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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.

military counselor

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.

Counseling Schools & Colleges

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5 Program(s) Found

• With 100,000+ students, it's the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
• Since 1971, its mission has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
• Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
• The student-faculty ratio is 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
• The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 76.5%.

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University of Phoenix , Online (campus option available)
  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
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Argosy University , Online (campus option available)
  • Formed in 2001, it has 28 locations across the United States.
  • Offers customized blend format of online and campus classes.
  • Extensive activity in the local campus communities.
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  • Ranked #8 in the 2013 Best Online Undergrad Programs by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 70% graduation rate– significantly higher than the national average of 59%. 
  • Ranked #2 by U.S. News & World Report for Best Online Bachelor's Programs for Veterans. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of six regional accrediting associations that accredit public and private colleges and universities in the United States.  
  • Has a network of 26 campuses.
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  • According to a Walden-sponsored study, 88.2% of graduates are very satisfied or satisfied with their education and more than 85% of students are likely or very likely to recommend the school to others.
  • In that same study, 88% of graduates said their education helped them enhance their professional performance.
  • Students can save 15% on tuition over the lifetime of their program if they are active-duty military, a veteran, or an employee of the Veteran’s Administration.
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  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • Main campus located in Chicago, Illinois with additional campuses in Southern California, Washington D.C., and online.
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  • Features 43 degree programs and more than 142 specializations.
  • Offers several ways to save on tuition, including multiple grant and scholarship opportunities, low-cost credits, accelerated programs, and more.
  • Reduced tuition, transfer credits, and other benefits are available for all military service members and veterans.
  • Allows students to preview a free, one-week mini course to give an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
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• Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University is a premier, private, accredited, nondenominational Christian university located in Phoenix, Arizona
• Its student-faculty ratio is 16:1 and 33.9% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
• As a Christian university, the school encourages students to find their purpose in Christ, with an emphasis on applying Christian values and ethics to the workplace.
• 65% of students have cars on campus, and alcohol is not permitted for students of legal age.

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Intercoast Colleges , Online (campus option available)
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
  • Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
  • Offers career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
  • 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.
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  • Recognized by Colleges of Distinction on the 2014 Texas and Christian schools lists.
  • Offers online bachelor’s programs in organizational management and organizational leadership, and online master’s programs in human services and clinical mental health counseling.
  • Designated a 2014 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
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