Become a Christian Counselor: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a Christian counselor. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career as a Christian counselor.
Do I Want to Be a Christian Counselor?
Christian counselors may also be considered mental health counselors. These professionals provide faith-based assistance to those who are dealing with issues such as abuse, depression, stress, spirituality, addiction or trauma. Counselors and clients may be Christians themselves, but it is not always necessary. Travel might be involved, and working with clients who need mental or emotional guidance might be quite stressful.
A master's degree is often required for counselors, along with licensing. Optional certification is available. State licensing usually requires that counselors complete continuing education credits on a regular basis. The following table outlines the core requirements for pursuing a career in Christian counseling:
|Degree Level||Master's degree*|
|Degree Field||Counseling or similar program*|
|Licensure and Certification||License is required for mental health counselors, includes passing an exam*; voluntary professional certification is available**|
|Experience||2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience required for state licensure*|
|Key Skills||Compassion, as well as listening, organizational, speaking and people skills*|
|Computer Skills||Ability to use related technology, such as medical, spreadsheet, and Microsoft Office software**|
|Additional Requirements||Continuing education required for state licensure*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Christian Counselors Association, ***O*Net Online.
Step 1: Pursue Undergraduate Studies
Religious education courses that prepare individuals for Christian counseling are available in bachelor's degree programs. Undergraduate programs may focus on such subjects as faith-based counseling, bible study, pastoral theology and church administration. Students in undergraduate pastoral studies and counseling programs can also learn about general psychology and speech communication, as well a complete a biblical counseling internship or practicum.
Step 2: Complete a Master's Degree Program
Completion of a master's degree program is required to become a counselor. Programs specific to this field, such as the Master of Arts in Christian Counseling, are available. Graduate courses may focus on ministry, biblical studies, Christian thought, mental disorders and clinical counseling.
Step 3: Acquire Experience
Christian counselors sometimes have private counseling practices, or they may work as part of a church that provides spiritual counseling. Individuals aspiring to become Christian counselors can seek out internships to gain experience. Some internship programs accept primarily master's students who are studying for family therapy or counseling psychology degrees. Students can find out about internship opportunities through their college or university.
Apprenticeship programs are also available and allow trainees to work alongside experienced Christian counselors, as well as learn on-the-job counseling methods. Trainees may also gain knowledge on how to start their own counseling ministries.
- Research the clinical practice requirements. Students should make sure they gain the required number of supervised clinical practice hours, which can vary by state. For example, in Kentucky, professional counselors need at least 3,000 hours, while only 2,000 hours are required in Minnesota.
Step 4: Become Licensed
Although requirements can vary, all states require mental health counselors to become licensed. This process includes meeting the supervised clinical practice hour requirements and passing an exam recognized by the state.
Professional certification and licensure is also available through groups such as the National Christian Counselors Association (NCCA). The NCCA credentials are different from state licensure, which can impact the counseling methods you are legally or ethically allowed to use. Counselors can be certified by the NCCA without a degree, and work as certified pastoral counselors.
Step 5: Enroll in Continuing Education Courses
There are Christian organizations that offer continuing education credits for Christian counselors. These courses may include sociology of family life, introduction to pastoral care and biblical healing. Seminars may also be included, and cover topics such as depression, family systems therapy and anger management.
- Know the continuing education requirements. Whether counselors have state licensure or a credential similar to those offered by the NCCA will determine the type of continuing education requirement. Counselors should make sure the continuing education course or seminar will count as credit toward keeping their licensure current.
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