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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

  • $41,263

    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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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 Mankato, MN Oct 01, 2014 $70,958
Mental Health Counselor Sexual Abuse Core Professional Services Rochester, MN Jun 23, 2015 $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 Bleuler Psychotherapy Center Inc. Hillsdale, NY Nov 21, 2016 $64,697
Mental Health Counselor Bleulerpsychotheraphy 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 Aug 17, 2016 $60,000 -
$72,000
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 Sep 14, 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 Jul 18, 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

MentalHealthIssuesIndividualTreatmentPlansCrisisInterventionSubstanceAbuseIssuesIntakeAssessmentsMentalIllnessAngerManagementChildDailyLivingTraumaCognitiveBehavioralTherapyFamilyTherapyCommunityResourcesGroupTherapySessionsCounselCrisisSituationsDischargePlanningSocialSkillsIndividualTherapyLifeSkills

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Top Mental Health Counselor Skills

  1. Mental Health Issues
  2. Individual Treatment Plans
  3. Crisis Intervention
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Helped to support and counsel clients with serious mental health issues in collaborate with other health professionals and organizations
  • Worked with therapists to work out patient group schedules, and individual treatment plans.
  • Applied crisis intervention and mitigated violence.
  • Counseled and supported people with a wide range of mental health and substance abuse issues.
  • Administered intake assessments to identify presenting problems and levels of crisis.

Top Mental Health Counselor Employers

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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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