ABH Maryland

How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor?


How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor?

  • Mental Health

The journey to becoming a counselor is a path of profound personal and professional development. It encompasses acquiring a deep understanding of human behavior and mental health, along with the mastery of various therapeutic techniques. This article will guide you through the steps required to become a proficient counselor, focusing on tested interventions and pragmatic counseling skills in individual, group, and family formats.

According to a previous Advanced Behavioral Health article: “Counseling helps people facing particular life challenges. These life challenges can vary, and many circumstances can cause a significant enough disruption in a person’s mental well-being to lead to counseling. Counseling services tend to be short-term, and some examples patients often see counselors for when faced with circumstances include (but are not limited to) the following: (1) Relationship difficulties, including divorce, (2) Professional or legal worries, (3) Grief over the loss of a loved one.”

Counseling and Mental Health Treatment

Educational Requirements

The first step in becoming a counselor is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Typically, this degree is in psychology, social work, or a related field and takes about four years to complete. This foundational education provides an understanding of human behavior, development, and basic counseling principles.

After completing a bachelor’s degree, aspiring counselors must pursue a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. According to an article by Palo Alto University: “Most states require a minimum of a master’s degree in social work, psychology, or counseling. Advancing your studies can help you prepare for licensure as a marriage and family therapist or clinical mental health counselor, as well as work towards leadership roles in the industry.”

Master’s programs, which generally take two to three years to complete, offer specialized training in therapeutic techniques, diagnosis, and treatment planning. Courses often cover a range of counseling methods, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is vital for helping clients modify dysfunctional thinking and behavior.

Licensing and Certification

Upon completing a master’s degree, the next step is obtaining a license to practice. Licensing requirements vary by state but typically include completing a set number of supervised clinical hours (ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 hours) and passing a state-recognized exam. This process can take an additional two to three years post-graduation. Some counselors choose to pursue further certification in specific counseling approaches.

Specialized Training

In addition to general counseling skills, counselors may specialize in areas like play and recreational therapy, behavior modification, or parent training. Each of these specializations can require additional coursework, workshops, and practical experience. For instance, play therapy training, a method especially beneficial in working with children, might take an additional one to two years of focused study and supervised practice.

Continuous Learning and Experience

Becoming a counselor is not only about formal education and certification. It involves continuous learning and practical experience. Engaging in ongoing professional development through workshops, seminars, and conferences is essential. This commitment to lifelong learning ensures that counselors remain updated with the latest research and techniques in the rapidly evolving field of mental health.

Practical Experience

Practical experience is crucial for developing effective counseling skills. During their education, counselors-in-training typically complete internships or practicums that offer hands-on experience in various settings, such as schools, hospitals, or private practices. After formal education, gaining experience through employment in different counseling environments is invaluable. This real-world experience allows counselors to apply their theoretical knowledge and refine their approach to different client needs.


The journey to becoming a counselor is a multifaceted process that typically takes between six to eight years, including undergraduate and graduate education, licensing, and specialized training. However, the learning and development do not stop there. A career in counseling requires a lifelong commitment to learning, growth, and adaptation to meet the diverse needs of clients effectively.

At Advanced Behavioral Health, the focus is on upholding tested interventions and pragmatic counseling skills to provide the highest standard of care. The counselors are equipped with a range of techniques, ensuring that they are well-prepared to support individuals, groups, and families in their mental health journeys. The path to becoming a counselor may be extensive, but it is undoubtedly rewarding, filled with opportunities for personal growth, and the chance to make a significant impact on the lives of others.

Are you interested in completing an internship that will help you build the confidence and skills necessary to be a successful counselor? Visit our current openings page to determine if we have a clinical internship opportunity that’s right for you.

When you think of the well-being of a child, you first think of basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are met, however, it’s crucial for a child to have emotional and social wellness as well. In this article, we will explore the impact social wellness has on the overall health of a child and great ways for children to garner social support in their lives.

It comes as no surprise that as human beings, we all need connection with others, no matter what stage of life we are in. In fact, having social support is a social determinant of health (SDOH) that significantly impacts the health of an individual. After spending the last few years in and out of isolation due to the Covid-19 outbreak, social support is more important now than ever before. Having social support means having family members and friends you can talk to and seek advice from when life feels challenging and overwhelming. Knowing you’re not alone in your life journey, especially as a child, creates a sense of belonging and empowerment throughout one’s life.

4 Types of Social Support

Emotional Support. This type of support lets you know that people care about you and have empathy for your experiences. Emotional support often looks like people checking in on you to let you know they’re thinking of you, and that they are there if you need anything. As a parent, make sure your child knows you can be a sounding board for them. If you have family members who can also show up for your children in this way, even better!

Practical Help. This type of support is when people give you something tangible or offer a service to help you out. This could be in the form of money, making food when you are sick, or helping to pack when moving. Having family and friends show up in this way shows your child what it looks like to be present for people you love.

Sharing Points of View. This type of support can often come in the form of affirmations and encouragement. For example, pointing out your child’s strengths to them and reminding them they can do anything they put their mind to. It can also look like sharing another perspective if they are being hard on themselves. For example, if they are angry with themselves after receiving a bad grade on a test, you can help them see it as a learning experience and a way for them to grow.

Sharing Information. This type of support is when someone shares what they’ve learned from their own life experiences. For example, if another parent has a child who struggles with socializing, they can share some tips and tricks they’ve learned to help their child find and create social support.

The Importance of Social Groups and Extended Support

Children who are connected to their family, friends, and people in their community have opportunities to learn how to speak, share, and get along with others. When your child feels connected to people in your neighborhood, it often allows them to feel physically safe which can alleviate stress and worry. Simply riding bikes, going on walks, and saying hello to neighbors with your kids can create this sense of security for them.

In addition to engaging with your neighbors, getting involved in local organizations can also create social support for your child. Signing up for a sports team, musical theater, art class or summer camp are all great ways to help your child meet new friends and learn important social skills that can carry them through their lives.

Tips for Helping Kids Make Community Connections:

Spend time outside in your neighborhood playing on the playground, going to a local farmer’s market, or scheduling a playdate with neighborhood kids.

Show your kids that connection is a two-way street. If your neighbors or friends go out of town, offer to get their mail, or water their plants and take your child with you when you go. This will show your child how you show up for people you care about.

Make sure you make time for socializing with friends as well. Your child looks to you first and foremost for how they should act and live their own life.

Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone and do something they may be scared to do. As a parent, it’s your job to push them into something social for their own well-being at times.