Mental Health Counselor Careers

What is Mental Health Counseling?

Life is full of frustration and difficult times. Most adults will usually have to deal with such things as balancing family and career life, and paying bills that they can’t afford. These stressful times can be very hard to get through and extremely overwhelming for some. Not coping with this type of stress in a healthy manner, however, can lead to mental and emotional strain.

Mental health counseling can be used to pull some people out of their mental din. Professionals in this field offer counseling, support, and guidance to individuals that are having trouble coping mentally or emotionally.

There are a number of mental problems that mental health counselors might encounter during their careers, from people dealing with everyday stress to those with diagnosable mental illnesses and disorders. For instance, they might counsel people that are having had times due to family, job, or social issues. They might also offer counseling to individuals that suffer from disorders such as:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Addiction
  • Chronic pain

Mental disorders are sometimes considered to be the most common disability in the United States. In fact, research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health has shown that over a quarter of all adults suffers from a mental illness each year. More and more people are finally realizing the importance of not only their physical well being, but also their mental well being. Health insurance companies are even more apt to offer coverage for mental illness services as well. Because of this, there will not be a shortage of mental counseling jobs in the coming years, and mental health counseling is a rapidly growing field.

How do I Become a Mental Health Counselor?

To become a mental health counselor you will need to go through a rather rigorous amount of schooling. This includes obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree, then a Master’s Degree, and finally entering into a Doctorate or PhD program. If you are serious about entering into this field of study, request information from programs available for you here.

Why do we Need Mental Health Counseling?

Trying to cope with a mental disorder – or even extreme everyday stress – can be very difficult and overwhelming for most. These disorders are often very scary, confusing, and frustrating. Some people suffering from mental illnesses and disorders may even feel ashamed of their conditions.

Mental health counselors, however, can help people learn to cope with their disorders and anything else life throws their way in a healthy manner. The guidance and skills that these professionals provide can often help people lead normal, happy lives.

What Does a Mental Health Counselor Do?

Mental health counselors typically work directly with clients, and sometimes their families as well. As mentioned above, professionals in this field might help with a variety of mental and emotional issues.

Before counseling or treating their clients, mental health professionals will usually assess them first. This usually involves interviewing the clients and possibly having them fill out questionnaires. Depending on the severity of their conditions, mental health counselors may diagnose them with any number of mental illnesses.

Traditional psychotherapy is often the preferred method of treatment for mental health counselors. This type of therapy usually consists of allowing the client to talk freely to the counselor with little interjections from him. Clients can talk about anything that concerns them, which allows them to explore their emotions and feelings. At times, the counselor may ask questions or offer comments.

A mental health counselor might also help his clients with setting and achieving goals. They may offer encouragement and advice on how to reach certain goals. To keep clients from getting overwhelmed or frustrated, a counselor might also teach them stress reduction and relaxation techniques.

Overall, mental health counseling is meant to be a short-term solution to help people get through rough patches in their life. Clients suffering from more severe and long-term mental illnesses will usually be referred to another mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Where Do Mental Health Counselors Work?

Mental health counselors often work in all different types of health facilities, where individuals that need them will have easy access to their services. For instance, they might work in regular hospitals and psychiatric hospitals, along with mental health clinics, hospice care centers, and home health care centers. Mental health counselors might also work for schools, detention centers, adoption agencies, law enforcement agencies, and even branches of the military.

Many mental health counselors, however, typically choose to open their own private practices.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Mental Health Counselor?

 Counseling Educational Track
Education Requirements Education Length Available Programs
Undergraduate Work Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling 4 Years Online or Campus
Graduate Work Earn a Master’s Degree in Counseling 5-6 Years Online or Campus
PHD or Doctoral Work Earn a Doctorate in Counseling  7-8 Years Online or Campus

A good education is imperative when starting a mental health counseling career. Future mental health counselors should have a deep knowledge of the mind, how it works, and the issues that can affect it. A knowledge of human development is also important.

The majority of individuals looking to pursue a mental health counseling career will usually start with a bachelor’s degree in psychology or counseling. Taking courses in your preferred area of mental health counseling is particularly important during this time. For instance, if you want to pursue a mental health counseling career that focuses on treating substance abuse, you should take several courses in this area.

Most states also require mental health counselors to have advanced degrees as well, such as master’s degrees in counseling. Experience in a clinical setting is also usually required before becoming a licensed mental health counselor.

Your education usually won’t stop even after you’ve become a licensed mental health counselor, however. If you choose to pursue a mental health counseling career, it is important to participate in continuing education programs or workshops in order to keep abreast of any important developments in this field.

What is the Median Salary of Mental Health Counselors?

The salaries of mental health counselors varies, depending on the are of specialization experience. Mental health counselors that have worked for the military for several years, for instance, will often earn much more than those starting out in entry level positions with non-profit groups.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for mental health counselors was $42,590 in 2011.