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How To Become a Counselor For the Deaf and Hard of Hearing?

By December 12, 2007

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An About.com visitor asked "I am trying to figure out what steps do I take next to accomplish being someone who is certified or able to cousel parents and children who are deaf and hoh, to help them understand and have the children grow up with a better self esteem." I referred the visitor to Gallaudet University's Department of Social Work, which has a master's degree program that prepares students to work with deaf and hard of hearing people in the social work field.

Are there any other social work degree programs at other colleges that specialize in social work with deaf people?

December 12, 2007 at 11:55 pm
(1) cherry tomatoes says:

hmm does one have to have a social work degree to counsel? certainly its one aspect but the objectives are completely different than what i think the guy was trying to ask you.

“understanding children and help them grow up with better self esteem” seems more psychological than social.

ah well, can’t go wrong with gally!

December 13, 2007 at 12:30 am
(2) LaRonda says:

There is definitely a hig need for more trained mental health counselor for the Deaf community as well as accessible mental health services for their families.

I currently work in the role of a Certified Parent Educator for Deaf/HH parents. Prior to that, I worked as a School Counselor for a decade at a residential school for the deaf.

The training I had included a semester at Gallaudet so I could emerse myself in the culture and language of Deaf people, followed up by a BA degree in Deaf Studies from Cal. State Univ., Northridge. But that was not enough training to be working in a counseling role. So I continued my eduacation at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, OR, and earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling (Rehabilitation Counseling: Deafness).

I did my internships in school settings so my counseling lead me to work with children and their families. Soon I was employed as a full time school counselor. After 10 years, I left to start my own family and then return to the Parent Education field when my son was in school.

Training to be a counselor for deaf children or their parents needs to be extensive and include fluency in ASL and other communication modes used by the diverse groups of deaf and HH people. Training should include adept understanding of Deaf culture and cross cultural communication. It should include at least a 2 year masters degree program as well and counselors should strive to be licensed.

But there are many ways to work with a deaf family and their child’s self-esteem. Parent education, peer advocacy, and social work can benefit as well.

There are many training programs in the US that offer Rehab Counseling with a Deaf focus. UCSF here in the bay area offers such a program. WOU in Monmouth still offers one as well. Of course, Gallaudet has a deaf-centric program in mental health and can probably direct you to more places.

Good luck in your endeavors. I hope they lead to more access for deaf people who use mental health services.

~ LaRonda

December 13, 2007 at 2:03 pm
(3) Jean says:

Honestly, I do not think a hearing person should counsel deaf people. I do not know if you are hearing or deaf. You want to check out http://www.ascdeaf.com. Deaf counselors may be willing to talk to you about your goals.

December 13, 2007 at 2:36 pm
(4) Dianrez says:

Gallaudet also has a Department of Counseling that covers mental health, rehabilitation and guidance counseling at the master’s level.

Both hearing and deaf students attend these programs; both are expected to have personal and professional background in deaf culture and deafness.

Jean’s comment about hearing people counseling deaf people is worth consideration. The answer seems to be in your attitude toward deaf people: do you honor and respect them as equals and as people capable of making decisions for themselves, or as weaker people to be helped? When entering work with deaf people, no matter what the capacity, it is a valuable experience to examine your motives.

December 13, 2007 at 7:27 pm
(5) Rob says:

It’s not a degree program and one does not get “certified” but you might want to lookinto a very good online course offered by The Hearing Loss Assoc. of America under the title of The “American Academy of Hearing Loss Support Specialists”

December 14, 2007 at 8:11 am
(6) Anonymous says:

Jean and Dianrez, why wouldn’t a hearing person be able to help encourage deaf people? If that is the case, you just shut out all of the children or adults who are hearing and have deaf parents. They cannot help deaf people because they grew up in deaf families and/or siblings, according to your opinion and attitude. With this attitude, this also means that deaf people cannot help hearing people, either. They cannot become doctors, lawyers, actors, waiters, truck drivers, etc., because they cannot help hearing people.
Don’t shut yourself out by being biased and holding on to oppression. Oppression is history. History does not need to be repeated or lingering on and on. It is done and over with. Move on.
Everyone has opportunities whether they are black, white, red, yellow, hearing, deaf, Spanish, French, Indian, Oriental, tall, short, wide, thin, and by shutting one “race” out, means you shut everyone out.
So, please get over this “oppression” or this “baggage” that you’re carrying all the years past and let it go. You are blessed today. Technology has advanced greatly and continues to do so. Interpreters have increased. The American Disabilities Acts has arrived for assistance. Now, I’m not saying everything is perfect, but life today is better than it was years ago. Many, many deaf people have succeeded in their lives by getting graduate degrees, doctorate degrees, becoming wonderful families, getting good-paying jobs, succeeding in life.
So, Jean and Dianrez, don’t be biased and limit yourselves. You are missing out by being closed-minded and being angry. And being angry is not healthy.
I pray that you will be open-minded and you will realize that there are many, many people you’ve never met and that you are going to meet because you let your past go. Enjoy life and stop holding on to the past.
God Bless!

December 14, 2007 at 1:02 pm
(7) Micheal says:

Social work is the way to go if you want to help them. I found some information on how to get into social work if your thinking about it. The site is called http://www.yes2socialwork.co.uk , it’s great

December 14, 2007 at 6:53 pm
(8) Raining in the Northwest says:

Western Oregon University has a Rehabilitation Counseling for the Deaf (RCD) Masters program in Monmouth, Oregon. Strongly VR oriented but can branch out to job development, social work, etc. Teaches counseling theories, group cousneling, career counseling and requires internship/practicum.

December 21, 2007 at 1:47 am
(9) Hong Eng England says:

Pls let me know about the Masters Program to counsel the DEAF in The US & WA, Australia. I’d love to contribute what i learnt & experienced so far as well.
Merry X’mas to all!

October 7, 2008 at 10:38 pm
(10) mimi says:

All of these comments are great to read! I am HOH and I am trying to figure out the best way to be a counselor or psychologist to deaf and HOH people. I didn’t know if I needed to have a degree or what kind of degree I was looking for. your comments helped greatly.

October 12, 2008 at 12:02 pm
(11) Anonymous 2 says:

I am soooo glad that Anonymous left that comment correcting the writer Jean. Her comment was not a good one because Deaf and HOH individuals ARE able to help hearing people and vice versa. I hope that Jean gets a broader knowledge and concept of her opinion of this special population of people. I am a Hard of Hearing individual who is actually teaching deaf student and completing a master’s level program in Mental Health Counseling for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing via guess who???—Gallaudet University!!!! Go Gally!!!!

January 13, 2009 at 1:06 pm
(12) Mike says:

Enough of hearing counselors. We need more deaf counselors. Thank you, Jean!

March 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm
(13) Melissa says:

I want to thank someone above who mentioned Alternative Solutions Center. I am a hearing mom who was desperately seeking help for my daughter. I must admit I was unsure about working with a deaf counselor, but the counselor at ASC was wonderful and very helpful. My daughter has made significant improvements. Thank you!

June 16, 2009 at 9:07 am
(14) Kevin says:

I second comments that ask for Deaf therapists or counselors. We do not want hearing counselors. We have been looking for Deaf counselors, but end up getting referrals for hearing counselors. Geez! We need more Deaf counselors. Hearing counselors, please go away and work with your hearing people.

September 10, 2009 at 9:01 pm
(15) sandra says:

Wow Kevin, what a pessimistic attitude!

October 6, 2009 at 7:40 pm
(16) rachel says:

you understand nothing. we want deaf counselors, period!!!! hearing people will be more appreciated if they stay in the role of interpreters.

September 2, 2010 at 10:06 pm
(17) Kelsey says:

What about hearing counselors that are fluent signers and understand Deaf culture?

January 1, 2011 at 10:36 pm
(18) Jay says:

As someone whose first language is not English, I would much rather have a counselor who understood my native language than to have an interpreter in the session with me. Therapy is a very lengthy, personal, and deep process. I am thankful for the many bilingual people who choose to enter the mental health profession. If the community lacks Spanish-speaking counselors, non-native speakers can help fill the need. I see hearing people who choose to practice in ASL as helping fill a need as well. Would a hearing person who is also a CODA or a parent of a Deaf child more acceptable?

I do agree that the attitudes of a counselor should be considered. There are therapists who believe in a disease model and see all of their patients as being sick. Other therapists work WITH their clients to achieve healing. There is a difference.

January 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm
(19) Luna says:

I had a couple of signing therapists for several years and when I had to move somewhere else, I decided to try a Deaf therapist. Mind-blowing! I wish I had started with a Deaf therapist. Now I tell people that signing therapists are not good enough for me. We need to demand for Deaf therapists. It is soooooo nice to be able to communicate in my native language. My former signing therapists were fluent, but not native. I tell you there is a big difference between seeing a native signer and a non native signer. Not just that, but they understand Deaf experiences. I don’t have to explain issues.

January 31, 2011 at 11:26 am
(20) Just me says:

I’d like to correct Anonymous. I grew up (hearing) with a deaf father and Deaf grandmother, and didn’t lose my hearing until my 20′s. I am now considered profoundly deaf, and I while I understand what both Anonymous and Jean said, I think there is middle ground and Jean does have a point. I went to a counselor for my hearing loss (she was not HOH or Deaf), and she just didn’t think about nor understand some of the difficulties that I face on a day to day bases. I eventually stopped seeing her and found books that helped me SO much more. I started writing a blog earlier this year about some of my difficulties, and even my husband told me he hadn’t realized so much of what I go through.
LaRonda was very good in describing that if a hearing person does pursue to counsel HOH or the Deaf, that person needs to immerse into both cultures and get a very good understanding of what both are like before even considering counseling someone. I think it’s do-able, but I also think that it would take more than just going to school for it.

June 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm
(21) Elle says:

I appreciate all of your comments. I have been interested in Deaf culture after having completed several years of deaf studies at Purdue University. I am now in a counseling program and I was looking into combining my passion for deaf culture and counseling by finding out more how to counsel deaf persons. I will admit, after reading these commments I sad to understand that people who are deaf do not want a hearing counselor. Therefore, perhaps I can work with hearing parents and advocate for their deaf/hoh children? Is this something that a hearing counselor can do, in the oppinion of someone who is deaf with hearing parents??

September 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm
(22) Heidi says:

After reading these comments I find myself left with a few questions. I’m currently a student in college who’s in the top of my classes for psychology, I’m also in the top of classes in ASL and am going to be heading toward an Interpreting degree. I am hearing. I had hoped to go into a career using both of these passions, not to patronize, but to support and be a friend to both communities. What do you all think of this? Is it completely impossible? Do I have any hope?

December 28, 2011 at 9:21 pm
(23) Kay says:

I am a licensed counselor who has been referred to work with a deaf client. As a competent mental health professional, I recognize why there is a general preference that deaf/HoH clients be served by deaf/HoH counselors, or signing counselors at the very least. I do hear and I don’t sign. Trying to assess a client’s safety through an interpretor is extremely daunting, and I dare say, ill-advised. So I’ve searched and searched for a more culturally competent alternative, to no avail. So, do I refuse to see this client, leaving her with no resource? Or refer her to another hearing counselor who may not be as ethically oriented and aware of the limits of their own training? Because there are no licensed deaf/HoH or even signing counselors in my area. I am just hoping the interpreter has some basic familiarity with working in mental health settings! I know one thing I can do…meet her, explain what I know of cultural issues relating to mental health care, then ask her what she prefers and hope she is comfortable enough to let me know how or even if I can serve her best.

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