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Written by Susan ShorSusan Shor

Counselor resume example & writing guide

Ready to improve your career well-being? You need a counselor resume that creates instant rapport with recruiters. The expert advice below models just how to make it happen.
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Counselor resume example & writing guide
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A great counselor resume supports your career advancement by attracting recruiters to your talents. A resume that earns you an interview gets to the heart of the matter, just as you know how to get to the heart of the matter with your clients. Get a move on your career with a resume that speaks to the clinical director.

Entry-level
Mid-career
Senior-level
Entry-level Counselor Resume Example
Mid-career Counselor Resume Example
Senior-level Counselor Resume Example

How? By projecting self-confidence, empathy and an understanding of what your employer needs.

Gaining the trust of clients is the start of a healthy and productive relationship. The first impression can make all the difference in getting there. The hiring manager will base a first impression of you on your counselor resume. Show off your talents in an employment application that turns that first impression into a desire to know more about you.

Resume guide for a counselor resume

Resume.io provides advice for your success. Our portfolio of guides and resume examples cover over 500 professions. Complement them with our resume builder to speed your way to a dynamic counselor job applicant.

This resume guide and corresponding counselor resume example will cover the following:

  • The sections you need to write a counselor resume
  • Choosing the right resume format for a counselor
  • How to add your contact information
  • Creating compelling summaries
  • Recounting your counseling experience
  • Listing education and relevant experience
  • Picking the right resume design/layout
  • What the counselor market looks like and what salary you can expect

How to write a counselor resume

Before jumping into the content, you need to know what sections to include in your counselor resume. The following elements are musts:

A counselor who doesn’t get buy-in from their clients won’t achieve very good results. You need to present yourself as a sympathetic listener who understands each client’s needs. An attention-getting counselor resume proves you understand the employer’s needs. Research the clinic, practice or other work setting to learn the styles of counseling, demographics and needs of the clients. Note if there are any gaps in expertise areas you can fill. Then, develop a resume that highlights the unique perspective and knowledge you will bring. 

Employ these tips to compile the strongest resume:

  • Play up your accomplishments. Yes, you give advice to clients, but how did you help them overcome a problem or move forward with their personal growth? Be as specific as you can. Apply this method throughout your resume.
  • You’ve done the research, now tailor each resume to the job. Write about successes that you can recreate at the new position. Tweak the tone to match the culture of the employer and highlight skills mentioned in the job listing.
  • Choose a design that speaks to your personality, but keep it professional.
  • Bear in mind that when you apply online, ATS software will be scanning and ranking your resume, so insert appropriate keywords and phrases. For more on this topic, see below.
Expert tip

Attend to the ATS

Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS, are a boon to HR departments because they conduct the initial sort of resumes. They do this by ranking applications based on keywords and phrases linked to the job. You will find many of these within the job listing.

To increase your chances of getting through this filter, customize each resume to target the ATS. For example:

You are applying for a counselor job that requires:

  • A master’s degree in social work
  • Knowledge of substance use issues
  • Experience with couple’s counseling
  • Dedication to filing all documentation on deadline.

An ATS-optimized summary could read:

“MSW with certificate in Couple and Family Counseling (CFC) and experience working with clients struggling with substance use. Dedicated to providing in-depth documentation on each case. Collaborated with colleagues to streamline administrative tasks, leading to 15% more time availability for clients.”

Choosing the right resume format for a counselor

The best format for a counselor resume is the one that hiring managers are accustomed to and that simplifies the ATS scan— reverse chronological order

Why? Because it places all your talents and information right where recruiters will look. At the top of your employment history section, they will find your most recent counseling job. Your latest academic degree graces the top of your education section. The counselor resume example in this guide follows reverse chronological structure.

This works best for counselors with a straight career path. If you are switching careers, looking for your first job or have a wealth of experience and skills to highlight, an alternate format may suit you better. The functional or hybrid format provides the flexibility to showcase your skills or education over your employment history.

Our resume builder offers templates in all three resume formats you can choose from and includes completed resume examples you can view.

A counselor’s job is to avoid injecting their own values and personality into sessions, instead focusing on the client. A simple or professional resume design, with clean lines and clear organization will signal that you understand that principle.

Include your contact information

When you meet a new client, you provide them with a business card so they can contact you when necessary. The header acts as the business card of your counselor resume.

Provide an easy-to-read and professional presentation of all your contact information. The header also acts as a design element, but legibility comes first. Here’s what to include, and what to leave out:

  • Full name, title, degree. List your first and last name followed by a comma and MSW if applicable. Use the title of the role you are pursuing.
  • Professional email address. Use a clean format like [email protected]. Avoid using your current work email.
  • Phone number. List a number where you can be readily contacted, with a professional voicemail greeting.
  • Location. List only your city and state. Don’t list street address or zip code. Note 'Willing to Relocate' here if applicable.
  • LinkedIn. If your LinkedIn profile is active, relevant, and shows your professional network, include it here.
  • Portfolio of professional writing. If you have published mental health articles or other professional pieces, include a link to them here.

Don’t include:

Do

Daniel Hemmington, MSW

Adolescent counselor

[email protected]

(835) 302-8501

Allentown, PA – willing to relocate

Don't

Daniel Hemmington

Looking for counselor position

[email protected]

(835) 302-8501

Allentown, PA – ready to move

Make use of a summary

When clients are in the market for a counselor, they may talk to several to find the right fit. How do you introduce yourself and your therapeutic methods to them to ensure you're a good fit? The summary of your counselor resume performs the same function.

What makes you the right person for the job? In these 2-3 sentences that typically sit at the top of your document, you are highlighting the accomplishments, temperament and philosophy that will make you an indispensable member of the team.

Action verbs such as guided, counseled, collaborated, listened, contributed paint a picture of positive activity. Include quantifiable achievements wherever applicable.

The summary is similar to an “about me” on a clinic or practice’s website. It is not a repetition of the details you will provide in the rest of your resume, but an overview of what makes you a good counselor. You’re distilling your value to an employer into a few powerful sentences. For example: “Empathetic counselor with affinity toward adolescents and deep knowledge of developmentally appropriate therapy methods.”

Describe yourself in the way you want to be seen and highlight those skills and successes that contribute to the value add you will bring to your new employer.

You can find adaptable counselor resume examples summary below:

Entry-level adaptable resume summary/profile example

Recent graduate with MSW and externship experience in crisis mental-health care. Strong foundation in behavior-health techniques, assessments and development of treatment plans. Belief in collaborating on cases to gain different perspectives and provide the utmost in client care. Adept at communicating with parents and guardians of under-age clients.

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Mid-level adaptable resume summary/profile example

Mental health counselor with five years experience guiding families toward healthier, happier lives through empathetic and caring sessions. Collaborated with team to develop group therapy sessions for teens struggling with gender identity. Proficient in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and other evidence-based methods. 

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Senior-level adaptable resume summary/profile example

Highly experienced counselor who takes on the most complex cases involving trauma and comorbidities in six-counselor practice. Trained, supervised and mentored new staff, reviewing treatment progress and guiding counselors toward more effective methods. Strong client advocate committed to professional development and research.

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Outline your counselor work experience: chart your career

Beginning with your current or most recent position, list your employer and title followed by bullet items that showcase your accomplishments within the employment history section of your counselor resume. Review each job for its relevance. Unrelated jobs can be listed under “other experience.”

Answer the question: “What have you done in your previous jobs that makes you the right person for this job?” in every entry. Start off with your actions such as collaborated, mentored, provided, discussed, adapted, assessed or charted and finish the item off with what you achieved through that action. Include data and details whenever possible.

Recruiters will quickly lose interest with a list of tasks such as the one below:

  • “Performed client intake”
  • “Suggested action points to clients”
  • “Presented case studies to team”
  • “Conducted support groups”

These items offer no details that distinguish your actions from other candidates. It’s fine that you know how to perform a client intake under the methodology of a past employer, but what did you bring to that task that others didn’t? Who did you present case studies to and why? Nor will a recruiter know what your specialization is, if any; or why you were suggesting action points or what the result was. 

Adding details and dynamic language can turn those dull descriptions into an impressive story of achievement:

  • “Streamlined client intake process by recommending and spearheading client portal adoption”
  • “Encouraged client agency through personalized actionable items as part of CBT sessions decreasing recommended length of therapy by average of one month”
  • “Presented case studies to mentees to provide learning opportunities and enhance professional development”
  • “Facilitated weekly LGBTQI+ and autism support groups”
Expert tip

This experience counts

Your internships and externships, which may be part of your counselor training program, also count as work experience. If you are looking for your first full-time job or are at the beginning of your career, add those in this section.

If you’re a seasoned counselor, go back no further than 10-15 years and drop these experiences first.

Take a look at the counselor employment history resume sample below:

Adaptable resume employment history example

Staff Therapist at Denver Mental Health Center, Denver 
July 2018 - Present 

  • Provide individual and group therapy to adults experiencing a range of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, and trauma
  • Collaborate with a multidisciplinary team to develop and implement personalized treatment plans
  • Conduct initial assessments and maintain detailed clinical records using electronic health record system

 

Counseling Intern at University of Colorado Denver Counseling Center, Denver 
August 2017 - May 2018 

  • Provided individual counseling to undergraduate and graduate students experiencing academic, personal, and mental health challenges
  • Co-facilitated group therapy sessions on topics such as stress management and interpersonal relationships
  • Participated in case conferences and received clinical supervision to enhance therapeutic skills
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Include the relevant key skills that make you an effective counselor

Front of mind in a job like yours is soft skills such as emotional intelligence. That is valuable, but a great mental health counselor resume combines hard and soft skills to create a skills box that embraces all the talents that make you excellent at your job. 

Hard skills such as proficiency in assessment methods, and deep knowledge of psychological theories,  therapeutic models, professional ethics standards and legalities form the basis of your counseling practice.

Of course, your interpersonal skills play a huge role in your career. Communication is a fundamental attribute for a counselor. The combination of traits such as commitment to inclusivity, cultural awareness, conflict resolution, adaptability and flexibility will combine to tell the recruiter what’s important to you and what you value in your professional personality.

The resume builder offers several pre-written key skills to choose from with proficiency ranges you can set. You can also write in your skills.

Here’s what the skills box looks like in our counselor resume template. 

Key Skills and Proficiencies
  • Communication Skills
  • Communication and Presentation
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Strong knowledge of DSM-5 diagnostic criteria and treatment planning
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To make a consistent and ever-present case for your qualifications, bring them up throughout your counselor resume. Showcase how you apply your skills in your job to achieve excellent results and how you can do the same for your targeted employer:

Here are some ideas:

  • Adaptability by describing a time you adjusted your schedule to accommodate a colleague or switched therapeutic methods when you felt your client wasn’t progressing
  • Technological proficiency by naming the telehealth program or secure virtual platform you use for virtual sessions
  • Cultural competence by relating a time when you applied your sensitivity and knowledge to our treatment planning for a person of a different culture
  • Self-care and personal development by using your summary to mention your yoga practice, or other relaxing habit or hobby you engage in.

The job listing will help you decide which are the most important skills to highlight for each employer.

Detail your education & relevant counselor certifications

Most counseling positions require a master’s degree in counseling or an MSW (master’s of social work). The education section of your mental health counselor resume is a simple listing of your degrees, beginning with the most recent. There’s no need to list your high school diploma if you have an advanced college degree.

Depending on the state, you may also need to pass the National Counseling Exam to become licensed.

Highlighting other certifications or professional activities also enhances your desirability as a counselor. Consider the following:

  • Training and certifications. Counselors can earn certification in specialized field such as child therapy or become a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor among other programs. List any training or certificates you have earned in the field.
  • Professional development. Membership in mental health organizations, seminars you have attended or conducted and any professional development related to the job belongs here.

Academic credentials that overshadow the achievements of your young career? Bump this section up above your work history or use a functional or hybrid format.

Expert tip

Special sections

If your certifications or professional development listings are extensive, you may add a section called “Certifications and Training” or “Professional Development.” This also applies if you publish articles on your expertise. Add a “Publications” section or link to your articles or portfolio.

Adaptable example for education and certifications

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, University of Colorado Denver, Denver 
August 2016 - May 2018 


Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 
August 2012 - May 2016

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Pick the right resume layout and design for a counselor resume

Meetings with new clients require friendly professionalism, direct communication and clarity of message. You want to appear authoritative but not off putting; open but with clear boundaries. The design of your counselor resume should echo those traits.

You want the hiring manager’s first impression of you to be a positive one, so choose and personalize your resume layout wisely. It should be attractive but not kitschy or fussy. Avoid overly ornate fonts, bright colors and anything but the simplest of icons (if you use them at all). Make sure section headings are obvious and stick to traditional names for them.

A template with clearly labeled sections, crisp lines and a reader-friendly font is a great starting point. For counselors, we recommend a simple, straightforward layout. Match your style to that of the clinic or practice.

If you choose to use color, avoid a background that detracts from the legibility of the text or use only spot color in your header, as an accent color on lines designed as separates or in other graphic elements. 

Do not include a photo of yourself as hiring managers are sensitive to any appearance of bias.

Put the focus on the content of your resume, not the nitty-gritty task of formatting by choosing from one of our field-tested resume templates and customizing to your specifications.

Counselor text-only resume example

Counselor resume example (text version)

Profile

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) seeking a position within a mental health clinic or private practice where I can utilize my skills in providing individual and group therapy to help clients achieve personal growth, overcome challenges, and improve their overall well-being.


Employment history

Staff Therapist at Denver Mental Health Center, Denver 
July 2018 - Present 

  • Provide individual and group therapy to adults experiencing a range of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, and trauma
  • Collaborate with a multidisciplinary team to develop and implement personalized treatment plans
  • Conduct initial assessments and maintain detailed clinical records using electronic health record system

 

Counseling Intern at University of Colorado Denver Counseling Center, Denver 
August 2017 - May 2018 

  • Provided individual counseling to undergraduate and graduate students experiencing academic, personal, and mental health challenges
  • Co-facilitated group therapy sessions on topics such as stress management and interpersonal relationships
  • Participated in case conferences and received clinical supervision to enhance therapeutic skills


Skills

  • Communication Skills
  • Communication and Presentation
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Strong knowledge of DSM-5 diagnostic criteria and treatment planning


Education

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, University of Colorado Denver, Denver 
August 2016 - May 2018 


Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 
August 2012 - May 2016

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Counselor job market and outlook

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counseling services are in high demand and expected to remain so throughout the next decade. Unfortunately, this is because of the growing number of people who require mental health services. 

Statistical insight
  • About 42,200 new jobs for counselors are projected over the next decade.
  • Jobs are expected to expand at an 18% clip—that’s well above the growth for the average profession.
  • Massachusetts, Colorado, Alaska, Montana and Washington are the states with the highest need for counselors.

What type of salary you can expect in counseling

The median salary for counselors across the US is $60,437, with the lowest 10% at $47,496 and the top 10% earning $75.750. Don’t mind moving and want to increase your earning potential? The median salary in Alaska is $63,900, and rural southeast Alaska coming in at $73,510. If you don’t like the cold, the city of Napa, Calif., pays an average of $78,660.

Key takeaways for building a counselor resume

Stellar communication is your bread and butter, so make sure your counselor resume clearly states the qualifications that make you the best choice for the job you want. Do that by highlighting your achievements and the skills you exercise to enhance client outcomes. Show off your empathetic nature with an example of a client interaction. Finally, don’t neglect the hard skills that allow you to conduct sessions online.

Taking advantage of our online resume builder will allow you to concentrate on your content, while leaving the details to us.

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