If you want to provide support and guidance to someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one, becoming a grief counselor might be a career you want to pursue.
Grief counselors are available to people who have a difficult time coping with the misery they feel after someone dies. They bring the mourner through a process of steps to identify their feelings, understand them, and then work with them so he/she can learn to function without the loved one physically in his/her life. During the work of the counseling sessions, the counselor will use active listening and be patient as the person takes his/her time in bereavement.
Grief counselors also monitor people's mental stability to ensure that a psychological illness has not presented itself during this upsetting time. However, grief counselors cannot prescribe medication but will refer clients for further evaluation to a psychiatrist or other medical professional.
The Road to Becoming a Grief Counselor
Becoming a grief counselor starts with getting an undergraduate degree in a related field such as psychology, sociology, or counseling. The bachelor's degree can be in either arts or science. It's also useful to gain experience as a counselor during your undergraduate career. Volunteering at a veterans hospital, nursing or funeral home are some good places to find people who need bereavement support. Just make sure that volunteering is not the same as working as a counselor, you are primarily just lending an ear to people who need to talk. Stay within your professional boundaries when giving advice and always report any issues you see to your supervisor. For example, if the person you are listening to discusses suicide. After receiving your undergraduate degree, you have a couple of options. You can decide to become a licensed or a non-licensed counselor.
A non-licensed counselor can work as a funeral home director or in a nursing home or church. Counselors without state licensure are limited to the extent they can counsel people. They can provide support and guidance but if the person is having any psychological repercussions, he/she must seek a licensed counselor for further evaluation and therapy.
As a licensed counselor you can do private practice, work in a hospital setting, and home based counseling services. You're able to provide grief counseling to individuals and in a group setting.
Individuals interested in becoming a licensed grief counselor can further their studies to receive a Master's degree in counseling, psychology, or social work. Many states require that you have at least a Master's to receive state licensure. You may then have to do a minimum number of supervised counseling hours and take a licensing test. Each state differs in their requirements for licensure so visit the American Counseling Association website for a complete list of each state licensure board's contact information.
The American Academy of Grief Counseling
Licensed and non-licensed grief counselors may want to pursue a certification in grief counseling. This certification is an added credential exemplifying your education and experience in providing bereavement support and counseling. You can learn more about the certification by visiting The American Academy of Grief Counseling website.
Salary of Grief Counselors
According to the website, PayScale, bereavement counselors who have one to four years experience can be expected to earn between $27,000 to $48,000 annually. It's important to keep in mind that the area in which you live in has a lot to do with how much you will be paid as is the type of setting you work in. If you work in your own private practice, your earnings could be much less or much more depending on your clientele. In addition, private counseling services generally pay more than the public sector.