Distance Career Counseling: An In-Demand Profession

In my over 25 years of private practice, I have found that the majority of my clients choose a professional to assist them in their career development process because they value the expertise that comes with professional certifications and an adherence to guidelines and ethics codes. As our discipline progresses alongside technology, preferred methods of counseling change. In recent years, counselors have become more involved in working with clients at a distance, which requires specialized training and credentials to offer clients additional assurance of their career counselor’s competencies and skills.

Distance counseling may accommodate busy schedules better than traditional office appointments. As Alice Rush stated in 2006, “Employees who work 60 hours a week, travel, juggle small children, work, activities, and school, typically feel as though their lives are out of control and many find they don’t have time for traditional career counseling” (“Distance Counseling Methods & Tele-counseling Approach for Employee Development,” Career Convergence).After years of working with clients primarily in person, I am finding that many of my current clients prefer working online and over the phone.

Common modes of distance counseling include:

  • Encrypted email
  • Phone calls
  • Skype, or other video calling service

These services are readily available anywhere that technology allows. Additionally, practitioners can address the same types of concerns that they would with in-person clients. Distance counseling often puts individuals at ease and provides anonymity, offering clients privacy and a sense of security that allows them to open up and feel comfortable in sharing their issues and concerns.

Web-based career development group seminars and one-on-one services can be offered on a variety of topics for diverse populations and people of all ages, including but not limited to:

  • Self-assessment
  • Career exploration
  • Career planning
  • Decision making
  • Resume writing
  • Job search strategies
  • Follow-up

Online Career Centers involving all aspects of career development have been developed for clients nationally and internationally. Generally, an in-depth intake form is completed, and the counselor responds with a career plan as a means of charting the client’s future path. This plan contains concrete steps that allow the client and the counselor to mark progress and outcomes in the career discovery process. It is behaviorally based and can be used as a guide throughout the client’s career.

What recent clients have said about distance career counseling:

  • “It’s a great way to go! I started in the office in Memphis but could continue to update my resume and accomplishments when I went back to Nashville. I am now in Miami and find that I can schedule sessions at my convenience as issues arise in adjusting to my job.”
  • “Distance career counseling worked well for me as a manager with an international company. With my family responsibilities and job travel, I have found this method easily adaptable to my hectic schedule. Taking an hour a week during lunch to work on career advancement is both enriching and convenient.”
  • “I had some personal issues regarding my layoff and felt more comfortable sharing my feelings over the phone.”
  • “I was doubtful at first, but the phone sessions were enlightening about my ideal job and enhanced my resume. Revisions went quickly, and I could see the process every step of the way. It’s an efficient and effective method.”

It is important to obtain certification in distance counseling to ensure clients experience a high quality, ethical counseling process. Distance Credentialed Counselor training is the training required by the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). Legal requirements for distance practices differ from state to state, and it is the counselor’s responsibility to know the requirements of their particular state. All credential holders also must adhere to state licensure laws. Information may be found at www.nbcc.org/stateLicensure.

What credentials are necessary to conduct distance counseling?

  • A Master’s degree in counseling or a mental health related field from an accredited college or university.
  • A license to practice counseling or a related field in the state or country where the candidate resides or works, or current certification in good standing as a National Certified Counselor.
  • Successfully completing the 15 hour Distance Credentialed Counselor Training.
  • Adhering to the NBCC Code of Ethics and NBCC requirements regarding the scope and policies of Distance Counseling Services.

This certification shows that distance counselors are adhering to national standards of ethical behavior, competencies, and scope of practice in their field. Obtaining the Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC) Certification is a certain step for those of us who are offering this method of service. It proves we are worthy of national recognition and offers accountability for this increasingly in-demand profession.

Betty McWillie, LPC, DCC, NCC, MCC, is the owner of McWillie Career Directions in Memphis, Tennessee, an online Career Coach with the University of Phoenix, and career development class instructor to traditional and nontraditional college students. She has over 30 years’ experience as a career counselor, career center director, career development facilitator trainer, business owner, and university professor.