How do I Become a Residential Counselor?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 July 2019
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A residential counselor provides various support services to the residents of a group home. These homes generally house individuals who, for a variety of reasons, cannot live independently. They may, for instance, serve the elderly, runaway teens, the mentally or physically disabled, or individuals recovering from substance abuse issues. The steps necessary to become a residential counselor depend largely upon the nature of the individual counseling position. Some residential counseling jobs require little more than a high school diploma and a caring, responsible nature, while others require an advanced degree, licensing, or certification.

Once you have decided you want to become a residential counselor, you should think specifically about the type of role you would like. While the aim of most residential counselors is to promote their residents’ well being, this objective can take many different forms. Some counselors assist residents in the functions of daily life, such as doing laundry and participating in social activities. Other counselors may perform similar duties while also serving a more clinical function, leading group or individual therapy sessions. The steps required to obtain a residential counseling job usually depend on what type of counselor you want to be.


If you want to become a residential counselor who assists clients in their day-to-day duties, you may need only a high school diploma or its equivalent. In many cases, you will need to pass a criminal background check. If your job involves resident transportation, you will also likely need a good driving record. You may be responsible for processing paperwork and planning schedules, and thus might be required to demonstrate a certain level of computer literacy and organization.

Perhaps one of the most important criteria for this type of position is a positive, caring attitude. In most cases, group home residents face a variety of challenges that have made their lives difficult and sometimes unpleasant. By acting as a responsible but supportive mentor to your residents, you can be a positive force in their rehabilitation.

Should you prefer to become a residential counselor with a more clinical role, you will likely need a great deal more training. Most therapeutic counselors must have a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. In some cases this type of residential counselor must also be licensed or certified, a process which usually involves completing supervised practice counseling sessions and taking a written exam. Often this requirement is dictated by the state in which the group home resides.

Finally, no matter the type of residential counseling position you might like, you should consider the sizable time commitment often required in this field. Some homes require their counselors to live on the premises. Others do not require counselors to be fully resident, but split counseling work into shifts that can extend for up to 12 hours. Therefore, as a residential counselor, you might sometimes be required to adjust your personal life to fit your work schedule.



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