Domestic Violence Counselor Degrees, Careers, Salary

Domestic violence client with counselor

Domestic violence affects people from every ethnic group, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, and race. To prevent domestic violence, domestic violence counselors are trained to identify perpetrators and also taught how to counsel victims on how to be safe and heal, both physically and emotionally.

Many domestic violence counselors do not recommend traditional couples counseling when domestic violence is present in a relationship as counselors who are not trained to assist abuse victims may recommend therapies intended for couples struggling with common marital problems. Instead, it is recommended that domestic violence victims seek assistance from counselors who are properly trained to help them.

How Big of a Problem is Domestic Violence in the U.S.

According to statistics found on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) website:

  • In the United States, an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually.
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been severely physically abused by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men in the United States is raped during his/her lifetime.

What Do Domestic Violence Counselors Do?

Domestic violence counselors address these issues and questions with their clients:

  • What words and actions constitute domestic violence
  • Who are the victims
  • Recognizing the signs of domestic violence
  • Why victims do not leave abuse partners
  • How to assist victims of domestic violence
  • Legal issues such as: PFA's and PRO's
  • How can police agencies and courts assist victims
  • Handling divorce and custody issues
  • Protecting abused children
  • Developing a support system for victims
  • Teaching victims how to move on from abusive relationships
  • The fall-out for families
  • The recovery process for victims of domestic abuse
  • Stopping the abuse cycle
  • Eliminating abuse for good

Understanding Domestic Violence Perpetrators and Victims

Domestic abuse counselors are trained to understand the thought processes and motivations of perpetrators. Many abusers suffered abuse as children and perpetuate the abuse cycle to loved ones in order to control them. They frequently abuse drugs and alcohol, suffer from extreme narcissism, and feel entitled. Abusers are also are typically very good at covering up their abusive behavior in order to make sure friends and other family members of the victim remain unaware of their violent behavior.

Abuse victims often remain with their partners because they genuinely believe their abusers still care about them. Many abuse victims suffered abuse in previous relationships, so they do not understand what constitutes a healthy relationship. In some cases, abuse victims blame themselves for being abused. This is why it's essential for them to meet with counselors specifically trained to address their special issues and needs.

Education and Training Requirements

Domestic violence counselors need to earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably in psychology, social work, human services, counseling, or a related social science major. If you know you want to specialize in domestic violence, you should consider taking classes related specifically to domestic violence, during or after your bachelor’s degree. Some counselors go on to earn a master’s, PhD, or PsyD degree.

Most domestic violence counselors are also required to obtain certification (see below). Regardless of your education level, in order to be a practicing counselor, all U.S. states require counselors to complete 1,000-3,000+ hours of supervised and non-supervised work hours. This varies by state so check with the

Special Domestic Violence Counselor Certification

Domestic violence is often a complex issue. Domestic abuse counselors receive special training to address this confusing and complex problem. Most states offer certification programs for counselors who are interested in assisting domestic abuse victims, however not all states do. The National Association of Forensic Counselors offers certifications at the clinical and nonclinical levels.

There are also advocacy and educational institutions who can offer the specialized training and certification. In these domestic violence counselor programs, which require about 40 hours of coursework, students will be taught about various types of violence and counseling interventions as well as how to counsel victims and refer them to available resources.

If you want to assist people suffering from domestic abuse, consider getting the necessary degrees and earning a certificate in domestic violence. There is generally no specific type of degree required to be accepted into a domestic violence certificate program, however, many applicants are counselors with criminal justice, social work, or psychology backgrounds.

Not all domestic violence work settings require a domestic violence certificate and not all states offer domestic violence counselor certification programs.

How Much Do Domestic Violence Counselors Make?

*BLS.gov salary data for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists

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