Grief is often associated with the death of a loved one, but it can also stem from other circumstances such as divorce, estrangement from family, or the loss of a job or home. To help deal with grief, many people turn to a grief counselor, who receives special training to help patients. Women hold the majority of positions in psychology and community and social service counseling, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Along with a counseling education, many grief counselors opt for certification, which gives them greater credibility in the field and additional training in grief counseling.
Grief counselor certification comes from a variety of providers and includes several different types of designations. Industry and professional associations, such as the American Academy of Grief Counseling and the Association for Death Education and Counseling, sponsor certification programs. Other sources of certification include specialty schools and traditional colleges and universities. Several organizations concentrate on special types of grief counseling, such as Beautiful Life International, which offers a Christian Grief Counselor designation. Other types of grief counselor certifications include child and adolescent grief counseling and pet loss grief recovery.
Before joining a certification program for grief counseling, the counselor must meet certain prerequisites, depending on the provider. Generally, prerequisites include possessing a bachelor's degree or higher in counseling. The American Academy of Grief Counseling, for example, requires applicants to have taken at least 100 hours of counseling-related classes from an accredited college or university. Some programs allow applicants who do not meet education requirements to take part if they work in a setting that requires grief counseling, such as a funeral director or minister.
Courses and Exam
To complete the program and maintain certification, most providers include certification classes and a final exam as part of the process. Certification classes come in many forms, including in-person weekend-long seminars, at-home study courses and online interactive classrooms. The final exam typically takes place online or at a computer testing center. Most programs include study materials like textbooks, workbooks and study guides as part of the classes. Programs that include classes can take anywhere from several weeks to up to a year to complete.
Other requirements counselors need to fulfill include paying a program fee and, in some cases, a separate exam fee. A number of programs offer program discounts for registering early as well as scholarships to students needing financial aid. Other requirements include submitting an application form and submitting official grade transcripts and degree documents. Several programs ask candidates to submit one or more letters of recommendation from an educational supervisor or professional colleague. Most programs mandate that a counselor renew her certification every one to three years by reapplying and taking a certain number of continuing education classes each year.
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