Mental Health Counseling Therapist

Mental health counseling therapists, or mental health counselors, treat individuals who are suffering from mental and emotional disorders, such as low self-esteem or stress. Continue reading to learn more about the career outlook and the academic requirements for mental health counseling therapists.

Is Mental Health Counseling Therapy for Me?

Career Overview

Mental health counseling therapists assess and diagnose emotional and mental health problems in individuals, families or groups of people. These issues can include depression, grief or substance abuse. In this position, some of your responsibilities will include detecting early stages of mental health disorders and diagnosing them to prevent the onslaught of serious problems in the future. According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), you may work in private practices, substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, community centers or other crisis management centers (www.amhca.org).

Degree programs in mental health counseling are primarily available at the master's degree level. As a qualified graduate and future mental health counselor, you be ethical and trustworthy and have the ability to work independently or as part of a team with other health professionals.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the BLS, approximately 115,580 individuals worked as mental health counselors in May 2013. Opportunities for employment were projected to increase by 29% nationwide between 2012 and 2022. An increased willingness on the part of individuals to seek treatment and military veterans in need of services will have a positive impact on job growth. Federal mandates and insurance regulations will also create a demand for mental health professionals. As of May 2013, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for mental health counselors was $40,580 (www.bls.gov).

How Do I Become a Mental Health Counseling Therapist?

Educational Requirements

To become a mental health counseling therapist, the AMHCA states that you must earn at least a master's degree in mental health counseling or a related field, such as counseling or psychology. Through a master's degree program in mental health counseling, you'll explore counseling techniques and theories, study the drugs used to combat mental illness and learn about counseling ethics. You'll also find out to conduct psychological assessments and participate in clinical practicums or internships at hospitals and other locations. You may also conduct research in mental health, which could provide you with a unique perspective on how it affects individuals, families and children.

Certification and Licensing

After earning your master's degree, you must also complete approximately two years of supervised work in mental health counseling, according to the AMHCA. Each state may have its own requirements for mental health counselors, so check in advance to make sure that you're meeting designated prerequisites and requirements. After you've completed the appropriate number of hours, you must earn your license by passing your state's certification or licensure exam.

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