How long does it take to become a counselor? - A realistic roadmap!
“It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop”
Have you been thinking about helping other people? Does helping your friends and family solve a problem give you happiness? Are you thinking about becoming a counselor and entering the field of psychological aid? If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, then you are at the right place!
Counseling has grown out to become a thriving field with endless opportunities. For the longest time, consulting a counselor for emotional distress was taboo in India and many suffered the brunt of the backward mindset. Lately, people have been realising the importance of mental health and society has also started its course toward acceptance. This has opened up avenues of progress and opportunities for people who enjoy helping others.
If you are passionate about helping people, empathic toward others’ feelings, and wish to put your skills to good use, then becoming a counseling psychologist might be your career path. Although, once you decide to pursue your passion, you must have wondered how long it would take you to become a counselor? It is vital to assess and get educated about the field you are about to go after. Once you know the process and the amount of time you will have to invest in this lane, you are all set to make your mark in the field of counseling.
To understand how long it would take to become a counselor, let us delve into the step-wise account of the process of becoming a counselor in India.
What are the different kinds of counselors?
Counselors are experts in guiding you with your issues that may arise from various spheres of your life like behavioural, personal, academic, etc. As a result, counselors can work in different domains, some of them are mentioned below:
Guidance and Career Counseling
When it comes to what you are about to do with your life, you need someone to show you the right way about your future. Here is where career counselors come into the picture. They help high school students, college students, and working professionals to find direction in their careers and resolve career-related issues.
Marriage and Family Counseling
There are always issues involving family members that are too uncomfortable or disturbing for people to manage. For instance, married couples often are in deep waters at the beginning and need counseling. Marriage or family counselors help individuals and groups understand each other and reduce conflicts and in return reduce mental stress.
These kinds of counselors deal with people with disabilities and help them enhance their personal, social and vocational life. Rehabilitation counselors work with both mental and physical disabilities including defects due to accidents, disease, etc.
Mental Health Counseling
Mental health counselors identify and treat emotional and mental disorders. They resort to therapeutic techniques to help people with depression, addiction, anxiety, trauma, grief, self-harm, etc. These counselors act as a resource when it comes to providing support which falls back emotionally and psychologically.
Substance Abuse Counseling
People who are addicted to drugs go through a tremendous amount of emotional distress along with a long-lasting effect on their families. Substance abuse counselors are specially trained to treat clients who suffer from addiction of any kind and employ techniques suitable for each case.
Educational counselors are focused on helping students achieve their true potential in terms of academics and co-curricular activities. Many students find it difficult to cope with studies and school and an educational counselor will be able to help students deal with social, behavioural, personal, and academic problems that arise at this crucial stage of their lives.
Steps to become a counselor in India: How long does it take?
Now that we know what a counselor does, let us look at how you can become one. There are essentially three basic steps and one optional step encompassing the process of becoming a counselor.
1.Opt for Psychology as a subject in higher secondary
If you have already set your mind on psychology in school, then you can head start your career from higher secondary classes itself. Many schools offer psychology as part of their humanities stream and science stream. Ensuring psychology as part of your higher secondary studies will give you an edge over others in your bachelor’s. Some schools also have psychology as an option for all the streams, so a clever step would be to opt for psychology to get that basic insight on the subject. This step would last till the extent of your 11th and 12th grades.
2.Pursue a bachelor’s degree (B.A. or B.Sc.) in Psychology (3 years)
Now the time comes to take your journey to the graduation level which is an important step to becoming a counselor. A typical bachelor’s degree would take 3 years in which you will learn about general psychology, counseling psychology, abnormal psychology, personality psychology, and statistics. You must also try to do internships and gain as much knowledge as possible.
While your degree will take care of your foundational knowledge, it is up to you to enhance your skills with training under people who can guide and help you out. To know the best colleges for B.A. B.Sc., check out our blog on <Best colleges for psychology in India>.
3.Pursue a master’s degree in Psychology/Counseling/Applied Psychology (2 years)
Once you finish your bachelor’s you must pursue a master’s degree to gain practical experience in your field. And if counseling is your calling, opt for counseling psychology or applied psychology to learn about theories in counseling and the social issues that can arise out of it.
At this stage you complete your dissertation and internship as well, giving you a thorough picture of counseling psychology. This stage takes around 2 two years to conclude. Even if you did not pursue a bachelor’s in psychology, you can do your master’s, thanks to some colleges that do have that option.
To know the best colleges for master’s in psychology, check out our blog on <Best colleges for psychology in India>.
4.Pursue a PG Diploma in Counseling/Guidance (Optional 1 year)
Although you can start practicing as a counselor after your master’s from an RCI recognised institute, there is an option of doubling down your skills by doing a one-year diploma in guidance and counseling. Many institutes offer postgraduate diplomas to hone your counseling skills and gain certification in counseling. A diploma is a certificate course instead of a degree. Some people prefer to do a one-year diploma course rather than doing a two-year master’s degree.
Therefore, normally after your 12th grade, it will take you a minimum amount of five years to become a counselor depending on further specialisations and academic qualifications. Some also pursue Ph.D. along with work to accelerate their qualifications for better job opportunities.
Note: Registration with RCI is mandatory for using the title of 'Clinical Psychologist'. There is a distinction between Psychologists and Clinical Psychologists. However, by running a clinic, if one intends to practice clinical psychology including psychotherapy it is advisable to have RCI registration.
What are some of the tips to become a good counselor?
There is no hard and fast rule that you must possess all skills that a counselor needs before you begin your studies. The degrees and courses are precisely for that reason that they can equip you with the required skills. However, what efforts can be put in from your end to facilitate the learning? Let us take a quick look:
Be active in internships that offer practical experience.
Be open and accepting toward people.
Learn to listen and understand people.
Be calm and composed and avoid impulsive decisions.
Be relaxed and value your client as they would value your help.
These basic skills coupled with an openness to learning can land you at a very good place in counseling psychology.
Time to realise the importance of counseling!
Counseling is a very rewarding and illuminating profession. People who deal with all kinds of confusion and issues rely on counselors to help them toward self-realisation.
Now that we have seen how one can become a counselor in India and the steps involved, surely you can estimate how long it would take to become one. Access your foundational knowledge and take the big leap in psychology that you were waiting for!
At CounselIndia, we provide practical learning courses in psychology for everyone, no matter what field! For any queries or doubts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org