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How to Become a Grief Counselor Online

Jan 18, 2020

A grief counselor offers support to those who have experienced a loss; they work in such settings as a private practice, hospital, or retirement community. Most of the steps needed to become a grief counselor can be achieved online and are described below.

Becoming a Grief Counselor Online

People coping with the loss of a loved one, career, or even pet often can benefit from seeing a grief counselor, who can listen to them and offer both sympathy and constructive approaches to deal with their feelings. To become proficient in these skills requires education, practical training, and certification, much of which can be done online. Depending on the area of interest and study, a grief counselor can practice in fields such as psychology, ministry, and social work.

Required Skills Listening, empathy, analytical
Job Growth (2108-2028)* 22% (for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)
Median salary (2018)** $42,500 per year

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale

Steps Needed to Become a Grief Counselor Online

Most of the steps to becoming a grief counselor can be taken online, from applying to schools and completing coursework to obtaining a certificate to practice. Practical training represents the only part of the process that requires in-person interaction.

Step 1. Skills Needed

An individual experiencing a loss sometimes faces challenges while moving through the grieving process and seeks the assistance of a grief counselor. Counselors must be able to listen empathetically, determine the best way to help their client cope with the loss, and perhaps offer approaches toward healing. Further, grief counselors should be aware of the cultural and spiritual background of their clients to offer the most appropriate support. The foundations of many of these skills can be learned online through videos and courses, though practicing them in real-world situations may be the most beneficial.

Step 2. Complete Online Bachelor's Degree

Increasingly, opportunities exist that allow students to apply for and gain a bachelor's degree online. Although few schools offer an undergraduate degree specifically in grief counseling, many offer fully online programs in fields like psychology, with specializations such as counseling psychology, developmental psychology and clinical psychology. Getting an online bachelor's degree will introduce students to fundamental theories in psychology and will prepare them for further study at the graduate level. Typically, one can complete a bachelor's program in 4 years.

Step 3. Complete an Online Master's Degree or Certificate Program

While a bachelor's degree can be sufficient in some cases, many states and employers require counselors to have a graduate degree. As with bachelor's degrees, some schools provide an online master's option. While some of these programs offer a master's in grief counseling, others have general online degrees in counseling, divinity, or social work. Students may also be able to pursue a certificate in grief counseling, which is acceptable to practice in some states. In addition to the virtual coursework, students can participate in online discussions with classmates, practice interactive role-playing, and communicate with and receive feedback from professors. In general, a master's program will take 2 to 3 years to complete.

For schools that do not offer a specific online graduate degree in grief counseling, there are still many paths students interested in this field can pursue. Such master's degrees can include general counseling, psychology, religious studies, social work, nursing or thanatology, which is the study of death.

Step 4. Practical Experience

Grief counselors will need to complete some real-world counseling requirements that can't be completed online. Putting counseling skills into practice represents a critical part of a future grief counselor's learning experience. Depending on one's area of interest, a student could work in a hospital, military base, funeral home, or private practice. Under the supervision of a psychologist, chaplain, or social worker, prospective grief counselors can interact with those seeking bereavement therapy in a real-world setting. Each state has its own requirements for the amount of experience needed before an individual can sit for a licensing exam, if necessary, for his or her field. There is no licensing exam specifically for grief counselors, but they may need to have licensure in a related field.

Step 5. Complete Continuing Education

To maintain their standing, grief counselors typically need to complete continuing education. The American Institute of Health Care Professionals, Inc. (AIHCP) offers a range of online continuing education courses that will prepare students for certification and re-certification. All aspects of this process are online, from applying for the classes to the coursework and the examinations. Students typically have 2 years to complete the courses.

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