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Become A Mental Health Professional

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Working As A Mental Health Professional

  • 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

  • $43,460

    Average Salary

What Does A Mental Health Professional 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 Professional

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 Professional jobs

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Mental Health Professional Career Paths

Mental Health Professional
Psychotherapist Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Licensed Professional Counselor Clinical Director
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Program Manager General Manager Specialist
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Day Camp Counselor Mental Health Counselor Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Career Coordinator Assistant Director Of Nursing Case Manager
Clinical Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Program Director
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Director Of Social Services Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Mental Health Counselor Therapist
Clinical Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Outpatient Physical Therapist Clinical Social Worker Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Program Director Service Director
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Licensed Professional Counselor Family Counselor Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Emergency Services Director
8 Yearsyrs
Director Of Social Services Clinician Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Career Coordinator Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Adjunct Instructor Mental Health Counselor
Mental Health Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Day Camp Counselor Program Coordinator Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Clinical Supervisor Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Outpatient Physical Therapist Clinician Medical Social Worker
Social Work Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
School Counselor Mental Health Specialist Community Support Specialist
Targeted Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Family Therapist 2.8 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 15.7%
Case Manager 13.0%
Therapist 6.8%
Counselor 6.6%
Volunteer 3.2%
Teacher 3.0%
Top Employers After
Case Manager 13.2%
Therapist 10.3%
Counselor 6.7%
Internship 6.1%
Clinician 4.2%

Mental Health Professional Demographics

Gender

Female

74.2%

Male

23.1%

Unknown

2.7%
Ethnicity

White

82.6%

Hispanic or Latino

8.0%

Asian

7.2%

Unknown

1.5%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

67.1%

French

7.1%

Japanese

4.3%

Persian

2.9%

Indonesian

1.4%

Dutch

1.4%

Chinese

1.4%

Vietnamese

1.4%

German

1.4%

Igbo

1.4%

Yoruba

1.4%

Hebrew

1.4%

Gujarati

1.4%

Hindi

1.4%

Mandarin

1.4%

Arabic

1.4%

Italian

1.4%
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Mental Health Professional Education

Schools

Liberty University

13.8%

Capella University

11.7%

University of Phoenix

7.1%

Walden University

7.1%

Grambling State University

6.9%

Webster University

6.3%

Grand Canyon University

6.0%

Southern University at New Orleans

5.8%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

3.5%

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

3.4%

University of Louisiana at Monroe

3.4%

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

3.1%

University of Texas at Arlington

2.9%

Virginia State University

2.9%

Norfolk State University

2.8%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

2.8%

Virginia Commonwealth University

2.8%

Stephen F Austin State University

2.8%

Elizabeth City State University

2.6%

Old Dominion University

2.3%
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Majors

Social Work

21.4%

Psychology

14.5%

School Counseling

11.7%

Counseling Psychology

10.0%

Mental Health Counseling

8.5%

Criminal Justice

5.0%

Clinical Psychology

3.8%

Family Therapy

3.5%

Sociology

3.4%

Human Services

3.3%

Business

3.2%

Education

2.3%

Rehabilitation Science

1.9%

Health Care Administration

1.3%

Elementary Education

1.1%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.1%

Nursing

1.1%

Educational Leadership

1.1%

Human Resources Management

1.1%

Human Development

0.9%
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Degrees

Masters

62.3%

Bachelors

24.0%

Other

6.3%

Doctorate

3.3%

Certificate

2.4%

Associate

1.3%

Diploma

0.3%

License

0.1%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Mental Health Professional Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Mental Health Professional Creoks Mental Health Services, Inc. Claremore, OK Oct 01, 2012 $70,720
Mental Health Professional New Life Cognitive Behavioral Services, Inc. Reading, PA May 01, 2010 $62,610
Mental Health Professional New Life Cognitive Behavioral Services, Inc. Reading, PA May 10, 2010 $62,610
Mental Health Professional Clinician Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. Anchorage, AK Nov 09, 2015 $53,500
Mental Health Professional Clinician Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. Anchorage, AK Sep 11, 2015 $53,500
Mental Health Professional Recover Health Services LLC Saint Anthony, MN May 15, 2015 $52,175
Mental Health Professional Recover Health Resources LLC Saint Anthony, MN May 15, 2015 $52,175
Mental Health Professionals-Therapist AsociaciÓN de PuertorriqueÑOS En Marcha, Inc. Philadelphia, PA Sep 01, 2010 $52,000
Mental Health Professional New Life Cognitive Behavioral Services, Inc. Reading, PA Sep 26, 2012 $41,740
Qualified Mental Health Professional (Qmhp) Asian Health & Service Center Portland, OR Jan 08, 2016 $41,600
Out Patient Mental Health Professional Creoks Mental Health Services, Inc. Tulsa, OK Sep 09, 2014 $40,000
Qualified Mental Health Professional Hutchinson Regional Medical Center Hutchinson, KS Jan 01, 2013 $39,083
Mental Health Professional Creoks Mental Health Services, Inc. Claremore, OK Oct 01, 2012 $36,000
Qualified Mental Health Professional Asian Health & Service Center Portland, OR Aug 12, 2014 $34,018
Qualified Mental Health Professional Asian Health & Service Center Portland, OR Jul 07, 2012 $34,018
Qualified Mental Health Professional Asian Health and Service Center Portland, OR Jun 22, 2010 $33,016 -
$19
Qualified Mental Health Professional Branches of Hope, LLC Martinsville, VA Sep 20, 2013 $31,305
Qualified Mental Health Professional Asian Health and Service Center Portland, OR Jun 22, 2010 $31,305

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Top Skills for A Mental Health Professional

MentalHealthServicesCrisisInterventionServicesIndividualTreatmentPlansSevereMentalIllnessSubstanceAbuseChildServicePlansCommunityResourcesMedicationManagementSkillsTrainingFamilyTherapySocialSkillsAngerManagementDailyLivingMHPCrisisSituationsSkillBuildingCognitiveBehavioralTherapyDischargePlanningTreatmentGoals

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Top Mental Health Professional Skills

  1. Mental Health Services
  2. Crisis Intervention Services
  3. Individual Treatment Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Supervised four staff members in the coordination of a vast array of adult mental health services.
  • Provided crisis intervention services to patients who are a danger to themselves or others.
  • Meet with patients at regular intervals to discuss progress and make appropriate modifications to individual treatment plans.
  • Coordinated services for adults and children living with intellectual/developmental disabilities, autism, and severe mental illness.
  • Facilitated group and individual therapy for Substance Abuse Services.

Top Mental Health Professional Employers

Mental Health Professional Videos

Legal and Ethical Issues for Mental Health Professionals Video

Mental Health Practitioner

The Shocking Reality of Mental Health Professional's Continued Gross Ignorance - Intake Example

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