treatment methods and diagnostic information for a wide range of mental illnesses and difficulties. Participating in a postgraduate certificate program can provide coursework that is specific to loss and grieving.
Some certificate programs can be completed in less than one year and can provide learners with experience in working on the emotional effects of loss in people they serve.
Experience and Licensure
Once you have completed the educational requirements above, you should be able to take part in some supervised work experience through a participating organization. During this experience, you may have the opportunity to work alongside licensed counselors who are assisting people with managing the stresses of everyday life.
The experience requirement typically lasts one to two years for most students but can vary depending on what your state requires. At the end of this experience, you should be able to take part in a state board exam in counseling and then be approved for licensure. Requirements for licensure may vary by state, and you should research your state’s specifics before applying.
Grief Counselor Salary and Career Outlook
An online grief counseling degree program can help you prepare for any of a variety of fulfilling careers. Grief counselors can be found working alongside funeral service providers, schools, mental health agencies, and state agencies, and even in private practice.
A grief counseling career could also provide considerable job security. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that grief counselors, which fall under the umbrella of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, have a median annual salary of $47,660. Employment in this field is projected to grow by 25% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.
If you are searching for a career that can provide you with both a sense of accomplishment and financial stability, grief counseling is a major one to consider. The work that you can take part in can have a tremendous effect on those that you counsel.
Association for Death Education and Counseling, Earn Certification
Springer Publishing Company, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner
Springer Publishing Company, Principles and Practice of Grief Counseling
Therapy Central, Bereavement Counselling in London and Online
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors