How to Become a Wellness Counselor

Overview

Wellness counselors, also known as health educators, teach clients behaviors that can encourage wellness and improve their quality of life. In other words, as a wellness counselor, you may develop treatment programs that inspire clients to make healthy lifestyle changes. In addition, you will more than likely work full-time at hospitals, social service agencies, physician offices, private practices and/or educational institutions. If you are interested in becoming a wellness counselor, you will need to complete certain educational, certification and/or licensure requirements.

Why Do We Need Wellness Counselors?

Wellness counselors educate people who want to achieve optimum health and offer support to people with health problems by motivating them to lead a healthier lifestyle. They help those who have overcome illnesses or injuries due to car accidents, sports and repetitive use and assist them in improving their level of health. A wellness counselor can also offer suggestions for alternative, non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical treatment plans that prevent health problems from developing. New mothers in need of an appropriate fitness program and people seeking ways to stop smoking can also benefit from consulting with a wellness counselor.

Wellness counselors educate people by explaining the role of diet, exercise and stress reduction in maintaining their own personal wellness. They assess the needs of each client and assist them in choosing behaviors that encourage personal wellness. Issues that the wellness counselor may address include weight management, the importance of exercising regularly, the use of dietary supplements and appropriate meal planning.

The wellness counselor may also provide advice for stress reduction and spiritual wellness by recommending activities such as yoga and meditation. Wellness counselors can also teach clients how to deal with their chronic health conditions. They design individualized wellness programs and perform periodic evaluations to insure the program’s effectiveness.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Wellness Counselor?

If you are interested in becoming a wellness counselor, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree in health education, physical education, anatomy, biology, or a related field. You will also need to take courses in physical education, psychology, human development, sports medicine, and health education. Moreover, you will be required to complete a supervised clinical internship before graduation. Furthermore, some employers may require you to obtain a master’s degree in school health education, public health education, community health education and/or health marketing.

Certification

Certification is not required to be a wellness counselor, but in some cases, an employer may prefer to hire those who are certified health education specialists. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing offers certification to those who pass a written or computerized exam on the basic duties associated with wellness counseling.

You may eligible to sit for the certification exam if you are an entry-level wellness counselor, who has completed a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field. In some cases you may be eligible to sit for the exam if you are within 12 weeks of completing your undergraduate program. In order to maintain certification you will be required to complete approximately 70 hours of continuing education every 3 to 5 years.

What are the Job Duties of a Wellness Counselor?

A wellness counselor advises people who need to manage a chronic health problem or have suffered an injury or an illness. Wellness counselors also help people who want to prevent health problems before they occur. For example, a person embarking on a strenuous athletic event may seek the advice of a wellness counselor for physical fitness training.

The main duty of a wellness counselor is to encourage their clients to make healthy decisions. Wellness counseling is on the rise. In fact, in 2010, there were approximately 64,000 wellness jobs in the United States (bls.gov).

As a wellness counselor, you may perform the following tasks:

  • Evaluating the needs of their clients
  • Designing programs and events that provide education on a variety of health-related topics.
  • Delivering health-related posters, pamphlets and/or other educational materials to people in the community
  • Assessing programs effectiveness
  • Providing resources for your clients
  • Managing employees who teach health education programs
  • Collecting and analyzing program data
  • Supporting better health resources

What Skills and Qualities are Required for a Wellness Counselor?

  • Wellness counselors are required to have a background in a health field and possess a range of personal qualities to allow them to motivate clients for their optimum wellness.
  • A wellness counselor typically has a Bachelor of Science degree with coursework in sports medicine, the benefits of exercise, trending topics in nutrition and techniques for stress management.
  • They should also be knowledgeable about programs for smoking cessation and weight management.
  • Wellness counselors should have a working knowledge of non-invasive alternative medical techniques such as deep tissue laser therapy, kinesiology, physical therapy, chiropractic care and massage therapy.
  • People who seek the advice of a wellness counselor may have overcome an illness or an injury resulting from a car accident or repetitive use in the workplace. The wellness counselor should have the ability to evaluate exercise regimens and programs that will benefit these patients.
  • The counselor needs an understanding of various illnesses so they can educate clients about the best way to manage their chronic problems.
  • Because wellness counselors deal with clients and their families face to face, they should have strong interpersonal and instructional skills.
  • The wellness consultant should be adept at problem solving and evaluating a patient’s needs.
  • They should have the ability to inspire trust and communicate effectively to motivate people by encouraging them to make healthy choices for lifestyle, exercise and nutrition.

What is the Salary of a Wellness Counselor?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can expect to make approximately $46,000 per year, as a wellness counselor. If you fall in the lower10%, you can expect to make less than $26,000, per year and if you fall in the upper 10%, you can expect to make more than $82,000 per year (bls.gov). If you work at a hospital, you can expect to make approximately $59,000 per year and if you work at government agency, you can expect to make approximately $49,000 per year (bls.gov).

If you work for ambulatory services agency, you can expect to make approximately $41,000 per year and if you work at a religious agency, you can expect to make approximately $40,000 per year. Lastly, if you work at a social service agency, you can expect to make approximately $39,000 per year. As a wellness counselor, you can expect to work nights, weekends and/or overtime.

What is the Career Outlook for Wellness Counselors?

The career outlook for wellness counselors is excellent. In fact, wellness counseling jobs are expected to increase by approximately 38% by 2020. This growth will stem from an increased awareness of healthy living options. Wellness counselors will be in demand as more and more people seek out counselors to help them with their health concerns.

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