Stress in small doses can be motivational, beneficial and healthy. However, too much stress can wreak havoc on your life and health. It can lead to ulcers, heart attacks, strokes and depression. Stress management counselors help individuals, families and groups overcome or learn how to cope with mental and emotional tensions in a healthy way. These professionals must have an in-depth knowledge of the psychology of stress management and a superior mastery of counseling techniques. This career is suitable for people with an advanced degree in counseling and a passion for helping troubled people.
Pursue the Right Degree
To become a stress management counselor, start by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology or counseling. Although offered separately, these programs have coursework in child and adult development, the human mind, behavioral disorders, psychological processes and theoretical and practical psychotherapies. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work can also provide a solid foundation. Next, supplement your undergraduate training with a master’s degree in mental health counseling or counseling psychology.
Licenses and Professional Certifications
Stress management counselors must be licensed to provide counseling services in their state. Although specific licensing requirements may differ from state to state, you generally need to hold a master’s degree in mental health counseling, counseling psychology or another behavioral science program that is approved by your state's licensing board. You must also pass the National Board for Certified Counselors' National Certified Counselor Examination, which is the licensing examination for counselors in many states. The four-hour multiple choice exam is given in both paper and pencil format and computer based format, and can be taken in April and October at designated locations throughout the country. Upon successfully meeting all the requirements, you may be referred to as a licensed mental health counselor, licensed professional counselor, or licensed clinical professional counselor. This depends on your state.
The American Institute of Health Care Professionals also offers the Certified Stress Management Consultant credential that you can obtain to further your knowledge in stress management and increasing your ability to attract employers or clients. Certification applicants must successfully complete an education program with courses in stress management techniques such as relaxation, meditation and self-hypnosis.
Essential Skills and Attributes
To effectively help clients manage stress, you must be a competent communicator with excellent analytical and critical-thinking skills. You should be able to interview clients to gather information about how they feel, analyze their symptoms and determine whether they have acute, chronic or episodic stress. Problem-solving skills come in handy when developing suitable coping strategies for clients. Sometimes you may deal with clients who may be grieving the loss of a loved one, depressed over a divorce, or dealing with job loss. As such, you need the compassion to empathize with them and the emotional intelligence to recognize their changing emotions.
Employment and Advancement Opportunities
Armed with your credentials, you can find employment in established stress management and mental health clinics, family counseling centers, general and specialty hospitals, correctional facilities and substance abuse treatment facilities. Many private businesses also hire stress management counselors to develop and implement workforce stress management programs.
With several years of practice, some business acumen and sufficient startup capital, you can move into private practice by establishing your own stress management center. To boost your business’s ability to attract clients, you can have it certified by the American Institute of Stress.
The job site Indeed reports that stress management counselors earned an average annual salary of $46,000 as of April 2015.