Counselors who are trained in grief counseling are qualified to work with clients who are experiencing grief, often due to some sort of traumatic event like the loss of a loved one or a tragedy. There are several programs at the graduate level that are designed to provide the proper training and knowledge to individuals interested in learning about the grieving process and the various counseling methods that can be used to help clients. We will learn more about some of these programs below.
General Information About Graduate Programs in Grief Counseling
At the graduate level, there are post-graduate certificates, master's degrees, and doctoral programs in the field of grief counseling. These programs are all designed for individuals who have prior training and experience in counseling and who are interested in gaining more specialized knowledge in one specific subfield. The length of these programs varies depending on the level of study. Some common courses within these programs are outlined below.
Death and Dying
A course that is focused on the human processes of death and dying is standard in most grief counseling programs, as understanding the nature of death is key to being able to provide counseling on the subject. This course may cover topics regarding the natural process of dying, various types of deaths, decisions regarding end-of-life care, and funerals. Students will also learn how death is perceived in a cultural context, as this can play an important role in understanding how different people and cultural groups handle the process of death.
Theories of Grief Counseling
In this course, students will learn about the different theories that inform the field of grief counseling. At the graduate level, many students may have already been exposed to more fundamental counseling theories, so this course will specifically focus on theories related to trauma and grief. Students will read and study research that has been done on the various theories, compare theories, and discuss various strategies that could be used in patient treatment that are rooted in the theories of grief counseling.
Grief and Bereavement
Graduate level programs in grief counseling will often include a course that focuses specifically on the process of grief and bereavement. Students will learn about how people mourn losses, including how various mourning rituals aid in the process of grief. The course will also instruct students how to use different bereavement intervention models to help clients and patients struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one.
Because of the differences between child and adult psychology, these programs may also include a course that focuses on how to provide counseling to children who are experiencing grief. Students will learn about how children develop a conception of dying and how their minds understand death. The course will also include instruction in different techniques that counselors can use with providing help to children who are dying or who are trying to cope with the death of a loved one in their family or friend group.
Depending on whether the program you enroll in requires you to do independent research in writing a thesis or dissertation, you may be required to take a research methods course. This class will focus on the fundamentals of research, which includes how to analyze different types of data, write research proposals, and put together a cohesive piece of written research.
Graduate Degree Programs in Grief Counseling Admission Criteria
To enroll in either a certificate program or master's degree, students will already need to possess a bachelor's degree in a field related to counseling. Some students may choose to enroll in certificate programs if they already have a master's degree and want more specialized training in grief counseling. When submitting an application, students should be prepared to also submit their transcripts from any other higher education they have completed, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.