What are Transformational Counselors?

Who hasn't wanted, at some point, to be more than they are, or, like the butterfly, let go of something that’s limiting? An unhappy childhood? A fear of failure? A pattern of failed relationships? Hence transformational counseling.

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Transformational counseling doesn't refer to one technique, and there's no one credential that makes a person a transformational counselor. Therapists use the term because of their philosophies, the people who have influenced them... and the clientele they wish to attract. Often, transformational counseling is about learning to recognize limiting beliefs and step beyond them. The counselor may emphasize that a person's thoughts and attitudes are instrumental for shaping their reality. Most people have heard the saying that it’s not about one’s experiences, but their responses to them. Transformational counselors help them put the belief into action. They may emphasize the human need for creativity and authenticity and the importance of following one’s own path.

Transformational counselors employ talk therapy. They may also utilize other techniques like mindfulness or body-centered therapies. Art and dance therapists often see the arts as transformational: keys to letting go of traumas from the past and embracing new life stages. Transformational counseling may also overlap with spiritual counseling.

Becoming a Transformational Counselor

Transformational counselors come from different backgrounds. The route to independent practice as a mental health practitioner is invariably a master's or doctoral degree. However, professionals may have degrees in counseling, counseling psychology, or other behavioral science fields. Some opt for a program that combines counseling with art or dance therapy. Some opt for social work. Clinical social workers can go into private practice providing psychotherapy. Each state sets the scope of practice for the mental health professions and determines what is required for a person to use a particular professional title. It's a good idea to become familiar with one’s state mental health licensing board(s) before selecting a graduate program.

Although some counseling programs do offer specialties, people don't earn degrees in transformational counseling per se. What a person who is interested in transformational counseling can do is thoroughly research programs: What philosophies do the instructors hold? Which therapies have they specialized in? Are any of them leaders in the field?

There are further opportunities to specialize post-degree. Counselors and other mental health professionals are lifelong learners. They can earn the continuing education credits required for license renewal by attending conferences or taking classes as part of a graduate certificate program. One option would be mindfulness training.

Baccalaureate holders may have the option of become transformational life coaches. They won't diagnose or treat mental illness but they may help people set and achieve goals.

Licensing and Certification for Transformational Counselors

Mental health professionals have state licensing. Some states have multiple levels of licensure for professional counselors. In some jurisdictions, a 48 semester hour master’s program is the foundation for licensure as a professional counselor while 60 semester hours is required for licensure as a mental health counselor. With the higher license may come the authority to diagnose and treat serious mental illnesses. Transformational counselors often work with individuals who are basically mentally healthy. Thus, the lower level may be adequate for transformational counseling, but it won’t confer as many employment options.

Individuals who are working as transformational life coaches with less than a master's degree can seek voluntary certification. The Center for Credentialing Education (CCE) offers a Board Certified Coach credential which professionals can earn after completing one of many approved third party programs. Some of them are in personal/ life coaching. The advantage to having some sort of credential is that it shows that the practitioner is accountable to someone -- not only their education but their criminal and disciplinary history has been reviewed.

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