This blog will look at how to become a grief counselor, what is needed to be one, the requirements, the pros and cons, and where to find work.
What Does a Grief Counselor Do?
A grief counselor is someone who works with people who are going through the 5 stages of grief. These have been classified as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While all of these stages are a part of human behavior, a professional counselor will help people process natural grief to get to the final step.
Whether you work for a mental health clinic, help people online, or open your own private practice, choosing this career field is a good way to serve your community.
Requirements to Be a Grief Counselor
There are a few prerequisites that you will need to meet if you truly want to become a licensed grief counselor. While there are a few positions that won’t require a degree (such as counseling work through a church), you will need to meet the following requirements if you want a career in grief counseling:
You will need to have a bachelor’s degree in counseling from an accredited college or university. This undergraduate degree will allow you to meet the certification requirements for the American Institute of Mental Health Professionals External link (AIMHP). Students who know that they want to be mental health counselors will typically focus on getting a college degree that will include clinical experience in cognitive psychology, listening skills, emotion, and anything within the human services field.
While it isn’t always necessary, working toward a master’s degree will allow you to have better opportunities when job searching (or opening your own private practice) in the future. You will generally experience specialized training when taking this extra step which will allow you to be a little more competitive in your work.
Certification in Grief Counseling
Even after earning your degree in counseling, you will need to meet the licensing requirements of your state and area. These will vary by state, county, and city. Many licensed counselors also opt into additional grief counseling certification through organizations. These will typically allow you to expand your field so that you can help with other forms of loss.
The AIMHP (as well as other organizations) has created guidelines for those interested in becoming certified grief counselors. If you decide to pursue this route, make sure that you take time to complete all of the required courses before applying for licensure. It may seem like a lot of paperwork but it really does help set you apart from other applicants.
Once you’ve completed all of the licensure requirements, you’ll then apply for the paperwork you need. While details will vary by state, you will generally need to first pass both written and practical exams. Make sure that you keep up with any continuing education requirements after receiving your license.
Having some sort of professional job experience helps tremendously when looking for employment. Whether you’re currently employed by someone else or not, volunteering somewhere where people are going through a tough time would give you valuable insight into what clients go through during their grieving period. Look for grief counseling services in your area to see what they require for employment or volunteer experience. There may also be some online programs that will help people deal with different types of loss where you can work.
Being a good listener is one thing; showing empathy towards others is another. Helping someone through the grief process can be very draining on your own emotions. Practice active listening in order to become a better bereavement counselor.
How Much Does a Grief Counselor Earn?
People who work in the field of grief counseling will typically make between $33,000 – $75,000 per year when working in the United States. This will typically depend on years of experience, what graduate degree you have, and your specific area of expertise.
Pros and Cons of Being a Grief Counselor
While there are many benefits of becoming a grief counselor, there are also several things that can make it a difficult occupation. Some of the pros and cons of end of life care will include the following:
Here are a few of the benefits of being in the grief therapy career path:
Being a grief counselor isn’t always easy. Here are a few of the cons:
Where to Find Work as a Grief Counselor
While there are many traditional agencies (such as family counseling centers) where you can find work, here are a few other places you can look (especially if you want to work from home):
While they aren’t often talked about, there are several careers in death care that can be done from home. Even though you may need to travel a little for client meetings or funerals, a good deal of the work can be done in your own time and space.
Funeral Celebrants perform the same tasks as a priest or minister. They are responsible for performing funeral rites and rituals, but the main difference between a celebrant and a priest or minister is that a celebration does not have the oversight of a religious institution or organization. A Celebrant is not required to be a member of the clergy and can perform their duties in a location of their choosing. Celebrants provide a variety of services to families. One of the most important services provided by a funeral celebrant is to ensure that the funeral ceremony is satisfying to the family.
End of Life Planner
An end-of-life planner helps people plan for the final years of their life. The planner helps people by dividing the tasks involved into manageable chunks and suggests action plans. They help the client gather important documents and insurance policies, keeps a track of financial planning, and takes care of them. The coach also helps the client with their bills and financial matters. They will also prepare the family for the time when the client is no longer able to maintain their own life and will walk them through choosing funeral and burial options for themselves.
A death doula helps families during the physical and emotional stages of dying. They typically do not care for the ill or dying person. Instead, their role involves supporting the family and attending to their physical and emotional needs while helping the dying person live out her remaining days on this earth. They talk to the client ahead of time to find out their ideal situation for the day of their death. At that point, they do their best to provide for their clients and for their families, providing comfort with dignity and with as little pain as possible.