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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In some cases, people can feel as if they may never truly get over the trauma that they have gone through. While there seems to be a relatively concrete cycle for going through grief, people can spend different amounts of time within each level. Experiencing grief can be a difficult trial of patience that deserves attention from trained professionals.
What Does a Grief Counselor Do?
People that are experiencing long-lasting or complicated grief may look to grief counselors to help them cope with the unnatural feelings that surround them. At the beginning, the counselor may gather information through an initial intake assessment, which includes overall health, date of loss, family support system, and past mental health diagnosis.
Educational programs focusing on grief counseling outline the importance of creating individual therapeutic plans. The reason for this is that each person may grieve differently. Students are taught that it is vital to interpret each person's experience individually, so that the plan can have the most positive effect. Implementation of grief therapy involves helping the client become more comfortable with talking about the loss.
Schools/Programs to Consider
If you are set on becoming a grief counselor, finding the right school for your education is the first step. Through an online setting, degree programs are more available now than ever before. The quality of online education is comparable to standard educational institutions, 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 post-graduate education in thanatology. The program can be completed in about 1 year for most students, but allows flexibility for those that are currently working in full-time positions or have other obligations. Flexibility is also provided through scheduling, which is available all throughout the year.
Marian University - Online Masters in Thanatology and Online Graduate Certificate in Thanatology
At Marian University, students are provided with 2 options for pursuing a career in grief counseling. The Master's in Thanatology program is delivered online and can be completed in 2 years or less. The certificate program is designed for those that have already obtained a master's level degree in another subject and contains coursework that is specific to bereavement and loss.
Breyer State University - Masters in Grief Counseling
Breyer State University's online Master of Science in Grief Counseling takes 2-3 years for completion. During this program, students have the opportunity to increase their awareness of bereavement and the constituents of grief. Counseling techniques may be sharpened during this program, allowing students to have a better understanding of what people need emotionally when going through a loss. Students may expect to take part in individualized coursework and writing assignments as part of this program.
Some people may find it difficult to talk about a lost loved one, which can help contribute to their complications with moving through the grief cycle. Although people may find it hard or despairing 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. Most master’s programs that focus on grief counseling often teach trauma-focused therapies in addition to those surrounding grief. Trauma theories are often implemented since loss is sometimes accompanies by trauma, which can have even more detrimental effects on those around it.
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 such as art therapy, relaxation techniques, communicating with a lost loved one, and even cognitive behavior therapy as a means for healing.
Why Do We Need Grief Counselors?
As was stated previously, most people experience similar 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 within the trenches of certain stages. People that have long periods of depression or anger associated with loss may require the assistance of grief counselors in order to move forward positively during their experience.
Grief counselors can help people to learn different ways of mourning that can encourage an improvement in their overall state of mind. Unfortunately, loss is a normal part of life. People can expect to suffer from one or more instances of loss throughout their life, which increases the importance of grief counselors all over the country. Educational programs that teach grief counseling seek to educate students about the normal losses that occur in life as well as some of the less common. This knowledge can help graduates approach a different variety of grief-related situations with the appropriate expertise.
Common Education Requirements to Become a Grief Counselor?
Deciding that you want to help those suffering from grief is the initial step on your educational path. 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 generic Master’s in Counseling and then follow up with a post-graduate 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 obtain. For grief counseling, you should consider degree programs that focus on psychology, counseling, or other closely related human service field. The general education requirements of 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 can take up to 4 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 master’s level programs.
Most careers as a counselor require you to have a minimum of a Master’s degree in Counseling or Psychology. Some universities offer students the option of also pursuing a specialty alongside their general degree program, but there are some that do not. If you are looking at a school that does not currently offer a grief counseling specialty, you can pursue a generalized degree in counseling or psychology and them complement your degree with a post-graduate 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 can encourage diverse learning. The entirety of the master’s program can be completed in 2-3 years, depending on the university.
Although not always necessary, some master’s level graduates choose to move forward into a relevant certificate program as part of their journey towards becoming a grief counselor. 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 post-graduate certificate program provides 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 participating organizations. During this experience, you may have the opportunity to work alongside licensed counselors that are assisting people with managing the stresses of everyday life. The experience requirement typically lasts 1-2 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.
During times of grief, people seek out professionals to help them get over the initial shock and depression associated with their loss. A sudden and unexpected life change can have detrimental emotional effects of the people that experience them, making mental interventions sometimes necessary. In some cases, people simply are not aware of the methods for accepting loss and need some help organizing their thoughts and emotions.
As a grief counselor, you could be the link that people need to have a smooth and sound transition into peace. The skills that you can learn through online education in grief counseling, bereavement, or thanatology can provide you with the expertise needed to properly treat those that seek your services. Through online master’s programs or post-graduate certificate programs, you can gain the skills necessary to assist with this transition. As you enter the field of grief counseling, rest assured that you can make a profound difference in the quality of life for those that you serve. Now is the time to get started on your journey to a fulfilling career in grief counseling.
Grief Counselor Salary and Career Outlook
Pursuing a degree program that focuses primarily on grief counseling can lead to exceptional experiences while working in the field. On a regular basis, you could find yourself working with people that are truly in need of guidance through the difficult times in life. These professionals can be found working alongside funeral service providers, schools, mental health agencies, state agencies, and even in private practice. Students that go through the educational requirements for this career field can learn that loss is subjective to the person that experiences it. In addition to that, loss can be experienced in many different facets of life.
The widespread availability of grief counselors helps to encourage those suffering to find help with their adjustment without feeling the stigma of seeking counseling. As the country becomes more focused on the needs associated with mental health, more people can become comfortable with seeking out grief therapy than ever before. In terms of financial stability, this field can provide well for students that make their way through the education requirements. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimatees that counselors within this field can earn $47,640 on average per year (BLS;2015). While there is a large amount of counselors working in positions in state and local government, the highest concentration of professionals appears in areas such as individual and family services and education (BLS;2015).
If you are searching for a degree that can provide you with both a sense of accomplishment for your duties and financial stability, grief counseling is a major to consider. The work that you can take part in can have a tremendous effect on those in with you counsel.