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Direct care counselors typically work in the mental health field. They provide continuous care and assistance to residents in group homes that treat children, adults and seniors with special needs. Direct care counselors focus on helping these individuals with special needs meet their potential and improve their lives.
Direct care counselors' duties vary widely. But in all situations, they include a responsibility to help special-needs children, adults and seniors deal with daily issues and improve their lives. The principal duty of a direct care counselor is to help special-needs individuals succeed in getting through their day-to-day activities.
Direct care counselors have diverse educational backgrounds. In addition, each state has its own requirements for licensing and certification. In general, a nonprofit group home will require a direct care counselor to possess a bachelor’s or associate’s degree related to a mental health field. Some direct care counselors may possess a master’s degree in psychology, education or a mental-health-related discipline.
Typical employers will require successful completion of some training regimen before starting work as a direct care counselor. Direct care counselors may continue periodic training throughout their career.
Direct care counselors should demonstrate a desire to help individuals who have disabilities, special needs or mental health challenges. They should have patience, empathy and compassion. Their personality should inspire confidence and trust. Direct care counselors should have the ability to work independently or as part of a team. Direct care counselors should also have substantial emotional and physical energy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, calculated the median annual wages for mental health counselors as $36,810, with the middle 50 percent earning between $28,930 and $48,580. Those at the bottom 10 percent of the income scale earned $23,580 or less annually, whereas the top 10 percent earned more than $63,100 a year.
An attorney and founder of ScrofanoLaw, a general practice law firm in Washington, D.C., Joseph Scrofano has been writing on legal issues since 2008. He holds a Juris Doctor from the Washington College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts with special honors from the University of Texas and a master's degree in international affairs from American University's School of International Service.