The field of psychology is perhaps one of the most diverse fields of study individuals can pursue. There are many different branches within psychology focusing on how the brain works, how humans think, and why we do what we do. Counseling psychology is just one of the many branches of psychology, but few people know what it is and even fewer likely know what counseling psychology students will do for a future career. A counseling psychology degree is designed to prepare an individual for a career that involves direct contact with other individuals in an effort to help them overcome challenges in their life.
Counseling psychology is often confused with clinical psychology, but there are significant differences between the two professions within psychology. While both professions involve a good deal of interaction with individuals in an attempt to assist them with problems in their lives, their education and approach is often quite different. Counseling psychology contains a strong educational component and many programs for counseling psychology are found within an institutions school of education, though not all of them are. Clinical psychology on the other hand has more focus on medical practices and programs provide students with a specialized area of study. Counseling psychologists often have a more broad range of knowledge. The most important difference however is their approach to clients. Counseling psychologists treat healthy individuals by helping them through emotional, educational, organizational, or health related problems in their lives. Clinical psychologists on the other hand treated those suffering from mental illnesses.
There is no specific counseling psychology degree offered at the Bachelor’s level, though earning a Bachelor’s degree in psychology will put any student on the right path to gaining employment in the field of counseling psychology. It is not until the graduate level that individuals will see more specialized degrees in counseling offered. The big decision many will face is which degree to pursue and that decision will be based largely upon financial ability, experience, and time. The two most common counseling psychology degrees are:
- Master of Arts in Counseling
- Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology (PhD)
Individuals can break into counseling through other degree tracts such as a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D) or a Master of Science in Psychology; the above listed degrees are simply the most common counseling psychology degrees. There are differences between Master’s and Doctoral level programs that will affect which degree certain individuals choose to pursue. Masters level programs are typically completed in two or three years with some even being offered on a part time basis, as opposed to Doctoral programs taking as long as eight years. Masters programs will get individuals into a number of high ranking positions, although they will not experience the wide variety and high pay that Doctoral programs provide their graduates.
Once an individual graduates from a counseling psychology program they will be able to find a home in a variety of career fields. Some of the more common areas counseling psychologists work in include:
- Substance abuse
- Child development
- Adolescent development
- Adult development/aging
- Health psychology (e.g. including long term care, AIDS, cancer, etc)
- Sport psychology
- Aggression/anger control
- Anxiety disorders
- Interpersonal relationships
- Community psychology
- Group processes
- Crisis intervention
- Developmental disabilities