How to Become a Teen Counselor

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The third-leading cause of death among teens and young adults age 15 to 24 is suicide, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Many changes occur in a person’s life during their teen years, and individuals without adequate support and coping skills may have a hard time adjusting. You can become a teen counselor and help teens develop strategies to manage stress and deal with the family, school and social pressures that exist during high school years.

Find a master’s degree program in counseling. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) reviews graduate and doctoral programs in counseling throughout the United States. It provides a directory on its Web site of all programs in the United States, making it easy for you to find one that specializes in teen or secondary school counseling.

Complete the classroom portion of your degree. The first semester or two of your master’s program occurs in the classroom as you learn theories and techniques for counseling teens. In addition, you discuss and learn about the laws and ethics regarding the counseling profession and treatment of teens, since they are considered minors.

Use practicums and internships to counsel teens. Practicums and internships are core components of counseling programs as they allow you to apply the knowledge you learn in the classroom to counsel teens. Any program accredited by CACREP must include practicums and internships in its curriculum. Use the practicums and internships during your program to counsel teens in a school setting, in a private clinic setting or as part of a family therapy center.

Apply for your state license. Every state except for California requires teen counselors to have a license to provide counseling services to individuals or groups. The application process varies for each state, but most states require completion of an application form, proof of education and payment of a licensing fee. Some also require proof of a certain number of practicum hours, such as New York, which requires a minimum of 3,000 hours.

Pass the national licensing exam. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) oversees the National Counselor Exam (NCE), which is a written test consisting of 200 questions, although only 160 questions are actually scored. Passing the exam not only allows you to get licensed in your state, but it also makes you eligible to become a National Certified Counselor through NBCC.

Maintain continuing education and licensing renewal requirements. It’s important as a teen counselor to keep up-to-date on news and research regarding teen mental health problems and effective strategies for helping teens. States require counselors to renew their licenses through continuing education, which includes classes, conferences and training programs.