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Characteristics of a Good Crisis Counselor

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Crisis counselors work in diverse settings such as government agencies, community centers, mental health institutions, religious institutions and homeless shelters. Counseling is a rapidly growing field, and the employment prospects for crisis counselors in particular are promising. Crisis counselors usually provide short-term assistance to victims, lasting between six and eight weeks.

Work Conditions

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Crisis counselors work with people who have gone through traumatic and life-altering events such as natural disasters or the loss of loved ones, and those dealing with mental health issues, sexual assault or domestic violence. The goal of a crisis counselor is to rehabilitate trauma victims through various intervention programs and to manage their anxieties by helping them develop new coping skills.


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A crisis counselor should be well trained. A bachelor's degree in psychology or clinical psychology, human development, social sciences or a related field is helpful. Some go on to receive graduate and doctoral degrees. Good counselors also update their skills by taking ongoing professional development courses through licensing and certification programs.

Interpersonal Skills

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Since crisis counselors work with people from diverse social backgrounds, it is essential that they not only enjoy working with people but also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

Organization Skills

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Similar to social workers, crisis counselors need to maintain and update a history for each of their clients. This requires being well organized. Setting priorities to accomplish administrative tasks such as writing progress reports, conducting follow-ups and goal setting are essential to the job.

Problem-Solving Skills

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Crisis counselors need to objectively assess individual cases in order to determine whether a client is undergoing a crisis and the level of intervention needed. This requires having strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Team Player

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Since crisis counselors are part of a larger network, either in community centers or at institutions, being able to work effectively with other staff members is essential to developing practical solutions in meeting the client’s needs or goals.


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Crisis counselors need to have an outgoing personality. In some instances, crisis counselors need to become advocates and represent their clients on issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence or homelessness. Crisis counselors often need to take part in community outreach programs or appeal to policy makers.


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Crisis counselors must have a strong sense of purpose and a desire to help people and to be of service. They must be self-motivated.

Calm and Comfortable

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Because clients are traumatized, a good crisis counselor is comfortable in dealing with stressful situations on a day-to-day basis without feeling burned out.

Listening Skills

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Good listening skills and an ability to empathize are key to providing guidance and support to trauma victims.

  • “International Journal of Emergency Mental Health; Essential personhood: A review of the Counselor Characteristics Needed for Effective Crisis Intervention Work;” Ottens A, et. al.; 2009
  • “Working Through Setbacks in Psychotherapy: Crisis Impasse and Relapse (Professional Skills for Counselors Series);" Rob Leiper; 2001

Selam Nuri has been writing academic articles and working across the curriculum since 2001. She has been published online at various websites and earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in 2006 from the City University of New York.

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