Counseling is a career that is available in all shapes and sizes. A licensed counselor can work with young children in schools, work with adults in many disciplines, or become professors and authors.
The basic road to becoming a counselor is a bachelor’s degree, most likely a master’s degree and possibly even a doctorate. But let’s take this one step at a time.
Counselors, at the core, are people who want to help other people. If you have that innate desire, then this is a great career path for you!
It is a career that requires a lot of education and continuing education for the rest of your profession. So, in addition to compassion for people, you should probably like school and learning as well.
The field of counseling is on the rise, so it is a great time to consider it as a first, second, or even third career.
Let’s dive in and see what a resume for this much-needed profession looks like.
Resume objective for a counselor
A strong objective on a counseling resume will inform your potential employer that you have the education, knowledge, and experience to provide the best advice and treatment for the clients you are seeing.
Soft Skills are also critical for those who work in counseling, so the objective is an excellent place to mention a few soft skills areas you are particularly strong in.
After reviewing over a dozen counseling resumes, we noticed that mentioning your ability to stick to a schedule and effectively manage your caseload were among the top comments listed in an objective.
It is crucial to keep in mind that the objective is the first thing a potential employer will see, so it is time to sell yourself!
A professional counselor with 10+ years effectively helping clients with addiction, depression, ADHD, and eating disorders seeking a new position to share their expertise while supporting individuals through their challenges. Detailed oriented and possess the ability to adhere to schedule and manage multiple cases simultaneously.
Resume skills for a counselor
As we read through dozens of sites concerning a career as a counselor, some key skills continued to pop up. According to teach.com,, there are five skills every counselor needs.
The ones we saw repeatedly are communication skills, listening and attending multicultural competency, and the ability to validate your client’s feelings.
These are soft skills and can be combined with other soft skills such as the ability to work as part of a team, time management, and the ability to work independently.
When it comes to hard skills, you may wish to note your abilities on a computer or with a specific software program, counseling techniques you are trained or certified in, or and understanding of medical insurance.
Ability to display empathy | Active listener | Validation of feelings | Questioning skills | Self-reflection | Knowledge of major insurance companies | Proficient in Microsoft Word & Excel
Counselor work experience
As we discussed at the beginning of the article, counselors can choose various career paths to go down, but at the crux of all counseling jobs, there will be similar aspects.
All Psychology Schools says it well when they write; you will work with individuals, groups,, and communities to improve mental health.
They and other counseling sites mention you will need to create goals and plans and help clients discuss emotions.
You will determine Which individuals, groups, and communities you work with. Once you have made that decision, your work experience will be guided by that decision.
Therefore your counseling resume could look significantly different than the counselor sitting next to you (metaphorically).
Sample Work Experience
Provided patient-based counseling services to individuals, couples, and families. Fostered a nurturing, safe, and calm environment to provide optimal comfort to patients. Supported patients with a personalized treatment plan and guided them towards accomplishing each goal.
Family & Couple Therapy Service, Inc.
Provided therapy to a diverse population struggling with marriage and family issues. Supported individuals and couples through the use of cognitive and behavioral therapy approaches and supported and empowered them to make healthy and mindful decisions.
- Skilled mediator and offered individual support
- DIsplayed empathy and compassion
- Developed treatment plans based on patient goals
- Effectively recorded all behaviors, interventions, and responses
Licensed Therapist, 2000 – 2009
Provided counseling to families and couples in a remote and rural setting. Effectively guided couples through relationship issues and supported them through ongoing growth. Engaged in various therapy techniques to help with grief, depression, and divorce for adults and teens.
- Managed Case Workload
- Behavioral & Cognitive Therapy
- Knowledge of scheduling software
- Use of active listening, empathy, communication and validation
After reading through dozens of resumes and job postings, one thing is clear, to become a counselor you need a strong education. Most likely you will need a master’s degree in counselling or a related field.
When looking at undergraduate programs, there are some options to choose from. Psychology is the go to degree for most people on the counseling trajectory.
However, communications, education, biology, child development, and sociology could all be considered related.
The majority of individuals who go into counseling as a career have an undergraduate degree in psychology and then specialize with their master’s program.
Master of Counseling, 2008-2010
- Concentration, Rehabilitation
University of Maryland
Bachelor of Science, Psychology 2003-2008
If you decide to list courses on your resume they should be applicable to the counseling position you are seeking.
So if you are seeking a position working with soldiers who have PTSD your coursework on child development is likely not relevant.
However, on the flip side, if you have taken courses or training specifically geared towards trauma, grief and recovery you may wish to highlight them.
The majority of psychology degrees and counseling programs offer similar coursework so there is no need to mention it here unless you have something that is unique and really stands out.
If you minored or concentrated in a specific area of counseling, it may behove you to mention a few of those courses s well, since those programs are less likely to be standardized.
- Professional Orientation and Ethics in Rehabilitation Counseling
- Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability
In our research we discovered that to become a counselor you must obtain a license. There are a variety of different licenses a counselor can obtain and the website, GoodTherapy, breaks them down for you.
Each state has its own licensing rules, and continuing education requirements, so it is important to research your state thoroughly before attempting to obtain licensure.
Different organizations offer certifications via their standards, so for example, you could be a Licensed Psychologist, LP with a NCAC 1 certification, National Certified Addiction COunselor Level 1.
As you hone in on the area of counseling you’d like to work in it will be important to take the time to discover wheat applicable certifications could benefit you.
The National Certified Counseling Board is a good place to begin your search as they are the most recognized certification board for counseling professions in the U.S.
- Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC)
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
Complete counselor resume sample
Now that we have gone through tips and examples on how to write a counseling resume, we are going to take a look at a real job posting and a complete sample resume.
This job is for a substance abuse counselor, and they are seeking someone with a background or concentration in substance abuse, however it does not mention how many years of experience.
This position could be an opportunity for a new practitioner or someone wishing to switch areas of counseling.
Additionally they are seeking someone with strong clinical and interpersonal skills who can manage a caseload and plan and implement treatment.
State licensure is required, as is a master’s degree.
Substance Abuse Counselor
Client centered substance abuse counselor and Certified Addiction Professional with extensive knowledge of substance abuse programs seeks a new position to share their knowledge and dedication to those who are struggling with substance abuse. Detail oriented, patient, compassionate and experience working in a diverse multicultural setting.
Detox support | Conflict resolution | Treatment planning | Group counseling | Case management | Proficient in Microsoft Word & Excel | Excellent written and verbal communication
Substance Abuse Counselor, 2016-2020
Provided services to clients in relation to substance abuse and contributed with staff in weekly meetings to create the strongest treatment plan for each client. Conducted individual and group training sessions applying behavioral management techniques and providing crisis management when needed.
- Completed weekly required documentation
- Implemented 12 Step Program with clients
- Used latest knowledge in addiction treatment
- Developed treatment plans based on client goals
CityHealth Counseling Center
Substance Abuse Counselor, 2006-2016
Educated patients, family members, and the community on the dangers of substance abuse and treatment options. Conducted group therapy for family members of those with substance abuse. Provided rehabilitative services to those with substance abuse documented behavioral changes and conducted risk assessments.
- Utilized the 12 Step Program
- Performed intake assessments and evaluations
- Maintained a safe and comfortable space for clients
- Referred clients to appropriate community services and resources
Conducted individual therapy sessions using evidence based practices with patients suffering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, emotional disorders and grief. Implemented treatment plans based on client goals and updated goals every six months.
- Performed intake assessments to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment
- Coordinated with patient’s primary care facilities for unity of care
- Performed crisis-intervention and conflict resolution
- Executed interventions with clients’ families as needed
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LCP)
- Master Addictions Counselor (MAC)
- Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)
St. Joseph’s School of Psychology
Master of Science Counseling/Clinical Mental Health 1997-2000
Bachelor of Science in Psychology 1992-1996
- Minor in Biology
- Crisis Intervention & Trauma
- Dependency and Addictions
- Multicultural issues in Mental Health
Now that we have taken a look at the specifics of becoming a counselor and writing a resume for a counseling career we can see how varied the profession truly is.
Some counselors will help people with a myriad of mental health issues, while others will focus on a specific demographic. There is no right or wrong way to approach this career.
The important factors are compassion, a strong understanding of mental health issues, and the desire to help people.
- A master’s degree is needed for this career
- Strong interpersonal skills are important
- A willingness to commit to continuing education
Tips from Experts
“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” – Shannon L. Alder, Inspirational Author
“Don’t let mental blocks control you. Set yourself free. Confront your fear and turn the mental blocks into building blocks.” – Dr. Roopleen, Counselor & Author
“People ask me why I do what I do. And my answer is to do anything less is to do nothing at all.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough, Counselor & Author
Working as a counselor may expose individuals to some very tough emotional and mental situations, but those who enter the profession with the desire to help can make a world of difference to an individual.
A dedicated counselor can help someone break an addiction, pass through the stages of grief, or help them alleviate their depression.
Counselors play an important role in our society, and as the acceptance of mental health continues to rise, it is a career that will be much more in demand.