It might not be productive to ask a juvenile counselor what an "average" day is like; she probably wouldn’t know. Juvenile counselors work with a range of young people, from the chronically truant to former inmates on probation. No two days are alike because no two juveniles are alike. But a common thread links their experiences: counselors often enter a juvenile’s life when he needs compassion, boundaries and calm and reassuring guidance. Working with troubled juveniles and guiding them to a better future isn’t always easy, but it can make this challenging job very rewarding.
Possess a thorough understanding of counseling, treatment options and crisis intervention strategies. Many juvenile counselors come from a counseling or social work background and have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree in their field. Perhaps above all, good listening skills are important so that the counselor can establish a trusting relationship with the juvenile.
Possess a good understanding of juvenile law and the criminal justice system. Juvenile counselors can be assigned to supervise a young person’s probation or parole period and ensure that the juvenile follows court orders. This period may include schooling and community service projects, which the counselor must monitor and summarize in submitted reports.
Work well independently or as a part of high-functioning team that might include therapists, substance abuse counselors, teachers or law enforcement experts. Like most professionals, juvenile counselors often learn the most on the job. But their success can turn on their ability to reach out to other professionals who possess the expertise they lack in order to steer a juvenile onto the right track.
Meet regularly with the juvenile, his parents, work team members and any other stakeholder in a juvenile’s treatment program. Juvenile counselors also must be prepared to respond to emergencies on their "off" hours, including nights and weekends.
Manage the stress of unpredictability and the inevitable setbacks that can occur in a juvenile’s treatment program. As an authority figure in the life of a troubled young person, a juvenile counselor must be strict and set expectations. At the same time, the counselor must develop a caring rapport with the youth so that he feels comfortable turning to her in a crisis. Walking this fine line isn’t easy, which is why some juvenile counselors liken their job to that of a parent.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t specifically categorize juvenile counselors, but reports that the job outlook for social workers and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors is expected to increase by 25 and 27 percent, respectively, through 2020.
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