Child abuse counselors dedicate themselves to providing the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of children of all ages who have experienced physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. Many of these children have been removed from the home or setting where the abuse took place and are either in foster care, group home settings, or living with family members.
Children who survived abuse often have serious emotional concerns, including depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, and trauma-related issues such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This population of children will require the treatment of specialized counseling professionals who will provide the utmost empathy, caring, patience, and understanding. Child abuse counselors not only conduct individual psychotherapy with children, but also family therapy since the wellbeing of the child is often heavily influenced by dynamics in the family system.
The requirements to become a child abuse counselor are typically the same as becoming a counselor in any mental health field. You must earn a minimum of a Master’s degree in psychology, mental health counseling, or other related field. Some child abuse counselors earn a doctoral degree; however, this is not a requirement to work in the field.
While earning your degree, you will participate in practicum (also known as field experience), which means that your university participates in placing you in a setting (e.g., outpatient clinic, private practice, hospital) where you will accumulate face-to-face, direct client contact hours. These hours are a requirement to earn your degree and provide you with probably the most valuable experience in your educational career.
You can request to be placed in practicum settings where you will be exposed to the assessment and treatment of children with issues of trauma and abuse, thus increasing your experience in this area. Once you have completed the requirements for graduation, you proceed to completing an internship, which then makes you eligible to become a licensed counselor in your state.
One of the greatest things about becoming a counselor is that throughout the process of coursework, practicum, internship, and preparation for licensure, you are gaining experience by seeing clients and conducting actual counseling sessions. You will receive supervision from a licensed counselor during your practice before licensure. Your supervisor is either a professor at your university or a licensed mental health professional at your practicum or internship site who meets with you weekly to discuss your client caseload, answer any questions, and assess your progress in your training as a counselor.
Once you become a licensed counselor, you will be able to practice child abuse counseling independently in your own private practice or for a clinic, hospital, or various other settings. Child abuse counseling is undoubtedly a challenging field in mental health, but it is also a field that is in need of competent and caring professionals who have a calling for providing services to children in need. You will serve as a leader and necessary contributor in the detection and prevention of serious emotional concerns in children and teenagers that if left untreated, will carry over into more serious adult issues.