Education for Suicide Counselors

What are Suicide Counselors?

Suicide Counselors are needed who are specially trained in helping individuals struggling with thoughts of suicide. Also, counselors are needed who can help those grieving the loss of someone who has committed suicide.

While all counselors need at least some quality training in counseling individuals who are at risk of suicide, some counselors specialize in suicide counseling. Suicide counseling encompasses counseling those who are at risk of committing suicide, including those clients who have actually attempted suicide. Counseling survivors of attempted suicides is as important as counseling families of loved ones who have died by suicide. Family members and close friends of suicide victims can be left with profound feelings of guilt and loss. Suicide counselors help prevent future suicides and can help anyone who is going through the grief of losing someone to suicide.

The Special Skills of Suicide Counselors

Mental health counselors may employ various forms of therapy to assist their clients in this category. Every client is different. The counselor’s goal is to tailor-make a therapy plan that is in accord with each patient’s needs.

Mental health counselors can effectively develop safety plans for those clients who are high risk for suicide. Ensuring safety is the top priority in these cases.

Suicide can occur in populations that are not traditionally known for mental illness. Extreme life events or intense grief can precipitate a suicide attempt. There was a recent case in which a man, whose wife had died a tragic death, committed suicide due to his grief. Young people who have been bullied by peers are also at risk for suicide.

Many times there is a correlation between suicides, or attempted suicides, and major mental illnesses. Counselors who work with these populations should have a strong understanding of their clients’ thought patterns and risk factors. An example is that those with a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder can be at higher risk for suicide. Counselors work best when they are well-versed in various diagnoses and the risks affiliated with each one.

Suicide Counselor Options

Mental health counseling requires a graduate degree. Students may enroll in a 60 unit CACREP-accredited mental health counseling program or a program in a closely related field. Counseling psychology is another viable option.

Suicide and mental health counselors must have a graduate degree. Undergraduate majors, such as Psychology, Social Work, and Human Services, are appropriate starts.

Counselors who want to acquire advanced skills and contribute to the collective body of knowledge often pursue doctoral degrees. There are sometimes opportunities to conduct research or carry out special projects at the Master’s level. There is a very beneficial organization, The American Association of Suicidology, that provides students a chance to intern. Psychology and Social Work are logical places to start for undergraduate majors; both are logical preliminary studies for this line of work. Aspiring counselors have the option of working at crisis hotlines or with individuals in the community. Getting the right volunteer training can bolster your application materials and give you real world experience to convince you that this is the right field for you.

Counselors are well-advised to remain aware of continuing education opportunities in suicide prevention and counseling. The more education you get, the more options you will have in your career. The American Association of Suicidology is recognized as a CE provider by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has a wealth of resources for professionals who may work with the at-risk population.


Mental health counselors and other mental health providers are state licensed. In order to be licensed at the highest level, these counselors must complete a period of supervised work experience. One or more licensing exams will be required.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics the average mental health counselor earns between $36,570 and $69,900 per year.

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