Career Profile: Residential Counselor
What They Do
A residential counselor is a professional who provides therapy and support to individuals in nursing homes and other residential facilities. These counselors may design and implement programs and provide one-on-one care and attention to the residents who need it. Common environments in which a residential counselor can work include youth homes, psychiatric facilities and substance abuse rehabilitation facilities.
Residential counselors work long hours on-call. Fostering an environment of social rehabilitation is important to residential counselors. Those who work in psychiatric environments must deal with crisis intervention and patient evaluation. Those who work with youth supervise troubled residents and design and facilitate social interactions, as well as one-on-one therapy.
Like most counselors, residential counselors help to create and implement treatment plans and goals for their clients and patients. Counselors help individuals in various stages of disabilities to live and work independently. They monitor the progress of their residents, clients and patients so that changes and adjustments can be made to better achieve their wellness goals. These counselors also advocate for the residents and act as liaisons between those individuals and their families, legal situations and the community.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the field of community and social service occupations is going to experience a 17 percent growth between 2012 and 2022. The BLS reports that this is due to the growing trend of minor crime offenses being sentenced to therapy and counseling instead of imprisonment. The job outlook for behavioral disorder counselors is that growth is estimated at a rate of 31 percent over the same amount of time.
Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides no specific data on the median annual income of residential counselors, substance abuse counselors and behavioral disorder counselors make about $38,520 per year and all community and social service occupations make $40,400. These counselors work full time and may have irregular schedules due to the nature of their work and the need for constant communication.
Most states require residential counselors to hold a license or certification as well as a bachelor’s degree. Though there are many related fields related to the field of counseling in which an individual could earn an undergraduate degree, many choose to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work.
A Bachelor of Arts in Social Work is a pertinent educational background for residential counselors because of the nature of their work. Bachelor’s degree programs often require field work as part of the curriculum, which means on-the-job experience for those pursuing a career as a counselor. An undergraduate degree in social work covers subjects that are directly related to the responsibilities of a residential counselor. Subjects like social welfare policy, multicultural social work, human diversity, human behavior and social and economic justice are all relevant to this career field. Many social work programs use the “case study method” to teach students techniques and methods of problem solving, coping, therapy and working with a wide variety of individuals in a wide variety of environments.
Many students choose to couple their academic pursuits with additional internships and volunteer opportunities so that they can acquire practical experience along with theoretical knowledge. In some cases, licensure requirements may include a master’s degree in counseling, a passing grade on the state exam and the pursuit of continuing education.