Counseling as a Profession: Specialties

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  • 0:03 Specialization
  • 0:53 Specialization in…
  • 2:05 Why Is Specialization…
  • 4:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different types of counselors? Learn more about why specialties are necessary in the field of counseling.


Imagine you walk into the local ice cream shop. Think of the choices that you might have. There are the classics: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. There are also the mixed flavors, like cookie dough or rocky road. You may even have some more exotic flavors to choose from, such as cotton candy or birthday cake.

Like this example, many different options are also available in the counseling profession. What type of help do you need? Are you seeking assistance for a broad range of issues in your life or a specific problem? Do you want someone whose training is focused in a specific area?

Specialization is the focusing of knowledge in a specific area. For the purposes of this lesson, we will look at a brief overview of how specialization affects counseling.

Specialization in Mental Health

There are many different reasons that counselors specialize. They may desire to be as knowledgeable as possible about a specific area, want to help a specific population of people, or want to focus on one particular theory or technique. Other counselors may want to work with a broad range of clients and direct them to specialists when needed.

Let's look at examples of some different issues that might be addressed by areas of specialization. There are clinical psychologists who may work with a wide range of clients, from those experiencing normal stress to those with a severe mental illness. There are developmental psychologists who work with clients who have social, intellectual, or emotional disorders that have affected them throughout their lifespan.

There are school psychologists who work to enhance child development in an educational setting. There are also experimental psychologists who conduct research experiments in the field of psychology. These are only a few of the options, and specialization exists within each counseling specialty as well. For example, a developmental psychologist might specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

Why Is Specialization Important?

Why is all of this specialization needed? It may seem overwhelming at first, but the many areas of specialization act to ensure that clients can get help that is targeted to meet their needs. Let's go through a possible specialization scenario to understand this more clearly. Jake has decided that he needs counseling.

The first decision that he might face is whether or not he needs long-term or short-term help. This would mean a choice between counseling and therapy. The terms 'counseling' and 'therapy' are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference in specialization between the two.

Counseling focuses on specific issues and is designed to help a person address a particular problem, such as addiction or stress management. The focus is on problem solving or on learning specific techniques for coping with or avoiding problem areas. Because of this, counseling is usually a short-term process.

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