A crisis counselor helps individuals who are dealing with a life crisis cope with their feelings of trauma or despair. The tasks of a crisis counselor generally include assessing and evaluating the situation, identifying and proposing solutions to the problem, providing continual support, and sharing stress reduction techniques. Individuals who might require crisis counselors include those with mental and behavioral issues as well as substance abuse problems. Victims of war and crime, recipients of negative health diagnoses, and individuals who have experienced a large relationship or financial loss are examples of those who might seek crisis counseling.
The tasks of a crisis counselor are both analytical and supportive in nature. Crisis counselors must be able to think clearly and demonstrate sound judgment. Individuals in need typically count on crisis counselors to analyze their problems and provide possible solutions. A crisis counselor must have strong communication and interpersonal skills to build a relationship with the afflicted individual and to convey support in a simple and effective manner.
Crisis counselors work with a wide range of individuals and age groups. An elderly woman who has just lost her home and all of her belongings in a hurricane, for example, might find herself unable to identify the next steps for her life. Young children who have lost a parent in an accident might need a crisis counselor to assess the situation, provide support, and to connect them and their guardians with the right services. A young college student who has just received a devastating health diagnosis might go to a crisis counselor to help him prioritize his commitments.
The challenge of the crisis counselor is to quickly assess the situation and help the individual to regain a sense of inner calm. Through listening carefully, being available as needed and providing advice, a counselor can help to relieve the individual’s emotional stress. Many crisis counselors will teach stress management techniques such as tackling large issues one small piece at a time, writing in a journal as a form of therapy, or utilizing meditation and relaxation strategies.
Crisis counselors work in a variety of settings including mental and behavioral clinics, youth services organizations, academic institutions, and public services organizations. Specific duties vary based on the needs of each setting. In some cases, crisis counselors must make themselves available 24 hours a day and work a flexible schedule. Certain environments might require driving patients to appointments to consult with other service professionals such as psychologists, doctors, or financial advisers.
Organizations that hire crisis counselors generally look for a combination of academic achievement, work experience, and specific personality traits. Many employers require a master’s degree in a social services field, although some organizations will accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. In most cases, employers look for prior experience in crisis counseling. Generally, crisis counselors are expected to be of sound judgment and possess the ability to stay calm under pressure.