If you feel that you have valuable insight that you can contribute to the individuals who are dealing with mental health issues, then a career as a mental health counselor may be just the right path for you to travel. First of all, it is crucial to understand that a mental health counselor is quite different from psychiatrists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and psychologists. This is primarily due to the fact that mental health counselors apply a psycho-educational model when they counsel their patients. This model is often used in conjunction with traditional medical or illness models that are intended for diagnosis and assessment. Furthermore, mental health counselors are set apart from other mental health related fields because of its emphasis on prevention, its developmental theory approach, as well as an approach that is grounded in a holistic approach.
In your capacity as a mental health counselor, you may find yourself working with groups, individuals, or families in order to promote mental health. Your educational training will prepare you to use many different therapeutic techniques to address issues such as grief, substance abuse, self-esteem, depression, addiction, stress, and suicidal tendencies. Depending upon your place of employment you may also be expected to help with a person’s educational decisions, their employment or career concerns, with their relationship difficulties, family, marital, or parenting issues they are dealing with, or with a person’s mental and emotional health problems. In some states, your training and licensure may also make it possible for you to treat mental illness. Keep in mind, although mental health counselors work in a different capacity from other individuals in a similar job function, you will most likely spend much of your work time interacting alongside psychiatric nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, school counselors, and clinical social workers. It is quite common for mental health counselors to choose an area of specialization with which to focus their studies on. For instance, you could choose to focus on rehabilitation counseling, career counseling, school counseling, substance abuse counseling, family counseling, or marriage counseling. In addition, as a mental health counselor you may also find that you prefer to work with a specific type of patients. For example, you may choose to only work with children, couples, families, adolescents, adults, or the elderly. No matter which age group or focus area you choose, you will be providing psychotherapy, assessments, diagnosis, substance abuse treatment, and crisis management.
Keep in mind, in order to be a mental health counselor you will need to have a minimum of a master’s degree. However, after completing your educational requirements it will be necessary for you to complete approximately two years of clinical experience under the direct supervision of a more experienced counselor who has already obtained their licensure. You will not be eligible to sit for your licensure examination until you have completed this clinical experience. Once you have earned a passing score on your licensing examination, you will be licensed to practice as a mental health counselor. In addition, you will likely belong to the American Mental Health Counselor’s Association. Your education, training, knowledge, and skills set will make it possible for you to seek employment through a substance abuse center, a community agency, a youth home, a hospital, a corporation, a health care facility, an employee assistance program, or with an independent practice. In some of these professions you will be required to work and interact with other individuals in a related capacity, while others (such as independent mental health practice) may allow you to work more in a solo state.
Picking Mental Health Psychology As A Career
Mental health psychology is one of those crucial careers that allow the professional to not only diagnose but also to treat psychological problems that plague a majority of people around the world. When people go through psychological problems, it is difficult for them to be happy and have a productive life. Moreover, if such conditions are not treated at the right time, it can lead to fatal results. A majority of people that suffer from mental problems end up committing suicide. This is why a mental health psychologist is always in demand. Such a psychologist helps the mentally troubled individual deal with the problems they're facing and encourages him or her to stand back on their own feet! Mental health psychologists are responsible for handling numerous common mental problems; the two most common ones being depression and anxiety. By adopting various approaches, a reliable mental health psychologist helps the patient through difficult times. For example, the psychologist will have a one-on-one session with the patients and help them to identify all the troublesome aspects of their life. Similarly, such a psychologist will encourage the individual to attend group therapy sessions as a means of achieving mental peace and being with other people going through similar life experiences.
The Role Psychologists Play in Mental Health
When it comes to mental health, a team, which is interdisciplinary, is usually employed. This team of experts is responsible for providing support and expert treatment to those individuals that have gone through traumatizing events that have negatively affected their mental health. The role of a psychologist is to interpret, as well as apply the principles of psychology to have a better understanding of mental health issues. A good understanding, will, in turn, enable the doctor to prevent and treat the mental health problem in a better manner. So, a mental health psychologist is responsible for carrying out psychological evaluations of the patients by using a wide variety of assessments and standardized tests. These tests help to make a diagnosis and will also make an important contribution to the needs-based assessment of possible treatment options available for the patient.
Psychologists can then advise psychotherapy that aims to challenge and primarily change the emotions that the patients feel. As a result, the psychologist can change the behavior that is associated with various mental health issues. Such psychologists are a vital part of the mental health team not only in hospitals but also in community settings as the skills they possess provide insight of the crisis that the patient is going through. Their skills can also help to determine possible support for chronic mental health problems. Apart from working with the affected individuals, mental health psychologists also provide assistance and counseling to families and couples. They offer them support while educating them about how to deal with the problems they're facing. Moreover, they also hold group psychotherapy where it is required. Psychologists working in the mental health department closely collaborate with the other members of the health team and often, the psychologists will refer the patient to the other members if needed.
How much does a mental health psychologist earn on average?
According to the 2014 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic, a mental health psychologist, on an average, earn around $44,000. The salary exponential in the coming years appears to be positive as numerous insurance agencies tend to provide compensation for those clients that use the services provided by mental health psychologists.
Job prospects for mental health psychologists
The report by Bureau of Labor Statistic from 2011 states that the opportunities in all fields of psychology will keep on growing in the next ten years. It further indicated that the job prospects would be ideal for all those who possess a doctoral degree in fields like health, counseling, and clinical. Job prospects also look good for those with a doctoral or specialist degree in school psychology, which mostly revolves around mental health. In the coming years, employment will continue to grow due to the increase in demand for the services provided by mental health psychologists in schools, mental health centers, social service agencies, hospitals, private companies, consulting firms, and treatment clinics for substance abuse. The pressure to place mental health psychologists in community health clinics and to make these psychologists a core member of health care practices will create further opportunities. Mental health psychologists are also required to work with the aging population that is rapidly diversifying in current times. With time, there will be a widespread retirement of government officials at the federal, as well as the state level, which will lead to further openings. Specifically, there will be more opportunities for psychologists in the field of management, research, and administration. Of course, there will be various opportunities for people at all degree levels; however, individuals with a doctoral degree will be able to benefit the most.
Among the other things, a mental psychologist is responsible for the following:
• The psychologist builds up the capacity of patients suffering from mental issues so that they can confront and manage the issues that they experience on a daily basis, in a better manner.
• He or she should analyze the patient thoroughly, and then if needed, the patient is to be referred to a specialist that can handle the problem better.
• The psychologist is an active participant when it comes to the advocacy of the steps and measures that aim to improve the mental health of the people present in the community.
• The psychologist also conducts research in all those areas that have an effect on people's mental health to improve it
Moreover, mental health psychologists might also need to work with professionals so that they can come up with efficient and appropriate methods for treating a certain patient. Often, there might be a mental problem that can only be resolved by taking a multi-disciplinary approach.
What is the work environment of a mental health psychologist?
• Department of forensics for investigation of a crime scene
• Industries, independent organizations, and companies
• Universities, colleges, and school
• Rehabilitation centers, working with drug addicts
• Clinics and hospitals
Mental health psychologists usually work in various kinds of health facilities where people that require their help can access their services quickly and easily. For example, a mental health psychologist can work in psychiatric hospitals and regular hospitals along with working in hospice care centers, home health care centers, and in clinics dedicated to mental health. Furthermore, these health psychologists also work for detention centers, schools, branches of military, adoption agencies, and agencies that enforce the law. However, a majority of mental health psychologists also opt for opening up their own private clinics. A mental health psychologist is required to spend a good amount of time in the field. Apart from working with other experts to come up with treatment options, these psychologists also need to schedule their working hours in such a way that they can accommodate patients with prohibitive working hours. Mental health psychologists also extensively spend their time in research. It is true that a psychologist working privately can organize the time in a much more independent manner as compared to the one employed by a professional body or institution. However, since the work is quite demanding, a mental health psychologist should have two primary characters; patience and endurance.
How to Become a Mental Health Psychologist?
If you are wondering what the requirements are for becoming a psychologist, then here are the four simple steps you need to follow:
Step 1 – Get the Required Education
Associate Mental Health Psychologist Degree
Like all associate programs, the associate program for psychology is also two years long. By completing this degree, you can work in a variety of different fields. For example, you could work as a technician in such a hospital that has a dedicated unit for mental health. For those with an associate’s degree, the contact with clients is very limited. So, for instance, if someone with an associate’s degree works at the hospital, then the primary duties would be monitoring the patients, and helping the staff with meals and grooming.
The first educational step you need to take to become a mental health psychologist is to either do some social work or have a bachelor’s degree in subjects such as psychology. Common classes that are involved in a bachelor’s in psychology include statistics, human development, and abnormal psychology. The bachelor's program in psychology or a field that is closely related to psychology takes up to 4 years to complete; however, this time can vary. By completing the four-year program, the students get the foundation to get involved in the field of psychology. Moreover, the four-year program also enables the students to enroll in a graduate program.
By completing a bachelor's degree in psychology, the career options increase as compared to the ones available for those with an associate's degree. For instance, after completing your bachelor's in psychology, you can work as a parole officer, lab assistant, probation offices, a manager for mental health cases, and a teacher for classes up till 12. Moreover, you could also become a recreation specialist, career specialist, or a psychiatric assistant. A study in 2008 proved that 5% of those who had done a bachelor’s in psychology were either working in the field of psychology or had an occupation that was closely linked to psychology. The majority of the people working in the field of psychology were typically part of educational settings. People that possess a bachelor’s degree in psychology have good writing and researching skills. They also are excellent problem solvers that possess higher and well-developed abilities for evaluating, synthesizing, and analyzing information. As a result, a majority of the undergraduate students can work in computer programming, biological sciences, health, service industries, sales, business, education, public affairs, and administrative properties. Similarly, they can also work as interviewers, personnel analysts, employment counselors, writers, and trainees for correction counselors.
Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling
After the bachelor’s degree comes the master’s degree; that too in psychology. Getting a master’s degree in psychology will involve a few advanced courses in human development, research methods, and multiple theoretical perspectives. During the training period, the students might be allowed to choose a particular area of focus such as substance abuse or adolescent mental health. Individual programs for a master’s degree in psychology can vary; however, the majority of the master’s degree requires two years of full-time study for the degree to be finished. There are some online universities that allow a student to complete the degree in just a year and a half of full-time classes. A student enrolled in a master’s degree is also supposed to finish up an internship under a licensed psychologist or therapist to meet all the educational requirements. Students can finish up their internships in a variety of settings like treatment centers for substance abuse, psychiatric hospitals, and correction facilities. Once you have a master’s degree in psychology, a plethora of career options are available for you like developmental psychology, counseling practice, research, and teaching. Those with master’s degree along with a number of years of experience in industry and business can take up jobs in marketing research and consulting. Meanwhile, others can take up jobs in private schools, universities, and government as analysts, data collectors, researchers, and counselors. Today, the majority of people with a master’s degree are awarded either in I/O psychology, counseling, or clinical psychology.
Doctorate MHRT Degree
This degree is basically a terminal degree for all those that want to become a mental health psychologist. The requirements for such programs vary, however, the majority of the programs for a doctoral in mental health psychology include research, clinical practice, and completing a dissertation. In the majority of cases, a mental health psychologist requires a doctorate if he or she wishes to treat the patients in a clinical setting. There might be some cases and settings where the minimum requirement for working in a clinical setting is just a master's degree in psychology. However, those with a master's degree are quite limited when it comes to practice. A doctoral is the highest degree that you can get in psychology. The Ph.D. programs to become a mental health psychologist differ in length. The completion time depends on the doctorate program that the individual has chosen and the educational background he or she has. Typically, it can take anywhere from three years to even seven years to complete. It all comes down to the number of courses the individual has taken and the time it takes for him or her to complete the dissertation.
For those pursuing a doctorate in psychology, the individuals have two options. They can either go for a Ph.D. or a PsyD in psychology. Both differ slightly; the Ph.D. is basically a research degree, and the standard dissertation needs to be finished before the degree is handed to the individual. However, in a PsyD, the main focus is on clinical training and a dissertation is not really required. You just need to clean a few exams and then the degree will be awarded to you. Once you have a doctorate degree, the available career options are limitless and they range from owning a private clinic to working in the field of research. Apart from the widest range of jobs, the highest paid jobs are also available for those that have a doctorate in psychology. Hardly any leave the field while the levels of underemployment and unemployment remain well below than the levels noted for engineers and scientists. Overall, the employment settings and the career opportunities have not varied too much from the settings of the previous years; however, the trend of solo clinical practice has become less common today as compared to the trend that was a few years ago.
Step 2 – Finish Up All the Requirements Needed After the Master’s
According to AMHCA, you will have to finish up counseling experiences under a mental health practitioner that has been licensed after finishing up the master’s degree. To be eligible for licensure, you need to have a minimum of 3000 hours or two years of practice after completing your master’s. However, the requirements vary according to the state and country.
Step 3 – Get Yourself Licensed
Just like in all other professions, you will also need to meet a number of requirements so that you are permitted to work. To be licensed, you need to have a doctoral degree in psychology. Moreover, you also need to complete a certain duration of clinical experience as an internship. Once you meet all these requirements, you can give the specific exam for the license. Moreover, to keep the license relevant, the psychologist needs to continue working and learning on a regular basis.
Step 4 – Get Yourself Certified
You can get a voluntary certification through NBCC. The highest relevant certification to become a mental health psychologist is the credentials for a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor. You will first have to sit for the exam and for that, you need to finish a combined stipulated amount of clinical coursework along with graduate coursework. Before you can seek the mental health certification, you must first get the general NCC – National Certified Counselor credentials.
Career options similar to mental health psychology
As apparent by the profession name, a general psychologist doesn’t specialize in a certain population of the patients. Instead, a general psychologist treats people with a variety of mental conditions and mental health issues. For example, a general psychologist can treat individuals with conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder. They use a variety of different techniques for diagnosing and treating the patient’s condition. Apart from a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, a general psychologist also needs a doctorate if he or she wishes to practice. In some countries, the general psychologist also needs to be licensed as a psychologist if he or she wishes to treat patients.
Family and Marriage Therapist
Every relationship experiences at least some kind of conflicts. Marriage and family therapists work with children, parents, siblings, couples, and in some cases, even the whole family in order to improve the relationships. Such therapists have a great understanding of the dynamics of the family and the root cause of the majority of the problems. Moreover, they also help the patients in learning effective ways of communicating and dealing with issues that adversely affect relationships. If you wish to become a family and marriage therapist, then you need to have a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a field that is closely related to psychology. After a bachelor’s you need to have a master’s in counseling. Generally, such therapists need to be licensed in order to practice.
Counselors for Ssubstance Abuse
Such people focus primarily on treating individuals that have issues related to substance abuse. In almost all of the cases, there are some underlying emotional problems that cause the initial abuse of drugs. So, a counselor for substance abuse helps the patients in dealing with all those issues while also helping them deal with the addiction. These counselors might conduct group counseling as well as individual counseling situations while also monitoring the progress of their treatment. The requirements that you need to work as a counselor for substance abuse varies by country. There is also no standard requirement for education. However, the majority of employers do prefer their employees to have a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in counseling. The mind of the human is a complex place and the development of mental conditions like depression, panic disorder, and addiction are common problems that are too hard to deal with. Patients are often frightened and confused by what they are going through because of which they require a mental health psychologist that can guide the individual through treatment and solutions efficiently.