What Does a Mental Health Counselor Do?

A mental health counselor provides ongoing psychological care to clients dealing with depression, substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, and other mental and psychological issues. In addition to spending time with clients, mental health counselors log many hours in the office and confer with colleagues in related fields. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Mental Health Counselor Career Overview

Mental health issues tend to be multi-faceted. In light of this, mental health counselors are trained to treat their clients in a holistic manner, working in tandem with professionals in education, medicine, and related fields to get to the complex roots of each individual client's unique struggles. Their methods of assisting clients are diverse, as are the locations in which mental health counselors work. They might treat substance abuse at a rehabilitation center or provide in-home family counseling, for example.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2014) $40,850 per year
Similar Occupations Social worker; physician; psychologist
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 29% growth
Key Skills Interpersonal skills; Compassion; Listening skills; Organizational skills; Speaking skills

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties and Responsibilities

Mental health counselors help patients work through personal issues like anger management, depression, suicidal thoughts, aging, parenting, self image, relational problems, stress, or addiction. They provide psychotherapy, assessment, diagnosis, substance abuse treatment, and crisis management.

Field Specialties

Mental health counselors handle records and documentation of their cases and use these to collaborate with other professionals. Common specialties are substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation counseling, school counseling, career counseling, marriage counseling, and family counseling. Mental health counselors may choose to specialize in a particular patient group, such as children, adolescents, adults, the elderly, couples, or families.

Education

After earning a bachelor's degree, a mental health counselor completes a master's degree in counseling. In a typical program, students take courses in psychotherapy, diagnosis, psychological assessment and testing, psychopathology, group counseling, and research. They also study counseling theory, human development, career development, lifestyles, and social contexts.

Training and Certification

After completing a master's degree in counseling, candidates gain at least two years of clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed mental health counselor, according to the American Mental Health Counselor's Association. Upon successful completion of a certification test, the candidate is licensed as a mental health counselor.

Work Environment

Mental health counselors work at community agencies, substance abuse centers, hospitals, employee assistance programs, health care organizations, corporations, youth homes, and independent practices. They work with other professionals, including social workers, psychiatrists, and school counselors, notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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