There are a variety of work settings for child counselors. A child counselor is a dynamic professional that provides important psychological and behavioral therapy for children. It is a rather varied field that includes parts of family therapy, developmental psychology and school psychology.
Many child counselors are employed by school districts to serve children at school. The counselor may be assigned to a single school or may serve the entire district and see students from multiple schools or visit multiple schools within the district on various days. The work of these counselors is most often focused on school performance and behavior issues. The counselor may also serve as an aid and adviser to teachers and other school staff on how they can augment the learning environment to serve students’ needs. They will perform a variety of functions such as communicating with parents, observing and assisting in classrooms and attending IEP and similar meetings to help professional teams provide needed services to children.
Group Homes and Foster Homes
Another common area of need is serving foster youth in group home or foster home settings. Child counselors in this capacity are often employed by a county’s Health and Human Services department, or they may be employed by a group home. These counselors will work with high-risk youth on a variety of behavior issues and life skills. They may also need to provide trauma therapy and rehabilitation. In this capacity, they are more likely to visit the child’s residence and work directly with caregivers on important behavior and life goals. They will be responsible for attending a variety of professional meetings related to their clients, including IEP and treatment meetings.
Hospitals are undoubtedly a primary place of employment for child counselors. They will serve a variety of youth who enter the hospital with probable or already diagnosed mental health conditions. They may also provide counseling to children who are undergoing serious treatment or dealing with the psychological effects of serious or terminal illness in themselves or a loved one. Counselors in hospitals may be assigned to the pediatric unit of a larger hospital or work at a dedicated children’s hospital. Unlike private practice or other long-term counselors, a hospital counselor is unlikely to continue seeing a patient once they leave the hospital setting. A major role will be providing the child and family with resources to use after their hospital stay.
The freedom and potential of private practice appeals to many mental health professionals. Most child counselors will pursue private practice after gaining some experience and connections elsewhere in the field. It can be difficult to start a private practice, but the rewards may be worth it for many. A private practice child counselor is often able to maintain better long-term relationships with clients and service them in a more comprehensive capacity. They often work directly with parents and family to provide whole-family therapy.
Research and Academics
Child counselors who already have some experience or who wish to take a different approach to the field may step away from direct treatment and therapy in order to perform research. These counselors are almost always employed by universities or hospitals, and they may need more advanced degrees or levels of experience. Their work will focus on enhancing the field and developing better knowledge and tools for other counselors. They may also serve academically as professors or guest lecturers in psychology and therapy classes.
Related Resource: The 10 Best Masters in Counseling Online Programs
Working as a child counselor can be incredibly challenging and emotionally draining, but it can also be one of the most personally rewarding careers. Regardless of a child counselor’s workplace, they are often responsible for making a critical difference in the lives of children and families.