how can I get experience in the counseling/psychology field before I am in college?
I am a current high school senior who wants to go on to become a licensed counselor/theripist. I am currently job-searching and thought it would be amazing to get some pre-undergrad experience! psychology counseling experience
CLASSES YOU SHOULD BE TAKING NOW
Generally, you should focus on building a solid background in science and math while you are in high school. Excellent writing and communication skills are also essential, so English and speech courses can also be beneficial. In order to get a better idea of what high school classes you should take, schedule an appointment with your guidance counselor to discuss your academic plans. Your counselor can offer further advice on which courses might help you reach your goals. Consider taking some of the following courses while you're in high school:
• Algebra and statistics: Statistics play a vital role in research, and nearly all psychology programs require at least one statistics course. High school math classes help you prepare for the demands of college. These courses will help you learn more about concepts including independent and dependent variables, exponents, probability, and graphs.
AP Psychology: If your high school offers an AP Psychology course, then you should take advantage of this great opportunity. Not only does this course provide a great introduction to psychology, but it may also allow you the chance to earn college credits that will give you a head start on your degree.
• Biology: Psychology and biology have a great deal in common, so taking high school biology courses can be very helpful. During your university studies, you will cover topics such as cell biology, human anatomy, brain anatomy, genetics, and evolution — topics all covered in high school biology courses.
• English/writing/speech: Psychology students are expected to communicate effectively, both in verbal speech and in writing. Taking writing and speech courses in high school is a good way to develop solid communication skills that will be very useful later on.
• Social sciences: Many university psychology programs recommend that high school students take plenty of social science courses including economics, history, government, geography, and sociology. These courses help increase your general knowledge base and help you develop critical thinking skills for your academic and professional career.
Because of the confidential nature of the work psychologists do, it’s unlikely you’d be able to shadow a psychologist who is working with clients. You might instead volunteer for a crisis intervention center or some other organization that uses volunteers to assist people in need. Other kinds of work might be helping on a hotline, working with troubled children, tutoring a child with a difficulty such as autism, or becoming a camp counselor. Any kind of role that encourages you to pay attention to others, use good listening skills, and to try to be helpful can be a good first step for the field.
John recommends the following next steps:
If you have a population - kids, adults, elderly, etc that you know you are interested in working with in the future, I suggest you find ways to mentor or support people in some way in that population. You might also consider a job or volunteer work with a mental health group that isn't counseling, but puts you in touch with the counseling field of work. For example, in Annapolis, Maryland we have a business called Pathways that helps people struggling with addiction and provides counseling. Some jobs are not counselors, but you get an idea of how this operation may work and make some connections. Confidentiality is important, so it isn't possible for you to provide counseling prior to being in a program.
There are also many causes, such as suicide awareness, that are related that you could get involved with. Just being a teen, you are probably counseling your peers pretty often. Learn what you can and make sure to refer those in need to get help from a counseling source. Ask lots of questions to those in the field, just soak it up to understand what counseling really is and whether it's for you.
Good luck! I love your interest and passion.