Depression Counselors

Things you should know about depression counselors...

Depression counselors are mental health counselors who specialize in depression. They may also treat co-occurring disorders like anxiety. In order to be effective at their jobs, they need a high level of empathy. They also need to be able to distinguish clinical depression from transient episodes of sadness and from the normal experience of grief. Another skill is knowing how depression manifests differently in different demographic groups – for example, how men's depression may be masked as other issues.

Depression counselors may give tests or behavior scales to arrive at a diagnosis and assess the severity. A common assessment is the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales. Depression counselors must also assess whether an individual is at a risk for suicide. This should be done continually throughout the treatment process.

Depression counselors often use cognitive behavioral therapy with clients. During episodes of depression, people frequently exhibit extreme thinking patterns, and cognitive therapy can help them bring their thinking into perspective. If, for example, they see themselves as worthless or are overly focused on failure, they can explore evidence that helps them see themselves in a different light.

If a counselor feels that issues from long ago (for example, trauma or childhood neglect) are emerging as depression, she may employ a psychodynamic approach. Other types of therapy include solution-focused brief therapy and mindfulness therapy. Often a mixture of techniques is used.

Depression counselors may do individual or group counseling. They may work for social service organizations, hospitals, or large medical centers. Many are in private practice.

Counselors may refer patients to other treatment providers and/or work as part of a team with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.

Education and Licensing for Depression Counselors

A master's degree is the standard for mental health counseling. Some states allow individuals with lower levels of education to counsel under supervision at agency settings, but all states require a graduate degree for independent practice in mental health counseling. If a person wants to tailor her career to work with depressed individuals, this is a must.

Different states have different licensing standards, so a prospective counselor will want to become familiar with her state board before investing in graduate education. Some stakes make a distinction between licensed professional counselors and licensed mental health counselors and require the latter to have more mental health counseling coursework on their transcripts. Having the highest level of licensing can be important for reimbursement purposes, so a prospective depression counselor will want to make sure that her graduate education and post-graduate supervised practice meet the higher set of standards. One of the common requirements is 60 graduate semester hours in counseling.

Mental health counseling programs are accredited by CACREP. Often, this is the best option. A counselor can often achieve a similar level of licensing, though, by enrolling in a master's program in counseling psychology. Such programs are very selective.

Depression counselors will want to tailor their supervised practice experiences so that they get plenty of experience with their target population. Continuing education is another way to get the latest and best information on depression counseling.

Career Outlook

The counseling field as a whole is growing at a very healthy rate. One of the reasons cited by the BLS: Counselors are more cost effective than other mental health professionals (for example, psychiatrists and psychologists). Counselors do make lower salaries; still they commanded a mean salary of $42,590 in 2011. An income of $48,260 is listed for those who worked at “offices of other health care practitioners”. What does the fancy language mean? Generally, these are counselors who are in individual practice or teaming up with a limited number of other professionals.

Explore other types of counseling careers.

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