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How Do I Become a Grief Counselor?

A grief counselor may provide counseling for the loved ones of a deceased individual.
Volunteering at a hospice provides good experience for making the decision to become a grief counselor.
Bereavement after the death of a loved one can take a significant time to process.
In some cases, grief therapy is part of a broader treatment plan.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2014
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If you want to become a grief counselor, it's important to understand that the duties and limitations vary between licensed and non-licensed grief counselors. The licensing requirements vary by state or country, but generally, grief counselors who provide any type of clinical or psychological grief counseling must be licensed. Funeral directors and others who comfort and speak with clients about bereavement aren't considered clinical psychological counselors and don't usually require a license for grief bereavement counseling.

A licensed grief counselor usually works full time in the field of bereavement counseling, while a non-licensed bereavement counselor may provide counseling to clients part time. Non-licensed bereavement counselors often refer clients to licensed grief counselors. Bereavement is the feeling of loss such as when a loved one dies and people react to loss in many different ways. One person who recently experienced the loss of a loved one may feel better discussing his or her feelings briefly with a professional such as a funeral director, while others may require more in-depth psychological counseling from a licensed grief counselor on an ongoing basis.

A bachelor's degree in a human services subject is usually the least amount of education needed to become a licensed grief counselor. Increasingly, a master's degree in psychology or social work is preferred in grief counselor jobs. Licensed grief counselors work in individual and group settings while unlicensed bereavement counselors often speak with clients on an individual or family basis.

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Volunteering in a grief counseling job at a hospice is a good way to start to become a grief counselor. A hospice is a living setting that cares for people who are close to dying. Hospices provide counseling for bereaved family and friends after their loved one passes away. By volunteering at a hospice, it's possible to get training and supervision in grief counseling to help you decide if you want to get further training, education and licensing as a grief counselor.

Supervised work hours plus passing an exam are needed to become a grief counselor with licensed credentials. The number of supervised hours depends on your location. The American Academy of Grief Counseling has education programs and certification information for funeral directors, hospital workers and anyone who wishes to become a grief counselor.

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