The field of counseling has come a long way from the “mommy issues” and “dream interpretations” of Sigmund Freud’s days. A hundred years ago, counseling degree program options were limited to say the least. As the epicenter of psychoanalytic counseling, Vienna was an obvious choice, but the United States was barely starting to consider psychology as a field of science. Today, aspiring counselors have a world of locations and counseling degrees to choose from. If you’re looking to get a degree that offers both challenging and rewarding opportunities to learn and help people throughout your career, a counseling degree is definitely an option worth exploring.
Why Earn Your Counseling Degree Abroad
As a counselor, a large part of your job will involve learning to empathize with and help your clients. Earning your degree in counseling abroad will give you the chance to experience a new culture and practice your empathy skills whether you are inside the classroom or not. Nothing will challenge your own assumptions about how to help others more than learning how life is in another part of the world.
By choosing to earn your counseling degree abroad, you’ll also open yourself up to career opportunities abroad that you might not otherwise have the experience to qualify for. The reality of being a counselor is that the location in which you receive your degree can have major bearing on your career prospects, so consider your locations carefully. You will likely end up working in the country you study in, as bringing skills back home does not always work out easily.
In the same way, travel opens your eyes to understanding others and the world, so earning your counseling degree abroad will do the same. Choose a location and school that will help you learn counseling skills and develop a career, then your degree in counseling will surely give you fulfillment throughout your life and with each client you encounter.
Where you choose to earn your degree in counseling should depend on several factors, including the languages you speak, the types of counseling taught, and the government support for counseling education and careers (after all, you don’t want to graduate and be unable to find work!). Since most counseling degrees are at least two years long, put some thought into the process; it’ll be hard to change once you start a degree program.
That being said, while there are counseling degrees offered in many countries around the world, most degree programs are offered in English-speaking countries, such as the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. What you learn in English-taught counseling degree programs can easily be taken back to your home country, but paper credentials will be harder to transfer. As is the case with many industries, the best practices, customs, and ideologies may differ between regions and countries, so focus in on what you’d really like to delve into.
While earning your degree in counseling, you will likely be attending a school in a larger city, such as Melbourne, London, Dublin, and New York. An important factor in your decision should be ensuring the accreditation of the program you pick. Non-accredited counseling degree programs can provide a big hindrance to your career, even if the location is amazing. The last thing you want to do is spend years studying only to find yourself unable to “pass go” and collect the salary of an accredited counselor.
Counseling Degree Programs
At any academic level, learning counseling is about learning to provide a social service; if you don’t want to help people, a counseling degree is not right for you! Counseling degree programs will usually entail a combination of academic courses, practicums (field training with real clients), and internships. These various learning methods will provide you with both the functional knowledge of counseling styles and the chance to master them while helping others.
In addition to considering the location and quality of your counseling degree program, be sure to review any course materials to learn about the types of counseling you’ll be trained in. Counseling degrees can focus heavily on psychoanalytic, cognitive-behavioral, holistic, or other theories, depending on the school’s orientation. If you wish to specialize in a niche style of counseling, it won’t be a good fit to go to a multi-disciplinary counseling program, and vice versa.
Counseling degrees are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level, but you don’t need an undergraduate degree in counseling to apply for a graduate program in the field. The laws surrounding your ability to practice counseling vary by country, but in most cases, you will need a graduate degree, a certain number of supervised hours practicing with clients, and a passing score on a licensing test before you can practice on your own.
Benefits & Challenges
Getting a counseling degree abroad not only helps you understand others better, but it helps you see the vast spectrum of people, places, and their interaction with each other. You’ll have more insight into what it’s like to “walk a mile in their shoes,” whether that be waraji, cowboy boots, or Persian slippers. No matter where you end up counseling, having diverse experiences will improve your ability to empathize with clients.
Deciding to pursue your counseling degree abroad is the first commitment you’ll make to a rewarding lifelong career of helping others. Though there may be moments of difficulty and doubt, counseling is a rare opportunity to help people improve their day-to-day lives in meaningful ways. It’s also a need that is universal; altruism can take you to all corners of the world.
There is no better way to understand others than to experience the varied range of human experiences, and studying abroad is a great way to do that. By immersing yourself in another culture while you study counseling, without losing your superego in the process, you’ll have both a degree and a wider appreciation for how to help your future clients.