How to Become a Counselor for Troubled Teens

Teenagers often struggle with all sorts of behavioural issues, including aggression, lack of motivation, trouble at school, drug abuse, depression and anxiety. Trained counsellors can help troubled teens sort out their problems and get back on a track towards happiness and success. These individuals are skilled at interacting with kids in this age group and understand their unique problems, needs and desires. To become a counsellor for troubled teens, you need the right training and work experience for the career.

Start planning to be a counsellor for troubled teens while still in high school. Focus your academic work in areas of the humanities and social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology and English. Become a counsellor or student adviser if your school offers these programs, or see if there's a community centre in your area that offers these services. Use these opportunities to develop your counselling skills.

Apply to college. Choose a college with strong psychology, education or social work undergraduate departments. Consider important factors such as cost of the program, distance from your home, career services, campus life and community service commitment.

Obtain a bachelor's degree in psychology or closely related discipline. Some schools offer programs specifically for counsellors, but a degree in education, psychology, human services or social work will also qualify you for the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If available, take classes in areas like human growth and development, counselling techniques, research and program evaluation, professional ethics, abnormal psychology, crisis intervention, behaviour modification and group counselling methods.

Gain professional experience through internships, volunteer work and jobs. While in college or upon graduating, look for these kinds of entry-level opportunities to get your feet wet as a counsellor. Inquire in places where you'll be working with troubled teens, such as juvenile delinquent institutions, rehabilitation centres, community outreach organisations, high schools, summer enrichment camps and social services.

Get a master's degree. Many employers and state organisations require all counsellors to have a master's degree in counselling. The master's degree allows students to deepen their knowledge of the field and specialise in their chosen area. Choose a master's program that provides training for work with troubled teens. Complete your capstone research project on a topic related to working with troubled teens. Fulfil the supervised clinical requirements for the degree.

Get licensed to work as a counsellor in your state. License requirements vary by state, work setting and speciality, according to the BLS. In most cases, license applicants need to meet the minimum hours of supervised clinical experience, pass a state-approved written examination and complete continuing education classes to maintain licensure.

Look for a job. Put together a solid professional resume and cover letter. Start sending out applications to the types of organisations mentioned in step 4.

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About the Author

Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.

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