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Veterans Counselor

Explore the Veterans Counselor career

Realizing that veterans and their families have sacrificed to serve others, sacrifices that often result in emotional distress and family discord, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has expanded its mental health services -and its number of counselors - across the nation.

veteran counselor

A counseling career with the VA means counseling any one of the nation's 5.5 million veterans, or providing marital therapy or family counseling. Veterans' counselors understand the unique culture of the military, are sensitive to issues of honor and sacrifice, and empathetic to disturbing accounts of intense combat experiences.

Veterans' counselors work in the VA health care system, consisting of 153 medical centers, in addition to numerous community-based outpatient clinics, and community living centers. The VA operates 232 community-based Vet Centers alone, established to provide free readjustment counseling and outreach services to all veterans and families for military related issues.

The VA's facilities and counseling services are available to all veterans, regardless of age or combat experience. That means that even veterans experiencing emotional issues related to war from 50 years ago can receive help at a VA hospital, clinic or center.

Older veterans such as those who have recently retired and now spend time reflecting on their lives and past experiences may have unsettling memories from the war. This starts a chain reaction of disturbing thoughts, and perhaps issues that he or she never fully resolved.

The VA website, which operates the National Center for PTSD, states that this "remembering" process can trigger late-onset stress symptomatology (LOSS). Symptoms of LOSS are similar to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but less severe. LOSS is more closely related to aging, and counselors will work with older veterans to make sense of their war memories, preventing more severe forms of depression from developing.

When veterans seek help for more serious forms of war-related trauma, or PTSD, veterans' counselors gravitate toward one of two proven therapies for PTSD: prolonged exposure therapy; or cognitive processing therapy.

Prolonged exposure therapy helps veterans deal with troubling memories, thoughts, feelings, and situations related to the trauma - even thoughts that the veteran has avoided because they're too painful. Repeated exposure to these thoughts, feelings, and situations helps reduce the power they have to cause distress.

For example, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan often have panic attacks when driving, remembering combat patrols that required heightened vigilance, searching constantly for signs of roadside bombs - now causing them panic in all driving situations.

By using prolonged exposure therapy, the counselor helps veterans confront these unpleasant thoughts, helps them put them into context, and slowly returns them to their cars, eventually getting them to handle driving again.

Cognitive processing therapy also addresses thoughts or feelings that cause panic or fear, helping the veteran discover the source of the fear, and discovering how the particular way a veteran thinks about it exacerbates the stress or panic. The counselor helps the veteran change thought processes that stop negative thoughts, turning them positive and therefore helping the vet feel better. Feeling better, the veteran then changes his or her behavior, making healthier choices and decisions.

Veterans' counselors also work with the families and couples affected by PTSD. Children and partners might not understand the anger or depression exhibited by a vet. They can become scared, feel guilty, and also act out angrily, often causing severe family disruption and discord.

A counselor works with family members on communication skills, and healthy coping behaviors. The entire family learns about PTSD and how it's handled and treated. Marital counseling works similarly, but with the couple rather than the entire family.

In total, the VA system has 200 specialized programs for treating PTSD, according to the VA website. Counselors are needed to administer these programs, to provide the appropriate interventions, and the VA especially values those who have served themselves. Veterans often make the best counselors for other veterans.

If you are interested in helping veterans and their families cope with the stresses associated with military service, sensitive to the needs of veterans and their families, contact schools offering degrees in counseling, or other psychology-related fields. A master's degree is usually required for many of the VA's counseling positions.

Counseling Schools & Colleges
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Results:  10
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5 Program(s) Found
  • 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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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
5 Program(s) Found

Regent University prepares students with the knowledge to excel and the faith to live with purpose. Our 20,000 alumni, from more than 110 countries, are changing the world as accomplished professionals. Named a top-15 school nationally for online bachelor's programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2015), Regent is among the most affordable undergraduate Christian colleges (CCCU 2015). Fully accredited, challenging programs are available online and on campus. New classes begin every eight weeks.

  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found
Argosy University , Online (campus option available)
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
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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  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found
  • Online school designated as a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Commited more than $60 million in tuition savings in 2015 through scholarships.
  • Active-duty military, veterans, and Veteran’s Administration employees can save 15% on tuition.
  • Offers 24/7 student services, including financial aid help, course registration, and career counseling.
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
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  • Online Courses
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2 Program(s) Found

•        Ranked #4 among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.

•        Designated as 2015 Military Friendly School by U.S. News & World Report.

•        Student to faculty ratio of 12:1, with an average class size of 21.

•        85% of faculty holds a doctorate or terminal degree in their field.

•        Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).

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  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found
University of Phoenix , Online (campus option available)
  • Provides career services that help students find careers that match their interests and map out a personalized career plan.
  • Offers mentorships and networking opportunities through an Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Has flexible start dates and class schedules.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Gives students the chance to earn credits for applicable military training and education.
  • Locations nationwide and online options.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
2 Program(s) Found
Brenau University , Gainesville

• Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
• Ranked among the 2015 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report.
• Challenging students to live extraordinary lives of personal and professional fulfillment since 1878.
• Offers programs in business, communication, education, humanities, fine arts, health sciences, and graduate studies.
• Provides on-campus housing options and study abroad programs for students.
• Campus features several academic centers for students, including The Writing Center and the Study Place for Achievement (SPA).

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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found
Intercoast Colleges , Online (campus option available)

• Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
• Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
• Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
• 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.

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Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
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2 Program(s) Found
  • Several student organizations are present on campus, including Alpha Chi and Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Societies, intramural sports, and a student government association.
  • Main campus is located in Hobbs, New Mexico, with online options as well.
  • Originally founded in 1962 as College of the Southwest.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
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  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits