How Do You Become a Grief Counselor?

Grief CounselingThose interested in helping others get through periods of grief often want to know more about how to become a grief counselor. Counselors specializing in this field often work at funeral homes, but they may also work for the military, in hospitals, community health clinics and retirement homes. They practice a method known as active listening that encourages clients to talk more about themselves and the problems they face. As a specialized form of counseling, workers will need to spend several years in college.

Get Educated

Though you won’t find undergraduate programs focusing on grief counseling, you can study psychology, sociology or another form of behavioral science. After finishing your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to attend graduate school and major in counseling. Some students find that studying marriage and family therapy or counseling is helpful. This gives them a better understanding of the issues that specifically face patients and their families. Grief counselors usually need a Ph.D as well. During your graduate and doctoral level studies, you’ll gain some clinical experience and have the chance to write both a thesis and a doctorate.

Gain Clinical Experience

Gaining clinical experience is one step that you need to take before you can become a grief counselor. Most graduate counseling and psychology programs include two years of study and a third year of work. This third year lets you work directly with clients in a supervised setting. Other programs require two years of study and some clinical experience during the second year of the program. Doctorate programs also have a clinical component. Many of these programs require that you finish a total of 3,000 hours of clinical experience or spend one year or more working in the field before finishing your degree.

Obtain a State License

Counselors working in all fields must have a license from the state where they work. While some states let counselors transfer the license they received in one state to another, other states require that counselors obtain a new license when moving to a new state. This license shows that you have both the experience and the education required to work independently with clients. When you apply for your license, the state will let you know what requirements you must meet. You generally need a few hundred hours of clinical experience, the ability to pass a background test and a master’s degree or higher.

Get Certified

The last step you want to take before you become a grief counselor is certification. The American Institute of Health Care Professionals offer certification through the American Academy of Grief Counseling. The AAGC offers certification in death, dying and mourning, grief counseling for the helping professions, grief therapy and working with grieving children. The certification programs are all available online, but you can only enroll in those programs after finishing your education. After paying the enrollment fee, you enroll in a short study program and earn your certification after passing a final examination.

Related Resource: Crisis Intervention Specialist

Grief counselors often work with clients diagnosed with a serious medical condition and those who lost a loved one, but they may also work with those who recently lost a job, a pet or had another experience that left the person in emotional pain. Those interested in how to become a grief counselor to finish college and gain certification.