After reading this book, you now know all you need to begin your graduate school application, get accepted to the counseling program of your choice, and successfully navigate counselor preparation and professional counselor credentials. Almost. We hope that you have learned enough about the counseling profession and graduate preparation for this career to help you make decisions about what you will study, where, what to expect from programs and peers and the profession, and the personal and practical considerations that will be important in your journey. Graduate school is a big decision. Choosing your career is a big decision. Selecting the program and profession that fit your career goals is a process that we hope is enhanced by what you just read, and that this book will serve as a resource for you in the future.
Let’s reflect briefly on what we have covered. Counseling is a distinct profession with a rich history of defining its professional identity. There are several specialty areas in graduate counseling programs that prepare counselors to work in settings such as schools, clinical mental health agencies, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, colleges and universities, and even private practice. The counseling profession continues to evolve and enhance its identity through accreditation, licensure, advocacy, and the valuable work of everyday counselors and professional counseling organizations. In order to make the best decision about when and where to enter a graduate program in counseling, you should engage in significant self-reflection and consider both personal and professional issues that will affect and be affected by this decision. Being a graduate student means continuing this self-reflection and engaging in academic studies that may be more rigorous, and certainly more focused, than your undergraduate experience. Applying to the graduate counseling program that is right for you requires asking questions and researching programs, resources, and the curricula that each program offers. There are many opportunities for professional involvement as a student that will lead to opportunities when you become a professional counselor. Counselor licensure and certification is a necessary and important step beyond graduate school to help you do the work you want to do, which will be enhanced by professional involvement and ultimately benefit the people you serve as a counselor.
So what does all of that mean? We’d like to leave you with two examples ofprofessional counselors who are currently working in the field to give you a better glimpse ofwhat you are getting yourself into by choosing a career as a professional counselor. You’ll hear from both a professional school counselor and a clinical mental health counselor relatively early in their careers who reflect on their own graduate school experiences and how they have shaped their current work. We hope that you will take their words to heart as you continue to self-reflect on what your own journey might look like. If you still have questions about graduate counseling programs during this exciting decision-making time, simply pick up the phone and call a graduate counseling program you are interested in, a professional counselor you might know, or even the CACREP office; we are always happy to help!