Counseling services generally come in two distinct types: community counseling and medical counseling. The most common venue for counseling is in an established hospital, where professionals have the added benefit of providing their services with ready availability of medical services, prescription drug treatments, and diagnoses of disorders that might require more intensive therapy and other psychological services. Though common, this is not the only way to receive counseling services for a wide range of diseases, disorders, and other issues.
Community counseling takes the service outside of the hospital and puts it directly into the community, and that's where this particular type of counseling gets its name. Instead of visiting a hospital, patients can generally visit their counselor at a smaller, private practice. Though the medical foundation is lost, there are several key advantages to pursuing counseling in this way:
- Private practice allows for a smaller setting, which might be more comfortable for those patients who don't like large waiting rooms, crowds, or other distractions.
- Community counseling is often located much closer to where patients actually live. This makes it easy for those with reduced mobility to attend their appointments without incident or delay.
- Community counseling services are often more specialized, allowing professionals to help their patients with a more particular set of skills.
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Where Does Community Counseling Take Place and What Does it Look Like?
Community counseling services take a wide variety of forms, and that means they may very well transcend the typical private practice or "doctor's office" feeling that many people wrongly associate with the profession. While a large number of community counseling centers are set up in this way, a large number of community services are offered on location, or in existing health centers with a slightly different focus than the traditional hospital. Consider some of the most common venues:
- Correctional facilities
- Mental health centers
- Retirement communities
- Schools and other educational settings
- Business and corporate offices
- Human services agencies
In each of these instances, counselors may simply work from the location several days a week. In between those appointments, they may still work in a hospital setting or from a community-based private practice. These unique settings allow those with a strong psychological background to tackle problems where they occur, and stop development of those problems before they turn into something that is much harder to diagnose, address, and successfully treat.
Qualifications for Community Counselors Are Not Different
Though the setting and venue differ with community counseling, the profession's requirements are the same as would be enforced in a hospital setting. Counselors must have pursued an undergraduate degree in psychology or counseling. In most cases, students should have followed up their undergraduate degree with master's degree in counseling psychology, psychotherapy, or psychiatry.
Often, hospitals and community counseling positions will require applicants to have some level of certification in the specific area that they'll be working. Whether it's mental health, substance abuse, corporate counseling, or another avenue, these certifications allow new hires to hit the ground running and save their employers a significant amount of tuition compensation and on-the-job training. In some states, these certifications are even required before counselors can be considered for the job at all.
A Growing Field with Interesting Opportunities
Community counseling continues to grow as the profession embraces treating people outside large, medical settings. Counselors interested in community counseling should make sure they pursue the proper degrees and certifications, while those patients in need of counseling should do their research and pick a private practice that most aligns with their unique psychological needs.