Counseling provided by trained professionals can make a profound impact on the lives of individuals, families and communities. This service helps people navigate difficult life situations, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, natural disasters, school stress and the loss of a job. It provides the tools and insights to manage mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Ultimately, counseling empowers people to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

A Brief History of Counseling

Counseling has been important seemingly since the dawn of society. From parents and grandparents advising other family members to community leaders providing guidance to residents, counseling seems to have always been a natural part of the human experience.

As people became more mobile during the Industrial Revolution and began migrating to cities, they became separated from traditional counselors in their families and communities. A lack of knowledge on how to address mental illness resulted in the isolation of many people in psychiatric hospitals and asylums.

With the advent of modern psychiatry, both medical professionals and society at large began to embrace the idea of psychiatric health and counseling. With widespread recognition of the ineffectiveness of mental institutions, a mental hygiene movement — led by psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and former hospital patients – began to sweep the country.

President John F. Kennedy endorsed the movement’s message — and the importance of counseling — when he signed the Community Mental Health Act in 1963. The law profoundly changed the way mental health services were to be delivered and led to the introduction of mental health centers across the country. At the same time, many psychiatric hospitals were closed in favor of enhanced community-based services.

Counseling as a Career

Mental health issues can severely curtail an individual’s ability to lead a fulfilling life. They can cloud relationships, family life and careers. Mental health conditions cut across economic, social and racial groups. Issues such as depression and anxiety can affect people of all ages, from children to the elderly.

An estimated 18.3 percent of adults in the United States suffer from mental illness. Approximately 21 percent of youths between the ages of 13 and 18 experience a mental disorder at some point during their lives.

Today, there is growing acceptance of the need for help for mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can afflict both returning veterans and the general population. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 8 percent of people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

Fueling the need for counselors are changes in the criminal justice system, which is moving away from jail time and toward counseling services. Schools and colleges are expanding their mental health services in response to issues of depression, anxiety, relationship problems, suicide and substance use among students.

There is also an urgent need for counseling for the elderly. About 20 percent of Americans 55 and older experience mental health issues triggered by the loss of a spouse, the loss of mobility and failing physical health.

Wake Forest University’s Online Master of Arts in Counseling

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, counseling jobs are expected to increase by 23 percent between 2016 and 2026. The median salary for counselors is $42,140.

Both the importance of counseling and the need for trained counselors have never been greater. For those who are passionate about helping others and contributing to the health and wellness of individuals, families and communities, now is the right time to pursue a degree in counseling.

Wake Forest University is dedicated to training highly skilled counselors who are committed to serving the needs of individuals and their communities. Our graduates strive to excel as community leaders, advocates and practitioners who model compassionate service to humanity and foster the well-being of society. The online Master of Arts in Counseling program prepares working professional students for rewarding careers in clinical mental health and school counseling. Learn from our experienced counselors, prepare for certification and licensure, and discover how to make a positive difference in the lives of those in need.

Learn More

If you’re interested in making a difference others’ lives, you are concerned for others’ wellbeing and you value relationships, a career in counseling might be a good fit for you. Wake Forest University has developed an online Master of Arts in Counseling program that’s designed for students who want to work full time while they earn their master’s degree. The flexible online platform helps students balance their academic studies with their busy lives. The program’s academic rigor and its 98 percent student pass rate on the National Counselor exam has earned Wake Forest University’s master’s of counseling program a reputation for excellence.