What is a Youth Counselor?

Cassie L. Damewood
Cassie L. Damewood
Youth counselors must be able to work well with students of diverse backgrounds.
Youth counselors must be able to work well with students of diverse backgrounds.

A youth counselor is generally seen as a friend and mentor to troubled teenagers. She may work with clients on a one-on-one basis or counsel small or large groups of youths. Her work may be conducted in schools, shelters, hospitals or group homes or take place in informal atmospheres like coffee houses or community centers. Depending on the scenario, she may dispense concrete advice or merely listen to the concerns, fears and frustrations of the youth who come to her for guidance.

A youth counselor may organize sports and mentoring programs designed to benefit disadvantaged kids and adolescents.
A youth counselor may organize sports and mentoring programs designed to benefit disadvantaged kids and adolescents.

The job of a youth counselor commonly has many facets and responsibilities. Since the problems and issues faced by young people are so wide ranging, a counselor has to be prepared to hear all kinds of stories and offer solid advice to the best of her ability. She is also generally expected to recognize problems that she cannot readily resolve and advise young people accordingly.

Youth workers talk to teens about issues like peer pressure.
Youth workers talk to teens about issues like peer pressure.

In addition to traditional counseling, a person with this job is frequently called upon to assist young people in completing homework assignments, provide moral support in juvenile court and intercede in disputes with friends, parents and teachers. She is commonly expected to concurrently be a friend, teacher, advocate and adviser to a youth in turmoil or transition. A youth counselor is often perceived by her clients as the only trustworthy person in their lives.

Youth counselors who work in violent neighborhoods may have to help resolve conflicts before they become physical altercations.
Youth counselors who work in violent neighborhoods may have to help resolve conflicts before they become physical altercations.

Aside from being a sounding board, a youth counselor commonly presents solid plans of action to her clients. This may be done on an individual basis or through workshops or group meetings. Some sessions may focus on dealing with common human emotional issues like self-esteem, peer pressure and anger management. Other approaches may promote self-awareness and conflict resolution through poetry, music or drama writing workshops. Regardless of the approaches she implements, the goal of a youth counselor is normally to help young people survive the traumas associated with their ages and emerge as functional, happy and productive adults.

Youth counselors may host drama workshops.
Youth counselors may host drama workshops.

A successful youth counselor is commonly required to have understanding and compassion for her clients while maintaining a professional and objective outlook on their situations. She should be discreet in protecting their secrets and fears but recognize a situation that demands intervention from outside agencies. It is helpful if she has contacts at different agencies to refer clients whose problems may involve substance, physical or emotional abuse or relate to criminal activity.

Youth counselors can encourage teens to meet different goals.
Youth counselors can encourage teens to meet different goals.

To apply for a position as a youth counselor requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Most positions offer on-the-job training, although experience in working with youth and youth-oriented issues is considered a plus. Being available to work nights and weekends is a common prerequisite for this position.

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    • Youth counselors must be able to work well with students of diverse backgrounds.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Youth counselors must be able to work well with students of diverse backgrounds.
    • A youth counselor may organize sports and mentoring programs designed to benefit disadvantaged kids and adolescents.
      By: Boggy
      A youth counselor may organize sports and mentoring programs designed to benefit disadvantaged kids and adolescents.
    • Youth workers talk to teens about issues like peer pressure.
      By: Edyta Pawlowska
      Youth workers talk to teens about issues like peer pressure.
    • Youth counselors who work in violent neighborhoods may have to help resolve conflicts before they become physical altercations.
      By: Monkey Business
      Youth counselors who work in violent neighborhoods may have to help resolve conflicts before they become physical altercations.
    • Youth counselors may host drama workshops.
      By: mikhaluk
      Youth counselors may host drama workshops.
    • Youth counselors can encourage teens to meet different goals.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Youth counselors can encourage teens to meet different goals.
    • Youth counseling can help children to get along with peers.
      By: majesticca
      Youth counseling can help children to get along with peers.
    • Youth counselors may have a background in children education.
      By: cmlndm
      Youth counselors may have a background in children education.