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Military Counseling Career

Explore the Military Counselor career

Sometimes a service member’s reason to talk with a mental health specialist does not stem from a war wound or intense combat situation, does not require medication or long-term therapy, does not necessitate a team of professionals to coordinate care. Sometimes military personnel or family members only need one or two sessions with a military counselor to vent.

Other times, however, counseling is needed to help an individual make a few behavioral changes, to sharpen coping skills, to resolve stressful interactions between family members. Military counselors help people uncover their strengths and resources to solve immediate issues. Perhaps a National Guard member, serving on the Honor Guard, burying fellow service members four times a day, every day of the week, is struggling emotionally. A military counselor will help the service member find ways to adapt to this extremely difficult job.

Or counselors help military families cope with deployment issues, such as when a child starts acting out because of fear and anxiety (see Anxiety) over a parent's overseas assignment. Acting out, such as biting other children, or bullying (see Bullying), leads to expulsion from day care centers or schools if not addressed. So the military counselor works with the child, staff and parent addressing the issue, helping everyone guide the child to find other, more appropriate ways to express fear or anger.

Another way that counselors use their expertise is to help those returning home from overseas reintegrate into civilian life, which affects the individual's career, financial resources, and his or her ability to manage overwhelming, competing demands. The family also needs assistance in adapting once again to changes in its routine, and also preparing for the possibility that the family member will deploy again in the near future.

Counseling professionals also provide interventions when a service member returns home injured, and the family realizes the impact of the disability on their lives. They also counsel families when a service member loses his or her life overseas. At times, these counseling sessions require more than a few visits, or a referral to a psychologist or psychotherapist for more long-term therapy.

The number of emotional and behavioral issues addressed by military counselors varies widely according to the situation, but all situations result from an individual serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. And the ultimate goal of almost all military counselors is to help people understand and take action on career, work, marital or substance abuse problems.

If warranted, counselors can also get involved in more long-term therapies, such as exposure-based therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (see Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). More severe conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury usually require these longer term approaches, and require that counselors have advanced degrees and experience.

A number of counseling positions are available in the military, varying in scope and responsibility depending on the counselor’s background. Some branches also offer training programs for those wanting to become counselors. Civilian positions are also available for trained counselors wanting to work with military personnel and their families.

Many professionals seek a master's degree in counseling, which requires about two to three years of work beyond a bachelor’s degree, plus supervised training. With this degree, individuals can then become licensed professional counselors - each state having its own licensing requirements. For those wanting to work as a civilian counselor for an organization contracted with the government to provide military counseling services, licensing is required.

Advanced or doctorate degrees in counseling psychology are also available. These degrees take about five years to complete; four years for classes, and an internship in the fifth year. Doctoral level counseling psychologists from an accredited program also typically sit for licensure. For those in doctoral programs and seeking internships, the military offers a number of possibilities at military hospitals in exchange for a number of years of military service.

Training in counseling psychology differs from training in clinical psychology. Counselors work more on solutions to daily problems that arise and must be addressed for an individual or family to function in healthy ways, while clinical psychologists specialize more on assessing individuals for serious mental health illnesses, and treating those illnesses.

If you are interested in counseling psychology and working with military members and their families, several diverse employment opportunities are available. Schools offering degrees in psychology will provide you with information on courses of study, career options, and licensing requirements. Request information to get started in this rewarding and in-demand career.

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5 Program(s) Found
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
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University of Phoenix , Online (campus option available)
  • Partnerships with thousands of companies
  • Alliances with many national industry associations
  • Personalized career guidance
  • Job market research tools to help you explore your career of interest
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  • Intertwining academic excellence and faith since its founding in 1941.
  • Offers traditional undergrad, adult and graduate, as well as seminary programs.
  • Gives laptop computers to all incoming freshman students.
  • Has nearly 20 study abroad programs available across 10 countries.
  • Located less than 5 miles from Grand Rapids, the 2nd largest city in Michigan.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
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  • Why Earn Your Degree from GCU?
  • Options: Choose from a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Business, Nursing, Psychology, Education & more!
  • Convenience: Complete courses online, on campus, or a combination of both!
  • Earlier Graduation: Our 4-credit courses allow you to complete your degree program in less time.
  • Transfer Friendly: We will request your transcripts, evaluate your graduate coursework, and determine your anticipated graduation date within 24 hours.
  • Quality: Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949 and is regionally accredited. Learn more today!
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  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
  • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
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  • Average class size is 25, allowing for more one-on-one time with instructors.
  • Has a 97% employment rate among available graduates.
  • All  graduates receive Lifetime Employment  Assistance—free and forever.
  • Michigan's largest independent college.
  • Most instructors are working professionals in the fields they teach.
  • Programs are continuously updated to ensure classes are career-relevant and in sync with what's needed in the industry
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  • Gives students the option to enroll at any time and begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer.
  • Has an average freshman retention rate of 77.3 percent.
  • Ranked #39 in Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Reports
  • Has more than 50,000 alumni including several astronauts, CEOs, and 32 generals.
  • Offers a special tuition rate for active duty, selected reserves, National Guard service members and their spouses.
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  • Its Fast Track program enables qualified students to save up to 30% on tuition and graduate up to 30% faster.
  • Its online MBA program was named by the International Graduate Forum as a top 10 Online MBA Program in 2012.
  • Listed as a military friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2014.
  • Lets students watch, view, read, or hear content through its program, My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.).
  • Has additional campus locations near military bases in Colorado Springs and Denver.
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  • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
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The Chicago School of Professional Psychology , Online (campus option available)
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
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