Human services workers help people from all types of backgrounds facing a wide range of challenges in their lives. The organizations that human services professionals work for are often managed by state or local governments. So, job availability and salaries are largely dependent on budgetary funding. There are also a large number of non-profit human services organizations. These organizations face budgetary restraints, as well; they are usually dependent on donations from supporters to continue their work.
Because human services as a whole helps so many different individuals and addresses so many concerns, organizations typically focus on meeting one need in the community. Within each organization, workers take on different roles and responsibilities to help others. Human services workers may have administrative duties, as is the case for grant writers and program directors.
Many are direct service workers—counselors, instructors and facilitators. A large part of what human services workers do for their clients is centered on education and emotional support. Below, we’ve outlined a few of the many counseling careers in human services that are available to compassionate individuals working in the field.
Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors work in conjunction with psychologists and other professionals to treat those who suffer from drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders and other compulsive behaviors. Substance abuse counselors have many tools at their disposal to help clients. They help clients develop:
- Goals and treatment plans
- Educate friends and family about addiction
- Provide emotional support and
- Refer clients to other resources that may be of assistance
Substance abuse counselor education requirements can vary from a high school diploma to a master’s degree. Workers with more education are able to provide more complete care to clients. Those with a master’s degree, for example, may be clinical counselors who can provide one-on-one services and crisis intervention.
Rehabilitation counselors work in the intersection of human services and healthcare. In this specialty, human services workers aid patients who are recovering from a seriously physical injury or are living with disabilities. Rehabilitation counselors help clients with disabilities—both permanent and temporary—live fuller personal, social and professional lives by:
- Providing emotional support
- Developing treatment plans and
- Referring clients to other resources and services
Most rehabilitation counselors have a master’s degree in human services, counseling or a related field. Some employers prefer to hire only licensed rehabilitation counselors, but a license is not necessary in many settings. A license is required, however, for those who work in private practice.
Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors are not psychologists or psychiatrists. They do not work in private practice and they cannot prescribe medications. What they can and do do is work in tandem with these professionals to provide help for patients who suffer from:
- Bipolar disorder and
- Other mental illnesses
Mental health counselors may be employed in hospitals, community mental health centers, nursing homes and residential facilities. The majority of mental health counselors have a master’s degree and a state license. Counselors must also complete annual continuing education classes at the graduate level.
Youth counselors work for organizations like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. They are responsible for coordinating and supervising recreational and social programs for children and teenagers. These programs may be involved and complex, like a summer camp, or may be smaller activities, like intramural sports or tutoring programs. Youth counselors aim to reach out to at-risk and troubled youth who may be experiencing trauma or difficulties adjusting to life changes, such as a new school or a divorce. Many youth counselors eventually enter a child advocate career.
Legal and Victim Assistance Counselor
Human services workers in legal and victim assistance work with both the victims of crimes and those who have been convicted. Counselors who work with victims provide emotional support and work to education the community about crime awareness and prevention. Some may even provide free child care for victims of crime while they attend to legal matters.
Counselors who work with former convicts, on the other hand, focus on rehabilitation. They may work alongside probation or parole officers to help offenders find jobs, housing and support groups. These counselors may work with juveniles or adults. Legal counselors often take on some case manager duties. They need to be familiar with their clients’ backgrounds and keep detailed reports in case they are called upon to testify or provide information to other professionals working for the client.
Vocational counselors assist clients who are unemployed, underemployed or looking to switch careers. They provide advice and use tools, such as aptitude test, to find careers that best suit their clients. These human services workers may work in job placement agencies, unemployment offices or in vocational rehabilitation facilities. The work of a vocational counselor is more administrative than many of the other careers on this list. Why they may provide some emotional support and advice, the majority of their work is focused on facilitation between clients and employers.