7 Ways to Become a Counselor (or Therapist) Without a Degree!
People are often discouraged from becoming mental health therapists because of the educational and licensing requirements. What many people do not know is that there are jobs in the counseling field that do not require a degree. There are also careers that may not appear to be in the counseling field but include counseling as part of the job.
Can you be a counselor without a degree? Mental health therapists are required to have a degree and be licensed. However, there are other career options within the counseling field that do not require a degree. Some options include:
- Alcohol and Drug Counselor
- Peer Counselor
- Psychiatric Assistant
- Career Counselor
- Social and Human Services Assistant
- Developmental Specialist
- Teacher’s Assistant
In this article, you will be introduced to popular careers that either involve counseling or deal with counseling in some way – and none of them require a degree!
7 Counseling and Therapist Career Options that do not Need a Degree
The mental health field has many different career options, and some of them do not require a degree. Before looking for a counseling job, it is important to remember that requirements can differ from state to state. Also, some employers may have stricter requirements. There are careers outside the typical mental health field that do not require a degree and feature counseling as part of the job.
#1 Alcohol and Drug Counselor
Requirements for alcohol and drug counselors vary from state to state. In some states, a person with a high school diploma and field experience can become certified as an alcohol and drug counselor. However, other states do require a bachelor’s degree. Many states have special requirements for those seeking to become a substance abuse counselor after addressing their own addiction problems.
Alcohol and drug counselors work with people dealing with substance abuse problems. Their clients may come in voluntarily or be court-ordered. The setting can be either in-patient or out-patient, depending on the treatment needs of the clients. Many substance abuse counselors do get a degree at some point, so they can advance in their career.
#2 Peer Counselor
Peer counseling pairs someone who has overcome an issue with someone else that is currently working through that issue. Peer counselors must have had successful experiences overcoming their own problems. Peer counseling is used in a variety of settings, including:
- Schools: Students assist other students to resolve problems
- Crisis Intervention: First responders not involved in the incident that assist and debrief the first responders involved.
- Alcohol and Drug Treatment: Recovering addicts that have a significant period of being sober will provide peer counseling to those in treatment.
- Domestic Violence Shelters: Advocates work with the people that have been abused. They work with victims both in the shelter and outside of the shelter.
- Juvenile Court Proceedings: Other parents who have lost but then regained custody of their children assist and mentor parents that are trying to regain custody of their children.
The peer can often provide encouragement to the person undergoing treatment because they have experienced the same problems. Peer counselors are typically put through rigorous training based on their program. They are given the knowledge and skills they need for their jobs.
Most peer counseling positions are unpaid, volunteer jobs.
However, they count as field experience for those seeking to move into other counseling career options. Peer counselors serve as a mentor helping others as both a role model and proof that the problem is not insurmountable.
#3 Psychiatric Assistant
Psychiatric assistants or aides help provide care to mentally or emotionally disturbed patients who cannot care for themselves. They work in residential or inpatient settings under the direct supervision of the nursing or mental health staff. They assist with direct patient care by:
Assisting with daily living tasks
- Helping patients eat, drink, and bathe
- Changing bed linens, bedpans, and cleaning rooms
- Helping patients complete assigned daily chores/tasks
Observing the patient
- Taking notes on the completion of chores and tasks
- Monitoring progress on goals
- Taking vitals
Organizing educational programs
Overseeing recreational activities
- Chaperoning field trips
- Monitoring game nights
- Taking patients on community outings
Assisting with emergency situations
Psychiatric aides generally only need a high school diploma and on the job training. For facilities that do not have CNAs, the aide may need to complete CNA training while working in order to better perform some of their job duties, such as taking vitals. They do not need to be licensed, but a certification process does exist.
#4 Career Counselor
Career counselors are also known as career coaches or job coaches. A career counselor helps outline and discuss career options with people at any stage of life by assisting them with choosing, changing, or leaving a career. Career counselors can work with those entering the job market or those looking to change career tracks.
Some, but not all, career counselors are master’s level therapists who have been certified in career counseling.
However, some of the areas a non-degree career coach is likely to help with are:
- Resume Writing Assistance: Assists in developing a strong resume that will capture the attention of the employer. Job coaches collaborate with their clients to develop the optimal resume.
- Interview Advice and Practice: Job coaches will assist in allowing you to practice answering questions and to develop strong answers to common interview questions to allow you to show your skills and experience.
- Salary Negotiation Tips: Job coaches can assist with increasing your negotiation skills and giving an opportunity to practice them before the interview. Job coaches provide knowledge and advice on compensation packages for your field.
- Job Change Counseling: A career counselor can assist you with a thoughtful re-evaluation of professional goals, skills, and experience to aid you in changing careers. An experienced job coach can even help you identify new fields where your skills will easily transfer.
Career counseling is done in a variety of settings. Many local unemployment offices offer some of these skills training services. Other job coaches work for schools or private companies.
#5 Social and Human Services Assistant
A social and human services assistant completes tasks to assist a social worker to provide services to clients. Assistants work closely with social workers and often do very similar work, but they’re not required to be licensed and cannot provide therapy. Assistants are also not allowed to diagnosis clients.
These assistants may work in a variety of settings, but hospitals and group homes are the most common places. The term social and human services assistant is an umbrella term covering many different jobs. Assistants may work with people based on the type of job, type of population, or type of problem. Some of the usual areas that these assistants work in are:
- Youth Worker
- Life Skills Counselor
- Community Outreach Worker
- elderly people
- chronically or mentally ill
It is possible to move into the social and human services assistant field with just a high school diploma, but some employers may require a college degree. Most assistants eventually seek out more education and training to be able to progress in their field.
#6 Developmental Specialist
Developmental specialists work with children with disabilities and their families. They provide an array of services including but not limited to:
- Assessing needs and progress
- Setting goals
- Teaching behavioral modification techniques
- Working on communication skills.
Entry-level developmental specialist positions are closely supervised and often do not need a degree. However, those working with government or school programs may be required to obtain a certification. To perform more services or operate more independently as a developmental specialist, you would need to have a degree and training.
#7 Teacher’s Assistant
This job is not one people tend to think of when they are considering the mental health field. However, teacher’s assistants often spend large parts of the school day working one-on-one with students to help them overcome mental health issues, learning disabilities, or other disabilities. They often help these students with skill-building and coping with the stress of attending school.
Teacher’s assistants work directly with students under the supervision of the classroom teacher to assist them academically and/or behaviorally in class. The goal is to help the student perform to the best of their ability in a regular classroom setting. Many teacher’s assistant positions do not require a degree. However, continuing education is often offered through the school.
Mental health is an expansive field with many different careers. Although most of the careers you will consider do require degrees, many others do not. These careers often offer a chance to work directly with people daily to help them overcome problems.
Not all the counseling positions are paid, but they all count as field experience when working towards certification or licensure.