Many people are unaware that the profession of bereavement counselling exists until they are in need of this service. You may be introduced to a bereavement counsellor in the hospital after a loved one has died, or referred by a friend or physician. The job of a bereavement counsellor is to help people learn how to navigate through the dark waters of grief.
Bereavement counsellors assist both the dying and their loved ones in maintaining the best possible mental health while experiencing the process of loss. Pathways Care explains that the duties of a grief counsellor include providing general information about grief, listening to anything the client wants to talk about, including the good and bad things about the deceased, help create a plan to get through holidays and other special occasions, help a client ease the anxiety that often accompanies grief and assist in memorialising the deceased.
Experience and Training
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places bereavement counsellors under the general heading of mental health counsellors. All counsellors in this category receive cross-training in a variety of therapy techniques aimed at treating stress, grief, depression, general anxiety, addiction, self-esteem issues and suicidal tendencies. There is no national standard degree for a bereavement counsellor and different institutions may have different educational requirements for potential employees; however, in most cases a master's degree in psychology is required to become certified as a counsellor. Some bereavement counsellors may also have a doctorate degree and specialisation in grief studies.
A bereavement counsellor may work at a hospital, or speciality clinic such as a cancer centre or in a private practice. Some grief counsellors offer their services at a low cost or even free of charge to support groups such as those sponsored by local hospice organisations. Many bereavement counsellors practice counselling in a number of settings, visiting hospitals, prisons, family centres and support groups outside of their regular office hours.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in May 2008, the median annual salary of a mental health counsellor was just under £24,050. Those employed by local government agencies earned the most at £29,581, and bereavement counsellors who worked in a private practice earned around £23,400 per year.
A bereavement counsellor is in constant contact with people who are dying and grieving. Their job can be stressful, depressing and sad. It is especially important for those in this profession to follow good mental health habits and seek counselling when the emotional challenges of their responsibilities threaten to overwhelm them.