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Become A Mental Health Counselor

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Working As A Mental Health Counselor

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • $43,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Mental Health Counselor Do

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and other relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Duties

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists typically do the following:

  • Diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression
  • Encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences
  • Help clients process their reactions and adjust to difficult changes in their life, such as divorce and layoffs
  • Guide clients through the process of making decisions about their future
  • Help clients develop strategies and skills to change their behavior and to cope with difficult situations
  • Refer clients to other resources or services in the community, such as support groups or inpatient treatment facilities

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists use a variety of techniques and tools to help their clients. Many apply cognitive behavioral therapy, a goal-oriented approach that helps clients understand harmful thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and teaches how to replace them with positive, life-enhancing ones. Furthermore, mental health counselors use cognitive behavioral therapy to teach clients to eliminate unwanted and damaging behaviors and to replace them with more productive ones.

Although some disorders can be overcome, others need to be managed. With the latter, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help the client develop strategies and skills to minimize the effects of their disorders or illnesses.

Many mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work in private practice. They must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with insurance companies and clients to get payment for their services.

Mental health counselors provide treatment to individuals, families, couples, and groups. Some work with specific populations, such as the elderly, college students, or children. Mental health counselors deal with a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, and suicidal impulses. They also help with mental and emotional health issues and relationship problems. 

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families. Unlike other types of mental health professionals, they bring a family-centered perspective to treatment, even when treating individuals. They evaluate family roles and development, to understand how clients’ families affect their mental health. They treat the clients’ relationships, not just the clients themselves. They address issues, such as low self-esteem, stress, addiction, and substance abuse.

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists coordinate patient treatment with other professionals, such as psychiatrists and social workers.

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How To Become A Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are typically required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.

Education

To become a mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist, applicants typically need a master’s degree in psychology, clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or a related mental health field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s program.

Counseling programs prepare students to recognize symptoms of mental and emotional disorders and to use effective counseling strategies. Marriage and family therapy programs teach students about how marriages, families, and relationships function and how these relationships can affect mental and emotional disorders.

Many employers prefer to hire counselors who have graduated from programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.

Training

Candidates gain hands-on experience through postdegree supervised clinical work, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In training, they learn to provide family therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy, and other therapeutic interventions, under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Licenses

All states require mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to be licensed in the state in which they practice. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of postdegree supervised clinical experience, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In addition, counselors and therapists must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes.

Contact information for state boards regulating mental health counselors is available through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Contact and licensing information for marriage and family therapists is available through the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Counselors and therapists often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for counselors and therapists. They spend most of their time working directly with clients and other professionals and must be able to encourage good relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, both of whom need to give their full attention to their clients to understand their problems, values, and goals.

Organizational skills. Good organizational skills are especially important for counselors and therapists in private practice, who must keep track of payments and work with insurance companies.

Speaking skills. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists need to be able to communicate with clients effectively. They must express ideas and information in a way that clients can understand easily.

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Mental Health Counselor Jobs

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Mental Health Counselor Career Paths

Mental Health Counselor
Therapist Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinician Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinician Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Consultant Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Team Leader Program Director
Director Of Program Services
8 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Clinical Supervisor Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Executive Assistant Assistant Property Manager
Resident Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor Nursing Director
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Administrator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Clinical Social Worker Social Work Supervisor
Director Of Social Work
6 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Administrator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Utilities Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Behavioral Specialist Residential Supervisor
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Clinical Research Coordinator Clinical Project Manager
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Office Manager House Manager
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Clinical Social Worker Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor Registered Nurse Case Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
School Counselor Adjunct Professor Education Consultant
Student Dean
7 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Professional Service Provider Integrator
Health Unit Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Mental Health Counselor?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Clinical Counselor 2.5 years
Primary Counselor 2.5 years
Family Counselor 2.4 years
Health Therapist 2.4 years
Top Careers Before Mental Health Counselor
Internship 14.3%
Counselor 10.2%
Therapist 5.1%
Volunteer 4.8%
Teacher 3.9%
Clinician 2.7%
Supervisor 2.4%
Top Careers After Mental Health Counselor
Case Manager 11.4%
Counselor 10.2%
Therapist 10.1%
Clinician 7.7%
Internship 6.2%
Teacher 2.7%

Do you work as a Mental Health Counselor?

Average Yearly Salary
$43,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$26,000
Min 10%
$43,000
Median 50%
$43,000
Median 50%
$43,000
Median 50%
$43,000
Median 50%
$43,000
Median 50%
$43,000
Median 50%
$43,000
Median 50%
$71,000
Max 90%
Highest Paying City
San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
2.9 years
How much does a Mental Health Counselor make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Mental Health Counselor in the United States is $43,660 per year or $21 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $26,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $71,000.

Real Mental Health Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Mental Health and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Ronald I. Weiner, PH.D., LLC Silver Spring, MD Oct 01, 2015 $135,655
Mental Health Counselor/Coordinator Metropolitan Center for Mental Health New York, NY Nov 13, 2014 $71,843
Mental Health and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Ronald I. Weiner, PH.D., LLC Silver Spring, MD Oct 01, 2015 $71,744
Mental Health Counselor Sexual Abuse Core Professional Services Rochester, MN Jun 23, 2015 $70,958
Mental Health Counselor Sexual Abuse Core Professional Services Mankato, MN Oct 01, 2014 $70,958
Bilingual Mental Health Counselor South Middlesex Opportunity Council, Inc. Framingham, MA Sep 18, 2014 $66,784
Mental Health Counselor II St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center New York, NY Nov 14, 2016 $65,000
Mental Health Counselor Bleulerpsychotheraphy Center Inc. Hillsdale, NY Nov 21, 2016 $64,697
Mental Health Counselor Bleuler Psychotherapy Center Inc. Hillsdale, NY Nov 21, 2016 $64,697
Mental Health Counselor Michael Demarco, PH.D. New York, NY Sep 14, 2016 $62,610
Mental Health Counselor Hamilton-Madison House New York, NY Mar 11, 2013 $62,610
Mental Health Counselors Group Health Plan, Inc. Minneapolis, MN Jan 09, 2014 $60,500
Mental Health Counselor PHC of Nevada, Inc. Las Vegas, NV Feb 13, 2015 $60,000
Mental Health Counselor PHC of Nevada, Inc. Las Vegas, NV Aug 22, 2016 $60,000 -
$72,000
Mental Health Counselor Earth Circles Counseling Center Oakland, CA Aug 09, 2016 $44,262
Mental Health Counselor (Assertive Community Treat Amherst H Wilder Foundation Saint Paul, MN Aug 06, 2014 $44,179 -
$48,179
Mental Health Counselor The Children's Hospital Association Aurora, CO Jun 09, 2014 $44,033
Mental Health Counselor Omni Health Services, Inc. Allentown, PA Jul 28, 2016 $44,000 -
$50,000
Mental/Behavioral Health Counselor Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA May 16, 2016 $43,680
Mental Health Counselors Counseling & Assessment Clinic of Worcester, LLC Worcester, MA Jul 31, 2014 $43,389
Mental Health Counselors Counseling & Assessment Clinic of Worcester, LLC Worcester, MA Jul 25, 2014 $43,389
Mental Health Counselor Best Behavioral Healthcare Inc. Philadelphia, PA Oct 30, 2015 $43,000
Mental Health Counselors New Horizons Community Mental Health Center Miami, FL May 13, 2013 $38,000
Mental Health Counselor South Cove Community Health Center Boston, MA Jul 18, 2016 $38,000 -
$53,000
Mental Health Counselor Asian Human Services, Inc. Chicago, IL Sep 16, 2016 $38,000
Mental Health Counselor South Cove Community Health Center Boston, MA Sep 14, 2016 $38,000 -
$53,000
Geriatric Mental Health Counselor Navos Kent, WA Apr 15, 2016 $37,858
Mental Health Counselor Aurora Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center Aurora, CO Sep 21, 2015 $37,629
Mental Health Counselor Omni Health Services, Inc. Allentown, PA Aug 07, 2015 $37,502
Mental Health Counselor South Shore Mental Health Center, Inc. Quincy, MA Feb 08, 2016 $37,440

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Top Skills for A Mental Health Counselor

  1. Mental Health Services
  2. Treatment Plans
  3. Crisis Intervention
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Assist in determining consumer level-of-care needs and linkage to outpatient mental health services as well as providing psycho-educational services.
  • Conducted and reviewed assessments, and developed individualized treatment plans.
  • Provided individual counseling, intake assessments, crisis intervention, and group counseling to an uninsured adult population.
  • Facilitated individual and group therapy sessions and completed related documentation.
  • Provide Critical Incident Stress Management, court-ordered substance abuse treatment, adolescent counseling and play therapy.

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Top 10 Best States for Mental Health Counselors

  1. Alaska
  2. Maine
  3. New Jersey
  4. Wyoming
  5. Connecticut
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Oregon
  8. Nevada
  9. North Dakota
  10. New Mexico
  • (90 jobs)
  • (184 jobs)
  • (469 jobs)
  • (29 jobs)
  • (299 jobs)
  • (73 jobs)
  • (211 jobs)
  • (118 jobs)
  • (43 jobs)
  • (108 jobs)

Mental Health Counselor Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 14,849 Mental Health Counselor resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Mental Health Counselor Resume

View Resume Examples

Mental Health Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

59.7%

Male

27.2%

Unknown

13.1%
Ethnicity

White

62.8%

Hispanic or Latino

14.3%

Black or African American

12.5%

Asian

6.8%

Unknown

3.6%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

63.3%

French

9.3%

Portuguese

4.3%

Mandarin

3.2%

Russian

3.0%

German

2.2%

Italian

2.0%

Chinese

1.9%

Hindi

1.7%

Cantonese

1.3%

Korean

1.1%

Arabic

1.1%

Gujarati

0.9%

Vietnamese

0.7%

Greek

0.7%

Japanese

0.7%

Hebrew

0.7%

Urdu

0.7%

Polish

0.6%

Hmong

0.6%
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Mental Health Counselor Education

Schools

Capella University

11.6%

Liberty University

9.6%

University of Phoenix

9.5%

Walden University

8.7%

Nova Southeastern University

7.2%

Webster University

7.0%

Norfolk State University

4.9%

Troy University

4.3%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

4.3%

Virginia Commonwealth University

4.2%

Springfield College

3.6%

Old Dominion University

3.6%

Cambridge College

3.3%

Virginia State University

3.3%

New York University

2.8%

University of Massachusetts - Boston

2.7%

Grand Canyon University

2.5%

University of Central Florida

2.4%

University of South Florida

2.3%

Barry University

2.3%
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Majors

Psychology

16.4%

Mental Health Counseling

16.2%

Social Work

13.2%

Counseling Psychology

11.7%

School Counseling

10.5%

Clinical Psychology

4.4%

Criminal Justice

3.4%

Human Services

3.4%

Nursing

3.1%

Business

2.8%

Family Therapy

2.7%

Education

2.5%

Sociology

2.4%

Rehabilitation Science

2.0%

Educational Leadership

1.0%

Special Education

1.0%

Human Development

0.8%

Health Care Administration

0.8%

General Education, Specific Areas

0.8%

Public Health

0.7%
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Degrees

Masters

56.5%

Bachelors

22.4%

Other

9.8%

Doctorate

4.8%

Associate

3.0%

Certificate

2.7%

Diploma

0.4%

License

0.3%
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What is it like to work as a Mental Health Counselor

2.0

A kind heart is not enough

January 3, 2020 on Zippia

What was your job title?

Mental Health Counselor.. Show More

What do you like the most about working as Mental Health Counselor?

The (working) clients will always be the best part of this job. There are certain individuals who you can feel want to learn more about their conditions and to adopt healthier thinking patterns or lifestyles... Show More

What do you NOT like?

The insane amount of paperwork, the insurance/agency politics, the high expectations, the low amount of support. Burnout is very concerning for a profession where people in the frontline are the ones trying to make a difference. Individuals who work in this field need to have an incentive to keep pushing. I’m sorry but a kind heart and good intentions are not enough to sustain this type of career... Show More

How Would You Rate Working As a Mental Health Counselor?

Are you working as a Mental Health Counselor? Help us rate Mental Health Counselor as a Career.

Top Mental Health Counselor Employers

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Jobs From Top Mental Health Counselor Employers

Mental Health Counselor Videos

Mental Health Counselor, Career Video from drkit.org

Mental Health Counselor (university setting), Career Video from drkit.org

Damon Cobble – Mental Health Counselor | American Graduate | KET

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