Residential Counselor Job Description

Residential counselors provide support and guidance for individuals living in environments such as group homes or assisted living facilities. While they may work with a variety of individuals, most residential counselors focus on a particular group, such as children and youth, individuals dealing with mental illness or addiction, or elderly individuals. In any case, residential counselors usually provide day-to-day support for daily living activities like bathing and socializing.

Most residential counselors also maintain order and discipline within residential facilities by setting and enforcing behavioral rules and resolving conflicts between residents. They may also provide support through housekeeping and meal preparation tasks.

 

Residential Counselor Duties and Responsibilities

The specific duties of a residential counselor can depend on the type of facility in which they work, but based on postings we analyzed, this role has several core responsibilities:

Provide Resident Support

The primary duty of a residential counselor is providing direct support to a facility’s residents. This can include helping with day-to-day tasks such as bathing, grooming, or transportation, as well as activities that benefit the facility as a whole, such as housekeeping and meal preparation. Residential counselors assess residents’ health, social, and behavioral needs and develop programs and methods to provide support and guidance.

Organize Group Events

Residential counselors provide social support and opportunities for residents to interact by organizing group events and meetings. The nature of these events and meetings can largely depend on the facility. A residential counselor at a rehabilitation center for individuals dealing with addiction may organize support group meetings, for example, while a residential counselor at an assisted living facility may work with an entertainment director to develop social programs.

Oversee Resident Safety

Residential counselors ensure resident safety by monitoring issues and determining safety measures throughout the facility. In an assisted living facility, for example, a residential counselor may assess safety risks and make changes to the facility to mitigate those risks. In a group home, a residential counselor ensures safety by overseeing resident activities and visitors, resolving patient safety issues, and providing guidance and therapy.

Refer Residents to Community Resources

In many cases, residential counselors also help connect residents with community resources that the facility cannot provide. For example, a residential counselor may connect troubled individuals with behavioral therapists at off-site locations or help assisted living residents find doctors and social services. In addition, residential counselors may assist with transporting residents to appointments and off-site meetings.

Implement and Enforce Rules

To help maintain safety and security, residential counselors develop, implement, and enforce facility rules. At a group home or halfway house, these rules may involve a curfew, visitor restrictions, and periodic drug tests to support resident recovery. Residential counselors also take disciplinary action when necessary, such as when a resident continually breaks rules or endangers others. As part of this role, residential counselors also resolve conflicts between patients.

Maintain Resident Records

Lastly, residential counselors maintain thorough resident records that detail intake, behavioral or social issues, and other pertinent patient information. This administrative duty requires a high level of attention to detail, as well as a solid understanding of resident privacy and confidentiality guidelines. Residential counselors may also need to provide these records to law enforcement, counselors, and case managers.

 

Residential Counselor Skills and Qualifications

Residential counselors tend to either work on-site at residential facilities or work on-call shifts to provide resident support. Most residential counselors have at least a bachelor’s degree, certification, and the following skills:

  • Communication skills – residential counselors need to communicate with a variety of residents and provide support, so effective written and verbal communication is key
  • Conflict resolution – residential counselors should also be able to successfully and positively resolve conflicts between residents
  • Organization skills – because they organize group activities and meetings, residential counselors should be highly organized and excel at long- and short-term planning
  • Disciplinary skills – residential counselors implement and enforce rules throughout the facility, so they should have strong disciplinary oversight skills and a high level of authority
  • Patience and empathy – because they work with residents dealing with a variety of medical, behavioral, and social limitations, residential counselors should also be empathetic and patient

 

Residential Counselor Education and Training

Most residential counselors have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field like behavioral health or psychology, but it’s sometimes possible to secure a position in a facility with an associate’s degree or high school diploma. Most residential counselors also need certification, especially if they distribute medicine to residents. This role requires significant experience working in the field, so many residential counselors begin their careers in a support role before expanding their responsibilities.

 

Residential Counselor Salary and Outlook

Annual salaries for residential counselors can vary depending on the type of facility and the counselor’s area of specialization. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that rehabilitation counselors earn an average annual salary of $34,670. The BLS also found that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earn a median salary of $42,150 per year.

The BLS estimates that employment in this field will grow at a faster than average rate through 2026. Employment for rehabilitation counselors will increase by 13 percent, while employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will grow by 23 percent.

 

Helpful Resources

We searched the web and found a number of resources if you’re interested in learning more about working as a residential counselor:

American Counseling Association – the ACA is a professional organization for counselors working in a variety of fields and provides career guides and continuing education resources

Positive Behavior Supports for Adults with Disabilities in Employment, Community, and Residential Settings – authors Keith Storey and‎ Michal Post discuss providing support and care for adults with disabilities and helping them achieve a higher level of independence

5 Ways to Know If Being a Residential Counselor Is the Right Job for You” – this blog post breaks down the residential counselor’s role and responsibilities

The Residential Youth Care Worker in Action: A Collaborative, Strengths-Based Approach – author Bob Bertolino explores residential care and support in youth-oriented facilities

 

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