Career In Mental Health Counseling


Where Might You Work

Explore Careers in Counseling and the Mental Health Professions

Youll have the chance to work in a variety of professional settings. These include government agencies, mental health clinics, social services agencies, private practices, colleges or universities , hospitals, businesses, community health centers, correctional facilities, and more. Youll find people in each of these settings who need your specialized knowledge and expertise.

People who are suffering from self-esteem issues, grief, emotional problems, marital issues, phobias, depression, or anxiety may turn to you to get a handle on their problem. Or you may decide you would rather work with a specific population: children, the elderly, or college students struggling with mental health or emotional issues.

You may also choose to work in a residential or outpatient mental health center, helping your clients to address the issues that brought them to the point where they decided it was time to seek help. Or you may work in an employee assistance program. Here, youll work with your organization, offering counseling to employees who are facing life changes, such as a major move, divorce, or mental health issues.

S To Become A Mental Health Counselor:

A mental health counselor is a licensed professional who provides counseling, a listening ear and emotional support as their clients struggle to understand their issues and situation. They work closely with clients who are suffering from mental illnesses. They may do this in a facility, such as a hospital, or in private practice. Some mental health counselors prefer to work with specific demographics, such as women or those within the LGBTQ community, or the military. These specialists do not usually work with those who have behavioral issues such as eating habits, addictions, or other similar problems. Instead they work solely with those who have psychological issues or deal with an upsetting psychological state.

  • Step 1: Enroll in a Bachelors Psychology Program

  • Step 2: Enroll into a Masters Mental Health Counseling Program

  • Step 3: Complete Your Internship/Practicum

  • Step 4: Earn Your Licensure

Complete Supervised Clinical Experience

Before you earn mental health counseling licensure, you must gain hands-on experience through graduate and post-graduate internships under the supervision of licensed counselors.

States may require between 2,000 to 3,000 clinical hours for some levels of licensure. Students will need to obtain an initial license, which allows the graduate to be supervised by a licensed independent practitioner in post-degree practice and can be thought of as a temporary professional license. The name of this license may vary by state and include Associate Licensed Counselor or Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern.

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What Is The Difference Between Counselor Vs Therapist

The terms counselor and therapist are frequently used interchangeably, making it difficult to reach a consensus or a firm definition of the differences between a counselor vs. therapist. One difference between the two is the licensure terms commonly used. Therapist frequently refers to someone working in marriage and family therapy, whereas counselor frequently refers to someone working in another field of counselingthough not always! Another difference between counselor and therapist can be the scope of practice: licensed counselors are generally able to diagnose and assess mental disorders, whereas licensed therapists might not have this privilege in all states.

Can I Work In Mental Health Without A Masters Degree

Can I Get a Counseling Job With Only a Bachelor

Although you cannot offer mental health counseling without a masters degree and a license, there are opportunities to work in this field without a masters degree. These opportunities are generally found in support roles, such as working as a counselors assistant or aide, as a behavioral health technician, or in some states, as a crisis line coordinator.

References: 1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: 2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors:

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How Much Do Mental Health Counselors Make

Mental health counselors earn an average of $46,240 per year according to national statistics as of 2019.1 Factors such as geography, specialty, experience, and industry all have an impact on the salary an individual mental health counselor can expect. For example, as a group, counselors in this BLS group working in government earn the highest average annual salary , compared to counselors working in residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, who earn the lowest average annual salary .2

Substance Abuse And Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors provide treatment and support for those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, or those that have an eating disorder or behavioral problem. They can work in settings such as:

  • Mental health centers
  • Prisons
  • Private practices

Given that relapse can happen for 40 to 60 percent of those with substance use disorders, many substance abuse counselors treat clients on an on-going basis.

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Couples And Family Therapist

Licensed marriage and family therapists require many of the same skills as a mental health counselor, along with the desire to mediate the desires of people who care about each other but may not agree with one another. A good candidate for this career path has a passion to work with diverse family forms: partners, parent-child, and extended families.

Being a relational therapist requires the ability to use evidenced-based practices, tolerate ambiguity, and be adaptable and flexible as the solutions to deep-seated relationship issues arent one-size-fits all. The therapists job is to help family members work together to see how problems are formed and maintained, so that habits can be changed and solutions can be created.

Enroll In A Bachelors Psychology Program

Behavioral Health Assistant: A Career Guide

If youre looking to get into mental health counseling, youll first need to understand the time and commitment involved. The first step is a bachelors, but it wont be the last education you receive. For this reason, you dont need to worry too much about getting a bachelors degree in mental health counseling. Instead, you may earn your bachelors in something like general counseling or psychology. This is closely related and gives you the skills and knowledge you need to transition more easily into a mental health counseling masters degree program.

Anywhere you live, you should look for a degree program that allows you to learn more about diversity and human relations. After all, you may work with clients from vastly different cultures.

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What Do School Counselors Do

School counselors work in K-12 schools helping students make academic, college, and career choices. They also help students social development by providing direct counseling and may be involved in planning schoolwide curricula that help all students develop positive habits and achieve personal growth. School counselors frequently consult with classroom teachers on student needs and will be a critical part of the care team for students who are under Individualized Education Programs and similar plans due to developmental or physical disorders.

Mental Health Counseling Job Description: What Youll Do

Heres what youll do in your role as a mental health counselor.

We all face challenges throughout our lives. Often, mental health counselors will be one of the first resources available to people in need of emotional and psychological support.

Your strong sense of compassion and commitment to helping people are the most necessary qualities for a successful career as a mental health counselor. You will need to have a strong support system of your own in place to ensure your well-being as you undertake this challenging and rewarding vocation.

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Skills Needed For Clinical Mental Health Counseling Jobs

By earning a master of arts in counseling degree, aspiring mental health counselors will be prepared to make a difference in their community.

To effectively treat and support clients, counselors need comprehensive clinical skills and an extensive understanding of research techniques, mental and emotional disorders, counseling methods, and the conscious and unconscious forces that affect individuals, couples, and families.

Mental health counselors will use these skills to:

  • Diagnose conditions that cause people to seek therapy.
  • Evaluate clients mental and physical health, barriers to wellness, or problematic behavior and recommend treatment plans.
  • Work with clients to identify behaviors or situations that interfere with achieving mental wellness.
  • Assist clients in developing skills and behaviors necessary to cope with difficult situations, modify their behavior, or overcome mental and emotional barriers.
  • Refer clients to other mental health professionals as needed, such as social workers or psychiatrists, to create a well-rounded plan for mental wellness.

Career Outlook For Mental Health Counselors

How to Become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, mental health counseling positions are projected to grow 23% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than average. The industries that employ the most mental health counselors include outpatient care centers, individual and family services, inpatient/residential care facilities and local government. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also lists California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York as having the highest employment levels of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. If youre interested in becoming a counselor in Texas, California, New York, Florida, or any other state, it is important to familiarize yourself with the requirements for the state where you are interested in becoming a counselor since each state has their own requirements.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook indicates that the median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $48,520 in May 2021. Salaries vary depending on the industry and setting. For example, counselors employed by the government earned a median salary of $60,450 per year, while mental health counselors employed in individual and family services earned about $47,940 per year . Level of education, location and experience may also influence salary level.

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Do You Need A Masters To Be A Mental Health Counselor

Many people wonder, What degree do you need to be a mental health counselor? You do need a masters degree if you wish to be a licensed mental health counselor. Some states require specific coursework to earn a masters degree in mental health counseling.

The majority of states mandate the completion of 60 semester hours of graduate work, including a minimum of a 48-semester-hour masters degree from an accredited program. CACREP is the widely preferred accreditor in the field. Be sure to check with your state board to see if this is required.

How Much Do Mental Health Counselors Earn

The Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors held nearly 319,400 jobs in 2019, with the largest percentage working in outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a mental health counselor was $47,660 in 2020.

Individual salaries can vary depending upon a wide range of factors, including geographic location and area of practice, with the top 10% earning an annual wage of more than $78,700 and the bottom 10% earning less than $30,590.

Areas that had the highest rates of employment included outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, individual and family services, and hospitals .

The highest-paying areas of employment for mental health counselors include government positions , hospitals , and individual and family services .

While mental health counselors typically earn less than psychologists, this is also a factor that makes them appealing to insurers. Mental health counselors are able to receive third-party reimbursement for the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of psychological conditions, often at a less expensive rate than some other health professionals.

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What Do You Need To Do To Become A Mental Health Counselor

In order to become a mental health counselor, you must be licensed by the state in which you wish to work. This means earning a bachelors degree followed by earning a masters degree, which will typically be in mental health counseling. In most states, the masters degree must comprise 60 credit hours and may need to include specific coursework. After graduating, you will need to complete from one to three years of supervised experience under a licensed mental health professional in order to qualify for your own license. Check with your state board of mental health licensing for up-to-date requirements.

Job Growth In Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Explore Careers in Counseling and Mental Health Professions

There is a bright future ahead for counseling students, as the field is expected to see significant growth over the next few years. For clinical mental health counselors, the job market is projected to grow at a rate of 22 percent between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS. This is significantly faster than the 5 percent average growth expected across all occupations.

The BLS attributes this boom to a growing demand for mental health services. Greater public awareness and utilization of such services have led more organizations and people to seek out the expertise of professional counselors. Masters-prepared counselors can increasingly find employment in schools, social service centers, and hospitals, as well as religious institutions, correctional centers, and military veterans organizations.

The median annual salary for clinical mental health counselors was $44,630 in 2018. Actual earnings vary based on location, specialty, experience level, and many other factors.

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Earn A Masters Degree In Mental Health Counseling

Obtaining your graduate degree in mental health counseling is a requirement for practice as a licensed professional mental health counselor. Earning a degree in mental health counseling from an institution accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs indicates the programs content and quality meet the high standards set forth by the mental health profession. Though CACREP is the widely preferred accreditor, a CACREP-accredited degree is not required in every state and there may be other accreditors for specific degree specializations. Be sure to check with your state board for more information.

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What Qualifications Do You Need To Be A Mental Health Counselor

To become an LPC or licensed professional counselor, you need to meet several qualifications. Licensure and certification requirements for mental health counselors may include earning a masters degree in counseling, post-graduate clinical hours and passing an exam.

Mental health counselor certifications may also require additional education, experience and examinations. Once you satisfy the requirements set forth by your state, you can apply for a mental health counselor license.

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Mental Health Counselor Jobs

Mental health counselors can provide services to clients within a particular population and work in settings such as substance abuse clinics, adoption services, counseling centers, family care centers, and private practice.

The online masters degree in counseling from Northwestern prepares students to serve in a variety of both clinical and nonclinical roles.

Similar Job Titles To A Mental Health Counselor

How to Become a Counselor

These job titles are similar to the Mental Health Counselor role, and are often used interchangeably by companies. For example, some employers may refer to a Mental Health Counselor as either a Mental Health Therapist or a Clinician.

A Mental Health Therapist shares 98% of core skills with a Mental Health Counselor.

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Licensing Requirements For Professional Counselors

The professional title of counselor is regulated in some states. Clinical mental health practitioners require licensure and board approval to enter private practice that is, to work directly with clients. Licensing requirements for clinical mental health counselors vary from state to state. In general, you will be required to hold relevant degrees from accredited universities, complete an approved internship or practicum and pass a state-approved exam.

One such assessment is the National Counselor Examination developed by the National Board for Certified Counselors . The MAC program at Bradley University provides a direct path to licensure, helping students prepare for the NCE and facilitating a smooth transition into the professional world.

Here are just a few of the licenses a mental health counselor may hold:

  • National Certified Counselor
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • Licensed Professional Counselor

Different coursework and experiences are required for each one. If there is a certain specialty youre interested in pursuing, start by researching the educational requirements for the relevant license so you can direct your postgraduate studies accordingly.

Earn A Master Of Mental Health Counseling Degree

To become a mental health counselor in most states, you must possess a masters in counseling, though the name of this degree may vary by program.

Earning your degree in mental health counseling from an institution accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs indicates the programs content and quality meet the high standards set forth by the mental health profession. Though CACREP is the widely preferred accreditor, a CACREP-accredited degree is not required in every state. Be sure to check with your state board for more information.

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What Are Mental Health Jobs

Mental health jobs refer to any position that serves others in the mental health field. To understand how your interests might apply to a specific role, it can help to first learn exactly what mental health is and who you may serve.

Mental health is defined as someones psychological, emotional and social well-being. This dictates how individuals make choices, manage stress and contribute to society. Positive mental health has also been shown to benefit physical well-being.

Mental health professionals work with children and adults of all ages, helping them with things like:

  • Stress

  • Addiction and substance abuse

  • Serious mental illness

The care that mental health professionals provide may be purely medical, psychotherapeutic or a combination of the two.

What Do Mental Health Counselors Do

How to Become a Mental Health Counselor

Licensed mental health counselors, or LMHCs, work with people who have mental health illnesses or challenges of all types, helping them learn how to adopt healthy behaviors and manage their mental health. Mental health therapists work with individuals as well as groups, although they may specialize in working with one or the other. Mental health counselors also tend to specialize in working with specific populations or disorders.

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