How A Career Counselor Can Help

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

An average individual may consider changing jobs for mental health, as they spend a third of their life at work. A person's job or career goals can be essential, so finding a fulfilling position that offers a healthy environment and successful career development can be valuable. However, because of how impactful a job can be, making significant decisions about your career can feel daunting. If you're looking for guidance, resources like taking a career test, using the Occupational Outlook tool from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or career counseling services may be supportive.

Unhappy with your work life?

Finding the right path

According to a 2014 study, only 52.3% of people say they're happy with their employment situation. Since you may spend a lot of time at work, a job that makes you unhappy or causes you to feel drained or stressed could take a toll on your mental health. An unhealthy work environment could lead to anxiety, depression, mood changes, or physical health challenges. 

Career counseling sessions may help a person better understand themselves and determine their talents and role in their career while finding a more rewarding career path. It could help them make more educated life and career decisions by better understanding their wants, needs, personality, strengths, interests, and skills. Depending on the type of career coach and session, goals may include uncovering and shifting limiting beliefs that could be holding someone back from pursuing the education or job they desire.

Who can benefit from career coaching?

There are many reasons someone might seek out a career counselor, and it can be used throughout various life stages. Some individuals might turn to this type of professional if they feel unhappy or are interested in changing careers. For example, they might find that:

  • They don't like their field.
  • They feel drained by work.
  • Their environment is unhealthy.
  • Their work-life balance is poor.
  • Their earning potential is limited.

It could also be a valuable option for someone who feels they want to make a change, whether they've been in one field for a long time and feel bored or have always dreamed of a new career path but are nervous about making the jump. Finally, career counseling is also commonly sought by those looking for their first job and planning for the future. For this reason, higher education institutions often prioritize helping students find the right career through career counseling services.

Types of career support

Career counseling can take many forms, including individually or in small groups, and be done with the guidance of various professionals. It can also occur at separate times in your career, whether you're just starting or looking for a change after a decade or two. Assessments may be performed by a school counselor, a life coach, a therapist, or someone who specializes in career counseling, and the provider you choose can depend on your goals for the job search. 

School counselors 

A school counselor or advisor could offer one-on-one conversations if you're a student or alumni trying to decide on a major or want to understand what jobs to pursue with a specific degree path. They may assist you in finding colleges that offer majors in line with your career needs and help you to identify what you want out of your career after college and then work with you to outline the subjects to research and the educational steps you can take to get there. 

Their advice often relates to immediate next steps for young adults, such as what classes to take to get the degree you'll need or what on-campus networking events to attend to meet professionals in your field. Some campuses may also have school counselors or advisors that focus on providing more in-depth guidance on different career paths. One of the benefits of meeting with this type of counselor is that their services may be free for students enrolled at the school. They may also help students and alumni find work experience and career development opportunities through internships.

1:1 career coaches

You may also be able to set up career counseling sessions with someone who specializes in professional career counseling if you are thinking you want to change careers. Counselors work by diving deeply into varying elements of your professional abilities, career history, and goals. They may start by administering tests to understand your personality, strengths, values, and interests to see what work you may be best suited for. 

A career counselor might also interview you about what you want in a career, such as work-life balance, salary, employers, and impact. Then, they can work with you to devise a process for achieving the career you want. 


A life coach

A life coach might take a goal-oriented approach to career counseling. They could encourage you to envision your ideal life, including what you see yourself doing for your career. They might then help you break down the steps you'll need to take to get there, including soft and hard skills. For example, you could learn anything from getting a specialized degree to building self-confidence. Career coaches may take a more holistic approach to career guidance, which can dramatically affect the lives of clients in need of assistance. They may or may not have a degree or license in job counseling or a related field.  

Sessions with a therapist

Deciding to meet with a therapist can also allow you to receive knowledge and guidance on your career. They may utilize a broader view of your life, outlook, and mental health status, considering your career as a piece of that. They may help you get to know yourself better so you can choose a fitting career, build self-confidence for the roles you seek, and set healthy boundaries with bosses and colleagues at work. If your job negatively impacts your mental health, they may provide support and guidance on making adjustments so that you can find a career that allows for work/life balance and other benefits that may support you mentally.

How to find a counselor

Connecting with your university counselor or advisor can be a beneficial first step if you're a student. School counselors are often free and can provide advice related to your specific course of study or the programs available at your school. However, they might only suggest career options that require an education since the school employs them. 

If you're interested in finding a licensed career counselor, you can try a search engine like the one offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. It may also be worth visiting any career centers in your local area. If you're looking for a life coach, you can search through an online directory or look on a social media network. Unlike many school counselors, these psychology professionals have high qualifications and, as a result, might charge for their service. You may find that there aren’t many of these professionals in your local area, but remember that you can find a career counselor through online therapy platforms as well. This may even result in a faster-than-average connection with a professional who meets your needs and preferences.

How to find a therapist who can help you navigate your career

A career counselor is a great option, but if you'd prefer a more holistic approach to your career or want support with career-related mental health factors, a therapist may be a rewarding option. The career counselor’s role is to help you get to know yourself better so that you can make life and career choices that work for you. They can also work with you to build healthy habits that can benefit your careers, such as communication, coping mechanisms for anxiety, or stress relief skills. You can look for a therapist in your area if you prefer traditional, in-person therapy. If you'd find it more comfortable or convenient to meet with a therapist online, you can try a virtual therapy platform for career services. 

Online therapy services may match you with a licensed therapist based on your answers to a few questions about your preferences. You can then meet with them via phone, video, or live chat sessions. Although many online platforms don't accept insurance, appointment costs can be comparable to those of many insurance co-pays. Research suggests that online therapy offers similar benefits to traditional counseling. If you're interested in online therapy, consider a platform like BetterHelp, which offers to over 30,000 therapists specializing in various areas, including careers.

Unhappy with your work life?

BetterHelp reviews

"I worked with Erin for a couple of months while dealing with a stressful transition and major career deadline. I felt like I was in over my head, and I was anxious and exhausted. I thought that we established a good rapport right from the start, and Erin had helpful things to offer me from the first few moments that we worked together. Erin is warm and intuitive, and she brought a great sense of humor to our sessions. Erin provided an excellent combination of affirmation, doable "homework," and helping me understand myself and my reactions to my situation better. I recommend Erin incredibly highly!"

"David has been my greatest support in navigating issues that were simply holding me back from being happy. Before working with David, I was suffering from anxiety due to relationship issues and career changes that were putting me in a bad place. We worked on everything step by step and I can say, with great gratitude, that I feel much stronger and happier now, after only a few months. I've managed to rebuild that strength in time with his help. He's also never missed a session and always went the extra mile to help with everything he could. Thanks, David!"


For many, a career can be a significant aspect of life. If your job isn't what you want or you want to explore future career options, consider reaching out to a career counselor or a career specialist for further guidance. 

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