A grief counselor provides help to individuals who have experienced a major loss or negative life change. He or she might facilitate individual or group therapy sessions to allow grieving people the opportunity to talk about their issues. A counselor must be well-versed in different coping strategies and the grieving process in order to evaluate clients' needs and provide support.
Coping with the death of a family member, friend, or even a pet can be very distressing, and many people need assistance to understand their loss and move on with their lives. A grief counselor provides a number of important services to such grieving individuals. He or she helps to ease bereavement by showing compassion and asking client's to explain what they are feeling. A counselor must be sensitive, understanding, and willing to listen to individuals with emotional pain.
Grief counselors help bereaving clients work through a loss by guiding them through the grieving process. He or she helps people accept that their losses are real and permanent, and assures people that their fears and emotions are acceptable. The counselor often evaluates the mental condition of his or her clients over multiple therapy sessions and looks for signs of depression or suicide. When a client shows extreme physical or mental symptoms, the grief counselor may make a referral to a physician or psychiatrist to provide additional care and services.
To become a grief counselor, a person must typically obtain a bachelor's degree in counseling, psychology, or human services, though many positions require that a candidate hold a master's degrees or higher. A new grief counselor is often required to work under the supervision of experienced professionals for a certain amount of time, usually a year or more. After completing education requirements and a period of supervised training, a counselor must take a written licensing test administered by his or her state or country. Additional certification is required by some employers, and may be obtained by completing a specialized grief therapy program and examination offered by an accredited organization, such as the American Academy of Grief Counseling.
Most grief counselors operate individual or group private practices, where they generally work about 40 hours a week. Counselors who are able to choose their own hours frequently make themselves available on weekends and evenings to accommodate their clients' schedules. Some hospitals and schools staff grief counselors to provide immediate services to people who have just undergone a traumatic experience or loss. These counselors typically assume on-call status, and may work long hours helping an individual or family cope with a crisis.