What Can I Do with a Community Counseling Degree?

Becoming a mental health counselor is just one of many avenues you can take with a community counseling or related degree; but what does a mental health counselor do? Continue reading to learn more about how you, in this capacity, can help at-risk individuals prevail over difficult times in their lives. Schools offering Medical Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Become a Mental Health Counselor

As a mental health counselor, you can play an important role in a community by assisting individuals and their families through mental and emotional illnesses or hardships. A community counseling program may highlight many facets of the counseling profession, preparing you to work with families and couples as well as with handicapped or addicted people.

In addition to counseling an individual, you could speak to their family members and loved ones regarding behaviors and treatments and inform them of the support they might provide for their loved ones on a daily basis. In addition to leading group therapy sessions and individual meetings, you will need to be familiar with your community's resources for referrals and further treatment. In some cases, you could be qualified to use medication as part of your treatment plan. Another aspect of your job might involve creating community awareness programs that are designed to educate the public about mental health disorders and treatments.

Important Facts About This Field

Mental Health Counselor Substance Abuse Counselor
Key Skills Compassion, organizational, listening, and speaking skills Patience, interpersonal, listening, and speaking skills
Similar Occupations Rehabilitation Counselor, School/Career Counselor, Social/Community Service Manager Registered Nurse, Social Worker, Marriage/Family Therapist
Work Environment Full-time, typically under stressful conditions in mental health and substance abuse treatment centers Full-time, typically under stressful conditions in inpatient and outpatient facilities

Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most states require counselors to hold a master's degree with relevant coursework in counseling practices (www.bls.gov). A masters degree program in community counseling could prepare you to work with people of all ages and in different types of situations. The graduate study might teach you how to become an ethical and attentive practitioner who is able to apply intervention and counseling techniques that improve lives and communities. You could take courses in human development, counseling techniques and theory, group counseling, and career counseling. You might also complete practica and internships that allow you to gain supervised experience in patient counseling.

Licensure

Mental health counselors who work in clinical settings typically must hold state licenses. States regulate licensure differently, and some have different licensing categories depending on the type of counseling you provide. In addition to a master's or doctoral degree, states commonly require you complete several hours of supervised experience and pass at least one examination to qualify. Separate licensing could be required for mental health, marriage/family therapy, substance abuse, and school counseling. You should check with your state's board to determine the specific eligibility criteria for a particular license.

Salary and Job Outlook Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder counselors and mental health counselors was projected to grow by 23% from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the average. The growth is anticipated as people continue to seek help and assistance from these professionals for counseling. The report also showed that these professionals earned an annual median salary of $44,630 in May 2018.

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