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Become A Mental Health Practitioner

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Working As A Mental Health Practitioner

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $39,016

    Average Salary

What Does A Mental Health Practitioner Do

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.   

Duties

Social workers typically do the following:

  • Identify people and communities in need of help
  • Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals
  • Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment
  • Research, refer, and advocate for community resources, such as food stamps, childcare, and healthcare to assist and improve a client’s well-being
  • Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse and mental health emergencies
  • Follow up with clients to ensure that their situations have improved
  • Evaluate services provided to ensure that they are effective
  • Develop and evaluate programs and services to ensure that basic client needs are met
  • Provide psychotherapy services

Social workers help people cope with challenges in their lives. They help with a wide range of situations, such as adopting a child or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Social workers may work with children, people with disabilities, and people with serious illnesses and addictions. Their work varies based on the type of client they are working with.

Some social workers work with groups, community organizations, and policymakers to develop or improve programs, services, policies, and social conditions. This focus of work is referred to as macro social work.

Advocacy is an important aspect of social work. Social workers advocate or raise awareness with and on behalf of their clients and the social work profession on local, state, and national levels.

The following are examples of types of social workers:

Child and family social workers protect vulnerable children and help families in need of assistance. They help families find housing or services, such as childcare, or apply for benefits, such as food stamps. They intervene when children are in danger of neglect or abuse. Some help arrange adoptions, locate foster families, or work to reunite families.

Clinical social workers—also called licensed clinical social workers—diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression. They provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy; they work with clients to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with difficult situations; and they refer clients to other resources or services, such as support groups or other mental health professionals. Clinical social workers can develop treatment plans with the client, doctors, and other healthcare professionals and may adjust the treatment plan if necessary based on their client’s progress. They may also provide mental healthcare to help children and families cope with changes in their lives, such as divorce or other family problems.

Many clinical social workers work in private practice. In these settings, clinical social workers also perform administrative and recordkeeping tasks, such as working with insurance companies in order to receive payment for their services. Some work in a group practice with other social workers or mental health professionals.

School social workers work with teachers, parents, and school administrators to develop plans and strategies to improve students’ academic performance and social development. Students and their families are often referred to social workers to deal with problems such as aggressive behavior, bullying, or frequent absences from school.

Healthcare social workers help patients understand their diagnosis and make the necessary adjustments to their lifestyle, housing, or healthcare. For example, they may help people make the transition from the hospital back to their homes and communities. In addition, they may provide information on services, such as home healthcare or support groups, to help patients manage their illness or disease. Social workers help doctors and other healthcare professionals understand the effects that diseases and illnesses have on patients’ mental and emotional health.

Some healthcare social workers specialize in geriatric social work, hospice and palliative care, or medical social work:

  • Geriatric social workers help senior citizens and their families. They help clients find services, such as programs that provide older adults with meals or with home healthcare. They may provide information about assisted living facilities or nursing homes, or work with older adults in those settings. They help clients and their families make plans for possible health complications or for where clients will live if they can no longer care for themselves.
  • Hospice and palliative care social workers help patients adjust to serious, chronic, or terminal illnesses. Palliative care focuses on relieving or preventing pain and other symptoms associated with serious illness. Hospice is a type of palliative care for people who are dying. Social workers in this setting provide and find services, such as support groups or grief counselors, to help patients and their families cope with the illness or disease.
  • Medical social workers in hospitals help patients and their families by linking patients with resources in the hospital and in their own community. They may work with medical staff to create discharge plans, make referrals to community agencies, facilitate support groups, or conduct followup visits with patients once they have been discharged.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients with mental illnesses or addictions. They provide information on services, such as support groups and 12-step programs, to help clients cope with their illness. Many clinical social workers function in these roles as well.

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How To Become A Mental Health Practitioner

Although most social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and 2 years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting. Clinical social workers must also be licensed in the state in which they practice.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement for entry-level positions. However, some employers may hire workers who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology.

A BSW prepares students for direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. These programs teach students about diverse populations, human behavior, social welfare policy, and ethics in social work. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship.

Some positions require a master’s degree in social work (MSW), which generally takes 2 years to complete. Master’s degree programs in social work prepare students for work in their chosen specialty by developing clinical assessment and management skills. All programs require students to complete a supervised practicum or an internship.

A bachelor’s degree in social work is not required in order to enter a master’s degree program in social work. Although a degree in almost any major is acceptable, courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended. Some programs allow graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work to earn their master’s degree in 1 year.

In 2015, there were more than 500 bachelor’s degree programs and more than 200 master’s degree programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Some universities offer doctoral programs in social work, where students can earn a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) or a Ph.D. Most doctoral programs in social work require students to have a master’s in social work and experience in the field. Many doctor’s students go on to work as postsecondary teachers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states have licensure or certification requirements for nonclinical social workers. Requirements vary by state.

All states require clinical social workers to be licensed. However, some states provide exemptions for clinical social workers who work in government agencies. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires a master’s degree in social work and a minimum of 2 years of supervised clinical experience after graduation. After completing their supervised experience, clinical social workers must pass a clinical exam to be licensed.

Because licensing requirements vary by state, those interested should contact their state board. For more information about regulatory licensure boards by state, contact the Association of Social Work Boards.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Clients talk to social workers about challenges in their lives. To effectively help, social workers must be able to listen to and understand their clients’ needs.

Empathy. Social workers often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different groups of people is essential for social workers. They need strong people skills to foster healthy and productive relationships with their clients and colleagues.

Organizational skills. Social workers must help and manage multiple clients, often assisting with their paperwork or documenting their treatment.

Problem-solving skills. Social workers need to develop practical and innovative solutions to their clients’ problems.

Time-management skills. Social workers often have many clients and administrative responsibilities. They must effectively manage their time to provide adequate service to all of their clients.

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Mental Health Practitioner jobs

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Mental Health Practitioner Demographics

Gender

Female

74.3%

Male

24.1%

Unknown

1.5%
Ethnicity

White

84.2%

Asian

6.8%

Hispanic or Latino

6.1%

Unknown

2.1%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

52.4%

Hmong

9.5%

Somali

7.1%

Japanese

7.1%

French

4.8%

Russian

4.8%

Danish

2.4%

Greek

2.4%

German

2.4%

Tagalog

2.4%

Arabic

2.4%

Italian

2.4%
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Mental Health Practitioner Education

Schools

Saint Cloud State University

12.1%

Minnesota State University - Mankato

8.7%

Winona State University

8.2%

Saint Mary's University

7.2%

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

6.4%

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

6.4%

Saint Catherine University

5.6%

Walden University

5.1%

Argosy University-Twin Cities

4.6%

Capella University

4.6%

University of Minnesota - Duluth

4.1%

Adler Graduate School

3.8%

Metropolitan State University

3.6%

Bemidji State University

3.3%

University of North Dakota

3.1%

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

3.1%

Augsburg College

2.8%

Liberty University

2.6%

College of Saint Scholastica

2.3%

Bethel University (Minnesota)

2.3%
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Majors

Social Work

20.8%

Psychology

15.3%

Counseling Psychology

12.0%

Mental Health Counseling

8.5%

Family Therapy

8.2%

School Counseling

5.6%

Clinical Psychology

4.9%

Human Services

3.5%

Criminal Justice

3.1%

Sociology

3.0%

Business

2.4%

Nursing

2.4%

Education

2.3%

Special Education

1.8%

Public Health

1.4%

Rehabilitation Science

1.1%

Liberal Arts

1.0%

Human Development

1.0%

Occupational Therapy

0.8%

Elementary Education

0.8%
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Degrees

Masters

51.8%

Bachelors

25.5%

Other

9.9%

Doctorate

5.0%

Associate

3.7%

Certificate

3.3%

Diploma

0.5%

License

0.2%
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Real Mental Health Practitioner Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Mental Health Clinical Practitioner Heartland Alliance Chicago, IL Apr 07, 2014 $45,552
Regstered Mental Health Practitioner Counselor Florida Community Alliance, Inc. West Palm Beach, FL Apr 29, 2016 $42,000
Mental Health Practitioner Family Support Services, Inc. New Brighton, MN Sep 12, 2015 $40,697
Mental Health Practitioner Family Support Services Inc. New Brighton, MN Sep 13, 2014 $40,008
Mental Health Practitioner Spence Counseling Center, PC Omaha, NE Jul 01, 2012 $39,131
Mental Health Practitioner Family Support Services Inc. New Brighton, MN Sep 17, 2014 $39,048
Mental Health Practitioner Family Support Services Inc. New Brighton, MN Oct 01, 2012 $39,048
Mental Health Clinical Practitioner Heartland Alliance Chicago, IL Apr 07, 2011 $39,031
Licensed Behavioral Mental Health Practitioner YCO Clinton, Inc. DBA Youthcare of Oklahoma Tulsa, OK Jan 01, 2010 $39,000
Mental Health Clinical Practitioner Heartland Alliance Chicago, IL Nov 10, 2009 $37,728
Mental Health Clinical Practitioner Heartland International Health Center Chicago, IL Sep 15, 2012 $37,624
Mental Health Clinical Practitioner Heartland International Health Center Chicago, IL Oct 01, 2012 $37,624
Mental Health Practitioner Family Support Services, Inc. Duluth, MN Sep 22, 2010 $36,566
Mental Health Practitioner Family Support Services, Inc. Duluth, MN Sep 23, 2010 $36,566
Mental Health Practitioner Family Support Services, Inc. Duluth, MN Oct 01, 2010 $36,566

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Top Skills for A Mental Health Practitioner

IndividualTreatmentPlansMentalHealthServicesCrisisInterventionServicesPersistentMentalIllnessFunctionalAssessmentsBehaviorAnalysisSkillsTrainingSocialSkillsIn-HomeIndependentLivingSkillsArmhsCommunityResourcesDiagnosticAssessmentsSubstanceAbuseCtssDialecticalBehavioralTherapyIllnessManagementCognitiveBehavioralTherapyMentalHealthSymptomsLocus

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Top Mental Health Practitioner Skills

  1. Individual Treatment Plans
  2. Mental Health Services
  3. Crisis Intervention Services
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed and monitored implementation of Individual Treatment Plans.
  • Worked with residential and outpatient clients in medical and mental health services, and diverse populations of local and international communities.
  • Coordinated, developed, facilitated and participated in the provision of the full range of crisis intervention services for assigned caseload.
  • Monitor behavior of residents diagnosed with Serious and Persistent Mental Illness to assure client safety and well being.
  • Created treatment plans, functional assessments, and reports provided to social services and releases of information.

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