Transitioning from graduate school to the counseling field can be a challenge to say the least. From coursework to practicum to the field of counseling can often be compared to navigating a slick road under construction. One must navigate the knowledge he/she has gained with the rules and regulations governing the counseling field along with causing no harm, while gaining the confidence of a supervisor, and creating a name for yourself. Along the way are eye opening discoveries, the need for self-evaluation, and constant reality checks.

Graduate school: a time for creating goals, cramming for exams and seeking out opportunities for a practicum that is geared towards transitioning you to the “real world”, this is a time when you begin to feel you are ready to start your career and the end is near. Roadblock #1: finding a practicum site isn’t easy. Many clinics and other practicum sites aren’t easy to find as students don’t generate business and requires extra time by supervisors who are already busy with their own caseload/job/etc. Once the practicum site is secured roadblock #2 comes along. What next?

Unfortunately most schools don’t prepare their students adequately for the road ahead. Many students are surprised to learn that once graduated they can apply for a training license with a supervisor signing for the 3,000 supervised hours they will still need, passing a statutes exam and a state exam before being eligible for an LPC. It is not uncommon to hear that individuals hold a training license for several years without gaining full licensure (LPC) due to the requirements stated above. What does this lead to? Qualified people working outside of their field with mounting student loan debt.

So what happens when you find supervision and pass that roadblock? Of course another roadblock. Unless you land a job in a hospital or largely funded clinic the next roadblock is marketing yourself and financially surviving until you create a caseload that you can live off of. Keeping in mind that this whole process requires continuing your knowledge and (the obvious) only seeing clients you know you are knowledgeable and skill-full enough to see without causing harm.

Roadblocks, struggles, financial hardship. What is it all worth when you make it? The truth is you never “make it”. As a good counselor you will always strive to continue learning, continue to gain feedback and supervision from colleagues and constantly self-evaluate to ensure you are able to help others. Along the way you will be challenged to separate yourself from your clients’ traumas and challenges and be uplifted by those who create their own change and as a result no longer need your services.

In conclusion, it is imperative that supervisors (willing to take that role) educate those beginning the journey, schools to improve the transparency of the road ahead, and students to be realistic about the challenges they will face. With all of the roadblocks ahead, is a counseling career worth it? Absolutely! With the right guidance, supervision, personal support and personal growth, navigating the path to full licensure can be fulfilling with huge payouts to those who are empowered because of it.

As you well know, over the past twenty years counseling students have gone from a thirty-six credit hour masters degree to a sixty credit hour masters degree. This has resulted in a higher cost for degrees. However, requirements for licensing have not changed. Individuals are still required in most states to accumulate three thousand hours in mental health counseling experience for full licensure.
For the past twenty years, the American College of Counselors (ACC) has been lobbying state and federal government for counseling portability (i.e. an individual’s license is recognized in any state). We have also been lobbying state counseling boards to reduce the three thousand hours given that there has been an increase in the education requirements for the completion of a counseling degree program.
Students should be made aware of the difficulties of obtaining a counseling practicum site and licensing, as well as securing employment. We are asking counseling students to consider membership to the ACC because we have specific goals and objectives relevent to the future of professional counselors. Joining the ACC in addition to other organizations and assocciations provides students the opportunity to network with other professionals and stay updated on current events in this growing field.

Dr. R M Pumphrey
President of the American College of Counselors(ACC)

American College of Counselors offers prestigious professional membership at various levels of academic/experience expertise along with serving individuals in need of mental health, substance abuse and health issues. Ahead of us is a new challenging frontier of health care and how we can offer clients our commitment to improving the mental health services and educational material improving positive life styles, holistic approaches with spiritual content thematically are infused in ACC’s developing programs.