CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 07, 2014
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How to Become a Mental Health Counselor in the US

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In healthcare, counselling is the process of assessing a patient’s emotional and behavioral condition. Mental health counselors treat conditions such as depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. They focus on improving clients’ mental health by talking to them about their personal feelings. If you are compassionate and ready to help people with mental health conditions get better, this could be the career for you.

What do Mental Health Counsellors do?

Mental health counselors work with people at various ages and from different backgrounds. They listen to their problems, detect emotional and behavioral disorders, and develop strategies, such as talk therapy, to help them embrace positive change.

On a day-to-day basis, mental health counselors also perform the following duties:

  • Build positive relationships with clients to encourage them to disclose their problems
  • Plan counseling sessions with clients and inform them what will be covered
  • Help clients manage or adjust to various changes, such as job loss
  • Engage in outfield activities to help clients develop the skills they need to cope with various mental health conditions
  • Refer clients to other practitioners, such as psychiatrists, for specialized treatment
  • Keep clients’ records to monitor their progress.

Work Environment

Mental health counselors typically work in a standard office environment. Although most of them have full-time, Monday to Friday jobs, others only attend to clients in the evenings and weekends.

Those with part-time jobs frequently travel to meet clients in their offices or homes.

Salary

Salaries for mental counselors vary by place of work as outlined below:

Employer

Annual pay

Substance abuse hospitals

$35,530

Individual and family services

$42,670

Outpatient care centers

$44,000

Private clinics

$48,930

Educational facilities

$53,770

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Training

To become a mental health counselor, you need to complete the following steps:

  • Earn a master’s degree in counseling, social work or psychology – To be admitted into a graduate program, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree in in any of these fields.
  • Secure a license form the National Board for Certified Counselors – To qualify for licensure, you must hold a master’s degree, complete at least 2,000 hours of supervised clinical experience and pass an examination, according to the BLS.

Important Skills and Abilities

To become a successful mental health counselor, you need to have the following skills and abilities:

  • Strong analytical, communication and listening skills
  • Ability to gain people’s trust and make them feel comfortable around you
  • A non-judgmental attitude to effectively deal with whatever issue is presented to you
  • The ability to change people’s thoughts and views on issues
  • Empathy, tolerance and patience
  • The ability to work with people from any background

Career Development

Professional accreditations and vast job experience is all mental health counselors need to take their careers to the next level. Examples of organizations that offer mental health certifications include:

You could also continue developing you career by taking short part-time courses and attending training workshops. If you still want to go further, pursue a doctoral degree in mental health counseling.

Job Opportunities

As a qualified mental health counselor, you can work in:

  • Nursing and residential care facilities
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Hospitals
  • Private clinics
  • Educational institutions

With vast experience and a doctoral degree in counseling, you could move into teaching and research in universities. You could also establish your own consulting business.

So, why should you consider becoming a mental health counselor? Well, you will not only be able to fulfill your wish to help people lead stress-free lives, but also have the opportunity to open a private business and increase your income.

 

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