Requirements To Become A Certified Mental Health Counselor
To become a certified mental health counselor, you must meet the licensure requirements set by your state. One of the requirements is likely to be a masters degree in mental health counseling, which provides you with the knowledge and skills you need to work effectively with diverse clients.
Additional licensure requirements typically include supervised in-person clinical hours as well as examinations. State requirements can change, so consult your states counseling or mental health board for the current standards.
School And Career Counselors
Counselors in K-12 public and private schools as well as colleges and universities help students to develop academic and social skills. Elementary school counselors help children to develop self-esteem, decision-making, and study skills.
On the high school level, counselors help students with college applications and training programs. Counselors at the university level assist students with academic and mental health challenges. They also address job searches, resumé writing, and interviewing.
Substance Abuse Behavioral Disorder Mental Health Counselor
Counselors who work in this field provide treatment for individuals suffering from addiction, alcoholism, and other mental and behavioral problems. They work in public or private mental health centers, community health centers, and prisons.
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After evaluating their clients needs and behaviors, these counselors develop treatment plans to help clients develop skills for overcoming addiction or behavioral disorders. Counselors also educate their clients family members to help them cope with the problems.
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Mental Health Counselor Requirements And Common Tasks
While the typical mental health counselor job description may vary, mental health counselors must be licensed by the state in which they are working. In all US states, a masters degree typically a masters degree in mental health counseling, though other degrees with appropriate coursework may sometimes be accepted is required in order to become licensed. Prospective mental health counselors must also complete supervised work experience in a clinical mental health setting in order to earn their full license this commonly ranges from one to three years, depending on state requirements. For those with an associates or bachelors degree, there may be support roles available that do not require licensure, such as intake coordinator or counselors aide.
Aside from directly counseling clients, mental health therapists perform a range of tasks in support of their work. Not least of these is managing paperwork that documents the assessment, diagnosis, prognosis, and continuing progress of their clients. The scope of a mental health counselors professional practice varies widely by state, but it is also common for a counselor to provide referrals to other mental health professionals, such as psychologists and psychiatrists.
Clinical Mental Health Counseling Career Resources
Clinical mental health counseling masters degree students at William & Mary can benefit from the following career development resources:
- Cohen Career Center: Offers one-on-one advising, core competency workshops, resume reviews and networking events, career fairs, resume development resources and more to current W& M students and alumni
- Counselor Education Program Bulletin Board: Keeps you up to date on upcoming training and networking events, program outcomes and recent student accomplishments, and helps you identify opportunities to engage with peers and industry professionals
- American Mental Health Counselors Association : An organization committed to positioning mental health counselors to meet their clients health care needs and advance within the profession features a job board, events and more
- American Counseling Association : The worlds largest organization representing professional counselors provides links to publications, continuing education, career resources and more for counselors
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Employee Assistance Program Counselor
An employee assistance program is a voluntary, work-based program that offers assistance to employees facing mental and emotional issues, or work-related and/or personal problems. EAP counselors can either work remotely or on-site in the workplace. Since many EAPs offer 24/7 support, counselors may be required to work evenings and weekends.
97 percent of companies that have more than 5,000 employees have EAPs and 75 to 80 percent of mid-sized and smaller companies have them as well. The rationale behind workplaces having EAPs is that if employers take care of the mental health needs of employees, productivity will increase and business costs will decrease. EAPs give managers and human resources staff an opportunity to refer help to an employee in need.
Community Mental Health Counselor
Working for community organizations is another great way to use your masters in clinical counseling. Professional counselors play an important role in providing mental health services to individuals, families, and groups in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient centers, and schools.
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Job Outlook For Counselors
Anyone with an interest in entering mental health counseling will be pleased to know that the job outlook for counselors is promising. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor jobs are expected to grow 23% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. That growth rate significantly exceeds the BLSs average 8% projected growth for jobs in all occupations during the same time.
The BLS attributes its growth projections for counselors to:
- Continuing increases in demand for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling, particularly in light of the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on mental health
- An increase in states providing counseling and treatment as an alternative to incarceration for people who have mental health challenges or suffer from addiction
- A continuing need for counseling professionals who can provide mental health and substance abuse services to veterans
The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $47,660 as of May 2020. But a review of the job outlook for counselors should consider additional forms of compensation as well. As the demand for mental health services continues to rise, employers have begun offering a range of other hiring incentives. For example, a 2021 survey that the National Council for Mental Wellbeing conducted of its 260 member organizations revealed that other forms of compensation are common in the field:
Mental Health Counselor Skills & Competencies
Your classroom education, clinical training and even certification will only take you so far. The following soft skills and personal qualities are essential to your success in this occupation:
- Computer literacy: This includes knowledge of Microsoft Office and familiarity with the internet and email communications
- Flexibility: You should be able to work independently and as a positive member of a team as well.
- Compassion and empathy: An ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with mentally or emotionally disabled persons and their families is a must.
- Active listening skills: Excellent listening skills will allow you to understand what your clients are sharing with you and subsequently provide the help they need.
- Verbal Communication: Your clients must be able to comprehend what you’re telling them so they can take recommended actions.
- Interpersonal Skills: You must be able to understand your clients’ reactions and be able to persuade them to make necessary changes.
- Service Orientation: You shouldhave a strong desire to help others.
- Critical Thinking: You must be able to identify and then evaluate possible solutions.
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Skills Needed For Clinical Mental Health Counseling Jobs
By earning a master of arts in counseling degree, aspiring mental health counselors will be prepared to make a difference in their community.
To effectively treat and support clients, counselors need comprehensive clinical skills and an extensive understanding of research techniques, mental and emotional disorders, counseling methods, and the conscious and unconscious forces that affect individuals, couples, and families.
Mental health counselors will use these skills to:
- Diagnose conditions that cause people to seek therapy.
- Evaluate clients mental and physical health, barriers to wellness, or problematic behavior and recommend treatment plans.
- Work with clients to identify behaviors or situations that interfere with achieving mental wellness.
- Assist clients in developing skills and behaviors necessary to cope with difficult situations, modify their behavior, or overcome mental and emotional barriers.
- Refer clients to other mental health professionals as needed, such as social workers or psychiatrists, to create a well-rounded plan for mental wellness.
How To Become A Substance Abuse Behavioral Disorder Or Mental Health Counselor About This Section
Most positions require at least a bachelors degree. Although educational requirements can vary from a high school diploma and certification to a masters degree for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, a masters degree and an internship is typically required to become a mental health counselor.
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Mental Health Counselor Job Outlook
Changing social needs, shifts in public policy, and new research are fueling growth in the field of counseling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will grow by 23 percent between 2020 and 2030.1
Given current social, political, and research trends, mental health counselors are needed to treat a wide range of clients in distress, including:
- Children: Counselors who take courses with an emphasis in child and adolescent mental and behavioral health care are needed to address the increasing mental health concerns for youth in the United States.2
- Veterans: Approximately 20 million military veterans reside in the U.S.,3 and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as local communities, need more research and mental health services to meet their needs. Counselors may fill these gaps.
- Adults with addiction: Individuals who struggle with substance use, particularly with opioid addiction, are in need of treatment from mental health counselors.4
How To Become A Mental Health Counselor
Mental health therapists occupy a position of trust with clients who are often vulnerable, which is why all 50 states and Washington DC closely regulate mental health counselor licensing. As previously noted, becoming licensed as a mental health counselor requires a masters degree. The typical process of becoming a mental health counselor is to:
There are many titles associated with mental health counselor careers. While Mental Health Counselor or Licensed Mental Health Counselor are common terms for a license to practice in this career field, there are other variations depending on the state. These include Licensed Professional Counselor , Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor , and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor .
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How Can Clinical Mental Health Counselings Increase Their Salary
Increasing your pay as a Clinical Mental Health Counseling is possible in different ways. Change of employer: Consider a career move to a new employer that is willing to pay higher for your skills. Level of Education: Gaining advanced degrees may allow this role to increase their income potential and qualify for promotions. Managing Experience: If you are a Clinical Mental Health Counseling that oversees more junior Clinical Mental Health Counselings, this experience can increase the likelihood to earn more.
What Are Top 10 Highest Paying Cities For Clinical Mental Health Counseling Jobs
Weve identified 10 cities where the typical salary for a Clinical Mental Health Counseling job is above the national average. Topping the list is Green River, WY, with Atkinson, NE and San Francisco, CA close behind in the second and third positions. San Francisco, CA beats the national average by $11,822 , and Green River, WY furthers that trend with another $19,078 above the $70,000 average.
With these 10 cities having average salaries higher than the national average, the opportunities for economic advancement by changing locations as a Clinical Mental Health Counseling appears to be exceedingly fruitful.
Finally, another factor to consider is the average salary for these top ten cities varies very little at 12% between Green River, WY and Frankston, TX, reinforcing the limited potential for much wage advancement. The possibility of a lower cost of living may be the best factor to use when considering location and salary for a Clinical Mental Health Counseling role.
What Do You Need To Do To Become A Mental Health Counselor
In order to become a mental health counselor, you must be licensed by the state in which you wish to work. This means earning a bachelors degree followed by earning a masters degree, which will typically be in mental health counseling. In most states, the masters degree must comprise 60 credit hours and may need to include specific coursework. After graduating, you will need to complete from one to three years of supervised experience under a licensed mental health professional in order to qualify for your own license. Check with your state board of mental health licensing for up-to-date requirements.
What Career Paths Can I Take In Mental Health Counseling
As a mental health counselor, you can work in family services, outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, hospitals, government, schools and in private practice. You can choose to work with a specific population, such as with teenagers, the incarcerated, families and the elderly. A parallel career path is marriage and family therapy, which brings a family-centered perspective to mental health treatment, even when treating individuals.
Some professionals continue their education by earning a PhD in clinical psychology, counseling psychology or mental health therapy. Earning a PhD will take a time commitment of five to six years. Throughout the course of your education, youll gain much experience by volunteering or interning at places like rehab treatment centers, hospitals or counseling clinics.
Learn about Pay and Job Projections for mental health counselors.
Are you interested in helping others, but unsure if mental health counseling is your path? Other careers that center on human services include education, social work, specialized care and nursing.
Clinical Mental Health Counseling Jobs
Behavioral Health Jobs, Career Options, Mental Health Jobs, Remote Jobs
The behavioral health industry is one of the fastest-growing industries today, with an expected growth rate of over 20% by 2030. The demand for clinical mental health counseling jobs has never been higher, and companies are increasing pay rates and benefits to attract more people. There are thousands of jobs in mental health counseling where you will directly impact a persons mental health and overall well-being.
At Behavioral Health Jobs, we provide job seekers with a dedicated database of clinical health jobs all across the country. We have positions in every industry, including addiction treatment facilities, hospitals, schools, and private practice. Job seekers can search by experience level, education requirements, and onsite vs. remote options. If you are interested in clinical mental health counseling jobs, check out the available jobs near you on the Behavioral Health Jobs website.
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While many hospitals, outpatient clinics, treatment centers, residential care facilities, community agencies, and other mental health organizations prefer candidates who have licensure and years of experience, it is important to realize that there are plenty of entry-level counseling jobs available too.
Whether you have recently graduated with a bachelors degree in the human health services or a masters degree in counseling, entry-level jobs are the best way to discover your career interests and build your resume for landing more advanced leadership roles in the future.
Depending on your own individual skill sets, the following are some of the most popular entry-level counseling jobs to get on the right track to career success.
You Want A Career As A Professional Counselor
In most cases, you will need a masters degree to work as a counselor. Unlike many careers where you can get started with a bachelors degree, counseling jobs often require masters degrees for entry-level positions.
You may see yourself as a counselor who provides vital mental health services for others. Perhaps you admired a special counselor in high school or someone who helped you through a difficult period in your life. Because of your interests and strengths, you may see yourself as a professional in this field.
Mental Health Counseling Careers By Degree Level
To help you research opportunities with your desired degree, we have provided the below summary of common jobs for each mental health counselor degree level. Licensing rules vary widely by state, and some states may have different exceptions for licensed professional counselor roles that are required to be licensed. In addition to state-level differences, employers commonly have differing definitions and requirements for titles in the mental health counseling field. With this in mind, the table below provides a general outline of common degree requirements by role. Requirements for a given job or job posting in your area may vary.
Occupational Employment And Wage Statistics
The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.
Mental Health Counselor Education And Job Training
A masters degree is the minimum educational requirement to become licensed as a mental health counselor. In some states and circumstances, you may be able to work in a support role in the mental health field without becoming a licensed professional counselor as long as your work is supervised by a licensed professional, though you will not be able to provide direct counseling services.
There are many mental health counseling degree programs that can help you on this path. If you do not already have a bachelors degree, there are bachelors degrees in mental health counseling, pre-counseling, and related topics that can help you prepare for the masters program necessary to be independently licensed as a mental health therapist. With online mental health degree programs, it may even be possible for you to continue working while you study. Before you commit to a program, however, be sure to check your states requirements for LMHCs so that you can be sure to plan your education accordingly.