Mental Health Therapist Career Path


A Guide To Counseling Career Paths

Do You Want To Be A Therapist?

Posted March 1, 2019 by UWA | Psychology and Counseling News

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Counseling careers are in high demand. Some of the most recognizable types of counseling careers more than triple the average job growth for all occupation at 7 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics .

The statement holds true for perhaps the most obvious counseling career of mental health counseling. Mental health counselors are projected to grow 23 percent by 2026. The BLS organizes substance and behavioral disorder counselors under the same grouping with mental health counselors, and all of these roles have a projected growth rate of 23 percent by 2026.

This guide begins by examining what the term counseling signifies. Then, three of the fields most noteworthy careers mental health, marriage and family, and school counseling will be explored in further detail.

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.

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I finally found a therapist who I feel really cares about me and doesnt treat me as ‘just another patient’.


Before Path, trying to find a therapist was a nightmare. I gave up multiple times. Path let me choose from options and I was able to see someone in less than a week!


Im very grateful to Path for helping me find someone who takes my insurance. It means I can afford to attend weekly sessions.


I finally found a therapist who I feel really cares about me and doesnt treat me as ‘just another patient’.


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Licensed Marriage And Family Counselor

Licensed marriage and family therapists incorporate the influence of a familys patterns of behavior into a treatment plan. Even if they work with an individual, they explore not just the person but the complex set of relationships they have with family members.

Some LMFT work with couples, helping them resolve differences that threaten the relationship or recover from the impact of issues such as infidelity or substance abuse. They may also work with entire families, including children.

Employee Assistance Program Counselor

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An employee assistance program is a voluntary, work-based program that offers assistance to employees facing mental and emotional issues, or work-related and/or personal problems. EAP counselors can either work remotely or on-site in the workplace. Since many EAPs offer 24/7 support, counselors may be required to work evenings and weekends.

97 percent of companies that have more than 5,000 employees have EAPs and 75 to 80 percent of mid-sized and smaller companies have them as well. The rationale behind workplaces having EAPs is that if employers take care of the mental health needs of employees, productivity will increase and business costs will decrease. EAPs give managers and human resources staff an opportunity to refer help to an employee in need.

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Mental Health Counselor Requirements And Common Tasks

While the typical mental health counselor job description may vary, mental health counselors must be licensed by the state in which they are working. In all US states, a masters degree typically a masters degree in mental health counseling, though other degrees with appropriate coursework may sometimes be accepted is required in order to become licensed. Prospective mental health counselors must also complete supervised work experience in a clinical mental health setting in order to earn their full license this commonly ranges from one to three years, depending on state requirements. For those with an associates or bachelors degree, there may be support roles available that do not require licensure, such as intake coordinator or counselors aide.

The scope of a mental health counselors professional practice varies widely by state. Aside from directly counseling clients, mental health therapists perform a range of tasks in support of their work. Not least of these is managing paperwork that documents the assessment, diagnosis, prognosis, and continuing progress of their clients. It is also common for a counselor to provide referrals to other mental health professionals, such as psychologists and psychiatrists.

How To Become A Mental Health Counselor In 5 Steps

Audrey Eads is an editor for Indeed with over eight years of experience writing and editing for media outlets across the country. Based in Austin, Texas, she particularly enjoys helping job seekers learn about the latest job trends.

As society becomes more aware and supportive of caring for mental health needs, many people are taking steps to prioritize their psychological well-being. Counseling is one common way people pursue help in achieving and maintaining optimal mental health. If you’re interested in helping people overcome challenges and improve their lives, you may find a job as a mental health counselor fulfilling.

In this article, we explain what a mental health counselor does, share the steps you can take to become one and provide answers to frequently asked questions about this career path.

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Frequently Asked Questions Surrounding Counseling Career Outlook

Question Answer
What kinds of jobs can you get with a counseling degree? A counseling degree prepares graduates for careers as marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and school counselors. These counseling career paths require a master’s degree.
What do you do as a counselor? Counselors meet with clients to understand their emotional, behavioral, and mental challenges. They advise clients through counseling and refer them to services when needed.
How do I start a career in counseling? Many careers in counseling require a master’s degree. However, graduates with a bachelor’s degree can pursue opportunities as a behavioral disorder or substance abuse counselor.
How much does a counselor get paid a year? Salaries vary by role. School and career counselors earn a median salary of around $57,000 per year, while make just under $50,000 per year, according to the BLS.

What Do Social Workers Do

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A social worker can be employed by a medical institution, school or private firm to help clients overcome lifes difficulties. These issues could relate to physical, emotional, behavioral or mental health. The following are some possible job duties of social workers, depending on their field of employment.

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Whats Involved In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Training

CBT training is also at post-graduate level but requires a previous degree in a mental health-related field in addition to some experience.

There are two ways into this: through a post-graduate diploma in CBT , or via the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies , an initiative to help improve access to mental healthcare within the NHS. This is a cost-effective way to train as it is funded by the government and trainees earn a salary. If you dont already have a prior qualification in a mental health related field, your professional experience may still count for something if you work in a setting where counselling skills are used, or if you have volunteered, for example, for a helpline.

You can either train to be a low intensity/psychological wellbeing practitioner, working with mild anxiety and depression or a high intensity CBT therapist, working with people with more complex symptoms.

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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Pass Any Required Counseling Exams For Licensure

Some states and/or counseling programs require the passing of a recognized counseling examination for graduation or licensure such as the National Counselor Examination and/or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination . Some states may have additional examination requirements for licensure, which aspiring counselors should become familiar with, depending on the state in which they intend to pursue licensure.

Mental Health Counselor Education And Job Training

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A masters degree is the minimum educational requirement to become licensed as a mental health counselor. In some states and circumstances, you may be able to work in a support role in the mental health field without becoming a licensed professional counselor as long as your work is supervised by a licensed professional, though you will not be able to provide direct counseling services.

There are many mental health counseling degree programs that can help you on this path. If you do not already have a bachelors degree, there are bachelors degrees in mental health counseling, pre-counseling, and related topics that can help you prepare for the masters program necessary to be independently licensed as a mental health therapist. With online mental health degree programs, it may even be possible for you to continue working while you study. Before you commit to a program, however, be sure to check your states requirements for LMHCs so that you can be sure to plan your education accordingly.

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What Does A Mental Health Counselor Do

Mental health counselors treat individuals who have mental illnesses, are undergoing a personal crisis, or need help developing healthy behaviors in order to reach their goals and improve their mental and physical wellness. Mental health counseling typically takes place one-on-one between a counselor and his or her client but can also take place in group settings. Mental health counselors commonly choose to focus their practice area with a specialization, such as working with a specific age range, mental disorder , or other defined groups such as those struggling with grief.

Mental health counselors typically align their practice with a specific school or method of mental health treatment such as psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy . They may work independently or as part of a group practice, hospital, clinic, or in other treatment centers. Especially in larger clinical settings, mental health counselors often function as part of a larger care team comprised of doctors and other healthcare professionals working to improve and support a patients overall health and well-being. There are many mental health counseling degree programs that can help prepare future counselors for the various options.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Therapist

In most cases, becoming a therapist will take at least around seven to fifteen years following graduation from high school. Most therapists need a bachelorâs degree , and then a masterâs degree or a doctoral degree .

Formal education is followed by supervised clinical hours of direct experience before one can become licensed as a therapist. This means that if one already has a bachelorâs degree, it is a matter of four to ten years before they can be licensed as a therapist.

For a more in-depth and practical look at the requirements for training, take a look at The Essential Guide, On Becoming a Therapist.

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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.

Popular Career Paths For Mental Health Counselors

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Explore job titles licensed mental health counselors often hold, and what you can expect to do in these roles.

So, youre thinking about becoming a mental health counselor, but one big, hard-to-ignore question is looming on your mind: What are the career prospects?

After all, preparing to earn your counseling license requires significant time and training. You want to know it will be worth it in the end, and that youll be able to launch a career you love.

Luckily, the job market is working in your favor. Mental health counseling is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow 20 percent between 2014 and 2024, adding up to a whopping 160,900 available jobs. To put those numbers in context, that rate of growth is 13 percent higher than the national average.

Now, lets focus on the current landscape. Today, mental health counselors are finding employment in an ever-widening range of settings. Private practice, while a desirable option, is just one of many possibilities. Depending on your passions and areas of expertise, you could work in community agencies, hospitals and other healthcare organizations, public or private schools and universities, assisted living facilities, and the list goes on.

Weve listed popular job titles licensed mental health counselors hold, and what you might expect to do in these roles.

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How To Become A Cbt Therapist

CBT therapists are similar to behavioral therapists, as they help people overcome destructive behaviors, but CBT therapists ultimately focus on thoughts and thought patterns .

For example, a CBT therapist might help someone who consistently lashes out at work to figure out which thought patterns are causing them to do so. A CBT therapist would then work with their client to change these thought patterns, so the client stops lashing out at work.

The process of becoming a CBT therapist is almost identical to the process of becoming a psychotherapist, except that one may specialize and obtain extra certification in CBT techniques.

After earning their masterâs degree, prospective CBT therapists have two options: they can either become accredited in psychotherapy and start offering CBT programs, or they can specifically become accredited in CBT therapy.

For example, in the United Kingdom, the first option might consist of getting licensed by the UKCP or the British Association for Counseling & Psychotherapy as a general psychotherapist.

The second option consists of earning psychotherapist accreditation and then getting specifically accredited as a CBT therapist by the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Therapy or the Association for Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy .

BABCT requires 200 hours of supervised clinical experience on top of the 450 required for UKCP accreditation, to give you an idea.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Mental Health Counselor

How long do you go to school to be a mental health counselor? Like many other healthcare professions, mental health counseling requires a four-year undergraduate degree as a foundation. This bachelors degree is usually in counseling, psychology or a related field.

To work as a licensed professional mental health counselor, you will likely need a masters degree. This advanced mental health counseling degree may take an additional one to four years of postgraduate study depending on your program choice, type of enrollment and how often you take courses. You must also complete your clinical hours during a specified period per state guidelines. For example, the California Board of Behavioral Services stipulates a licensed professional clinical counseling candidate complete 3,000 hours over a minimum of 104 weeks.

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How To Become A Behavioral Therapist

Behavioral therapists help people overcome unhealthy behaviors that are self-destructive. Behavioral therapists typically treat people with cognitive disabilities, such as autism, to manage their behaviors, but may also work with people with obsessive-compulsive disorders or substance abuse issues .

Someone who wants to become a behavioral therapist should first earn a bachelorâs degree in psychology or a related field. After earning a bachelorâs degree, one can start working as a behavioral disorder counselor. In order to become a licensed behavioral therapist, one must earn their masterâs degree in psychology or counseling, and work towards licensure.

Licensing requirements vary by region, and similar to psychotherapy requirements, every state in the United States requires a masterâs degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience for behavioral therapist licensure.

For more information on behavioral therapists, visit this website.

Clinical And Counseling Psychologist

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The traditional PhD in clinical or counseling psychology is one of the most common options for people interested in a career in mental health therapy. An alternative to the PhD is the PsyD.

The PsyD is a newer doctoral degree option with a greater focus on professional practice than the more research-focused PhD. Alternatively, psychiatrists are doctors who work with clients using a more medical or clinical approach. A psychiatrist has a medical degree .

Students pursuing this career path often begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, then moving directly into a doctoral training program. Some further their education by completing a master’s degree, then pursuing a Ph.D. or Psy.D.

Professionals in this type of role sometimes specialize in a particular area. Options include geriatrics, learning disabilities, substance abuse, and adult mental health.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for clinical psychologists as of May 2021 was $79,510.

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