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Counselor Roles

Updated on November 1, 2012

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

Counselors help clients with unusual or difficult situations in life by meeting with them individually, as part of couples or families, and as members of larger groups, such as students or job hunters. They typically work from offices full-time, although their schedules could include evenings and weekends to accommodate clients. Their roles depend on their job titles.

Mental Health

Mental health counselors help clients deal with emotional and mental issues by listening to problems and asking questions. They diagnose and treat problems, such as anxiety and depression; teach clients different coping strategies; and manage better relationships with loved ones. They may consult other mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists and social workers, and refer clients to additional resources, such as support groups and community centers. They may also specialize in particular populations, including the elderly or women. Mental health counselors earned a mean $42,590 per year, or $20.48 per hours, as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Rehabilitation counselors teach people with emotional and physical disabilities how to live independently, including veterans, wheelchair users and students needing special education. They provide counseling to clients and their families on how to adjust to their disabilities, consult with doctors and other medical professions in developing treatment plans, and arrange for client services, such as transportation or career training. They also locate resources, such as manufacturers of adaptive devices; monitor client progress; and act as advocates for disabled people in community and work settings. Rehabilitation counselors averaged an annual $37,070, or $17.82 hourly.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse counselors help clients kick addictions to alcoholism, illegal drugs or food. Because these professionals often modify their patients’ self-destructive behaviors, they may also be called behavioral disorder counselors. They evaluate clients health and behavior, help development treatment plans and goals, and recommend options to clients and their families. They educate the public on addictive substances, and develop and conduct outreach programs to bring people into treatment. They often help clients rebuild relationships or re-establish careers that have been damaged by substance abuse. Substance abuse counselors made a mean $41,030 yearly, or $19.73 per hour.

School and Career

School and career counselors help clients plan for the future by advising them on what courses of study to undertake, or by explaining the best career options. They may work with students dealing with social or behavioral counselors, or working adults who have just recently been laid off. They evaluate client abilities through aptitude tests and interviews, identify possible cases of abuse and neglect, and help develop useful skills such as time management and organization. They may also teach classes on such topics as drug abuse, vocational education or bullying. School and career counselors averaged $56,540 per year, or $27.18 per hour.


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