How A Career Counselor Can Help You

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated October 18, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When you think of mental health counselors and mental health professionals you may think about therapists who help clients with mental health disorders such as substance abuse, eating disorders, and other mental health challenges, however, there are counselors with special training in other areas such as career counseling.A career counselor is a professionally trained mental health provider who specializes in supporting clients with vocational choices, career development, and other aspects of mental health careers. Whether you want to change your career or enter the workforce for the first time, a career counselor may help you establish career goals and work toward a fulfilling professional life.

Mental Health Challenges Are Not Uncommon

What Is A Career Counselor? 

Many people meet with career counselors during high school or college as they transition into adulthood. However, career counseling can also help individuals at any stage of life understand or develop present or future career goals. They can guide individuals through personality and vocational assessments and help them understand their unique skills and personality traits. Similar to talk therapy, a licensed professional counselor may identify short and long-term goals and develop positive thinking patterns during counseling sessions.

Many career counselors are licensed mental health professionals, such as licensed social workers, who have also been certified by governing bodies like the National Board for Certified Counselors. Career counselors often utilize resources such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test or the US Bureau of Labor Statistics site to help with the decision-making process. Career counselors might also use career development theory, which studies professional growth and the lifelong process of finding career success. Career development theory aims to fit job seekers with the best employment opportunities based on their interests, experience, and personality. 

A career counselor may meet with clients to discuss their career-related interests, concerns, and work history. Their focus may involve assistance with the job search or higher education process. For example, a school counselor may help a student find a career based on the intersection of their education and skills. 

In some cases, counselors could help clients develop networking skills, write a strong resume, or craft a tailored cover letter. As a mental health counselor, a career counselor can also work with clients to develop coping strategies and address other mental health concerns when they face rejection during the job hunt. 

How Career Counseling May Benefit You 

Career counseling could benefit you if you feel unhappy with your current career or job, are new to the career force, have lost a job, or are seeking a shift in your current career. Counselors can help individuals navigate their careers, no matter their stage in life. 

When someone first seeks career guidance from a professional, the counselor may provide assessments, discuss their experience, and outline their goals. A career counselor can look at you as a whole person instead of only through the lens of your past jobs and educational background. With this picture in mind, they can help you determine a realistic and fulfilling career path. Below are a few ways career counseling could offer youprofessional help andinsight. 

Finding Happiness At Work

Feeling happy at work could have benefitsand reduce mental illness. Many people find their jobs more challenging when they're unhappy. According to Forbes, workers who are happy on their career paths are 20% more productive than those who aren't. Unhappiness can follow a person's home and impact family life too, which is why family therapists may as questions around career satisfaction. 

When people know the career path they want to pursue, they may be drawn to it because it enhances their quality of life and feels consistent with their purpose in the world. Employers may prefer driven employees with positive attitudes, so recognizing your goals and feeling happy at your job could improve your performance. A career counselor can help you find happiness at work by offering relevant career suggestions. 

Getty/Luis Alvarez

Professionally Tailored Advice 

The career counseling process may include regular meetings with your career coach or mental health counselor. A career counselor's role in assisting you often starts with a series of assessments. They may then analyze the results to determine your strengths and interests and the types of workplaces where you could thrive. After assessments, the counselor may discuss your wants and needs to provide tailored advice.  They may also help you evaluate the job market in various industries by looking at information from the Bureau of Labor or other sources.

Career counselors often have diverse backgrounds. These professionals may have worked as vocational rehabilitation counselors, as a family therapist, or they might have worked as guidance counselors in an academic setting or at various community agencies. A counselor is a licensed mental health professional who may also have a master's degree or doctorate degree in counseling. 

If they do not have a degree in counseling, they may be a career coach, which is similar but cannot offer mental health treatment like a licensed mental health counselor can. How a mental health counselor can help depends on the career counselor's role, where they work, and what they can help with may depend on their skill set and experiences. For example, as a student, you may want to speak with your school counselors about your career decisions, but as a working adult, you might benefit more from a general career coach or counselor. 

Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation is a type of career counseling for those with disabilities. These providers, such as the National Alliance of Direct Service Providers, offer career counseling, training, financial support, or employment opportunities to those with disabilities who struggle to find options. Vocational rehab counselors work with clients with mental, intellectual, physical, or developmental disabilities. Some work in residential treatment centers, while others work in government offices and non-public practices. 

A vocational rehabilitation counselor can assess clients' abilities and help them find accommodations for their specific needs. The staff in a vocational rehabilitation agency work with the community and outside companies to provide appropriate training and mental health servicesfor people with disabilities. They may also help those with a disability get an interview and prepare for it. 

Resume Writing

Career counselors may provide some clients with resume creation and cover letter writing support. A client may come to them with job history and skills without knowing how to formulate them into words. A counselor can help these clients create a viable resume and cover letter. Clients who have used a similar resume throughout their life might also benefit from feedback on how to improve. 

A professional career counselor can advise you on amplifying your resume and making it stand out. Take advantage of your counselor's expertise. Your counselor can show you some sample templates if you don't have a resume. Career counselors may also provide interview tips or help you practice interviewing through a mock interview. 

When formulating your resume, consider asking yourself the following questions: 

  • What is my life purpose?

  • What are my career goals? 

  • Are there additional skills I'd like to develop? 

  • What type of workplace environment do I want?

  • What are my skills?

  • What are areas for growth? 

  • What are my strengths?

  • Can I work for myself?

  • How can I evaluate my work so that I don't get underpaid?

If you're unsure how to answer these questions, your career coach may help you come up with responses or find an assessment to provide answers. 

Hidden Strengths Exercises 

You might not realize the areas where you excel until a career counselor points them out. Discovering these aspects of yourself can help you find work where you can thrive. Discovering your strengths could make you feel confident, professional, and ready to succeed in any workplace. 

You can also use the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) career exploration guide to help you find a career based on your interests. On the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, you'll find information on the job market, job outlooks, and other career resources to discuss with your counselor. 

Self-Love Through Work 

Whether you're on the road to a profession that you love or not sure what you want to do, career counseling may provide increased self-esteem. A recent peer-reviewed study found that career counseling significantly increased life satisfaction and decreased career decision difficulties among study participants. Finding the right career and figuring out your next step in life can be stressful. A professional on your side may reduce these symptoms, increasing self-love and confidence during your job search. 

Why Career Counseling Can Make An Impact 

If you have ever resigned or been fired from a job, you may feel it was not a pleasant experience. Maybe the job was not a suitable fit for your skills or didn't provide you with adequate support or kindness. In some cases, individuals make mistakes at a job or may find they do not have the motivation to complete their duties. 

A common reason people may leave positions is a lack of passion or enjoyment. A career counselor may help you find a job that interests you within your skillset. They may help you discover a workplace environment where you want to show up every day and a job that incites optimism. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Mental Health Challenges Are Not Uncommon

Counseling Options 

You may not have time for career counseling due to your current work schedule, schooling, parenting, or another time-consuming role. You might also feel that career counseling is too expensive and out of reach. In these cases, you can often find a career counselor online. 

Through an online platform, you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions to discuss your career goals. When you sign up, you can indicate your preference for a career-based counselor and leave a message for your potential therapist match. Once you are matched, you can often schedule a session that week. Research also shows promising results for the use of online career counseling. In a recent study, participants made significant gains in career adaptability and future orientation after participating in group career counseling online. Similar outcomes may be expected with individual career counseling. 

It can be possible to find support to pursue the career of your dreams and understand your vocational needs, and it's often cost-effective. Through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can connect with one of 30,000 licensed professionals to discuss your career goals and learn more about your strengths, areas for growth, and potential avenues of success.  


There are many forms of mental health counseling available, including career therapy. If you're interested in learning about potential jobs, skills, or higher education opportunities, consider reaching out to a career therapist or coach for further guidance and long-term support.

Receive evidence-based counseling

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started