Whether it is behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, substance abuse, personality disorders, or a host of other problems, it is the mental health counselor who helps address these issues and who helps people learn to live and overcome these issues. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors help give advice and guidance to people who have alcoholism or other addictions. Mental health counselors can also work with individuals who have eating disorders, depression, tourette’s, multiple personalities, or other mental or behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support so that the individual can begin to recover from addiction or so that they can work to modify problem behaviors. Mental health counselors work in a wide variety of settings: hospitals or schools, mental health centers, with crime investigation teams, in prisons, and in their own private practice.
Mental health counselors work to help counsel clients in either one on one individual sessions or in discussion group sessions. Your ultimate goal in this career field is to assist clients in dealing with mental and behavioral issues that result from problems such as substance abuse, addictions, mental or physical illness, extreme poverty, long lasting unemployment, or any form of abuse. You will work to monitor, converse with, evaluate, and keep records of client progress and their response to your therapy and treatment.
When you work as a mental health counselor in any capacity you will be working with not only your clients but you will collaborate with any other counselors, physicians, or nurses in order to offer the best treatments and therapy possible. It is also important to note that you will work with the family members of some of your clients in order to assist them in coping with and helping their family member.
People in this field will also play the role of teacher and educator. You may work to educate clients about their particular issues or offer sessions and seminars to community members to teach them about mental or physical illness, the dangers of abuse, the importance of proper medication, or how to make the most of community resources.
Active Listening – as a mental health counselor, it is imperative that you be able to actively listen to your clients and gather the information you need simply by letting them talk and without a lot of invasive questions and forced discussion.
Flexibility – during the course of a therapy session, you may have to adjust or change your actions in relation to the cues your client is giving you and you may have to make quick changes and adjustments to your planned session and process in order to fit the immediate and long term needs of your client.
Critical Thinking – in this profession it is imperative that you use logic and reasoning to work on both the strengths and weaknesses of your client as well as to be able to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of current therapy sessions and methods.
Problem Solving – being able to accurately work through problems and developing solutions to those problems that address both short term and long term goals is important for the success of therapy and counseling sessions as a mental health counselor.
Skills and Activities
Psychology – knowing how people think and process information is critical if you hope to understand what happens when things go wrong and abnormal behavior and mental processes are presented in your clients.
Counseling Therapy- you will work with your clients to address their issues and with a combination of medication, counseling, self-help, and other therapy practices can help get them back on the road to recovery so that they can live their lives to the fullest.
Service – it is important to always keep the individual client’s needs, wants, and desires first and foremost when the counseling and therapy sessions are going on.
Cultural Knowledge- as a mental health counselor, it is necessary to be able to understand the different aspects of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends, ethnicity, cultures, and cultural stereotypes.
English Language – being able to make accurate records and reports and keep files and documents safe and organized is critical to being successful as a mental health counselor. It is also necessary to know transcription, test administration, data collection, data interpretation, and all important terms and processes.
Computers and Electronics – basic computer skills are necessary to be able to record and interpret data and you may also need to use other technology such as recorders, computerized tests, and internet searches.
Pay and Job Outlook
As a mental health counselor, you can expect decent pay. The annual wage for these counselors, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) was around $38,000 in 2010. Employment opportunities for mental health counselors may see as much as a 27 percent growth rate from 2010 to 2020 accord to the BLS.
Educational requirements to be in the field of mental health counseling can range from a high school diploma to a master’s degree, depending on the what job you want to do, the state requirements, the organization you work with, and other criteria.
Earning a BA in psychology offers you the chance to take more liberal arts courses. A BA allows you to explore niches within psychology such as behavior, personality, research, sleep study, cultural norms, social psychology, and many other interesting branches. It gives you a chance to focus in on the specific area within psychology that you want to focus on with your master’s and doctorate degree.
Bachelor of Science
Earning a BS in psychology give you a focus on all of basics, such as learning research methods and practices and theories. The BS is a better choice if your ultimate goal is to start a technical career right after you graduate
Master of Arts
Getting an MA in psychology will have a great deal of specialty classes that can either prepare you for a doctorate or give you an overview into as specific area you want to pursue after you complete your degree.
Master of Science
The MS in psychology provides a stronger focus on research and science curriculum. You can still take specialty classes for either the doctorate degree transition or to prepare you to enter the work field.
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With an English Literature degree from UCLA and a passion for career counseling and publishing, Jeff has worked at CareerPath and Microsoft. He published four editions of the World Wide Yellow Pages in partnership with Barnes and Noble. He now uses that passion for managing Psychology Online Degrees.