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Working As a Mental Health Professional

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

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $42,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Mental Health Professional 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 Professional

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 Professional Career Paths

Mental Health Professional
Therapist Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinician Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Therapist Case Manager Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
10 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Program Director
Unit Director
5 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Program Manager Program Director
Director Of Program Services
8 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Project Manager Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Unit Manager Nursing Director
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Licensed Professional Counselor Clinical Supervisor Director Of Social Services
Resident Services Director
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Clinical Case Manager Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Social Work Supervisor
Director Of Social Work
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Program Manager Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Therapeutic Support Staff Office Manager House Manager
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Therapeutic Support Staff Lead Teacher House Manager
Housing Director
6 Yearsyrs
Outpatient Physical Therapist Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Licensed Professional Counselor Adjunct Professor Nurse Manager
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Outpatient Physical Therapist Clinical Coordinator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Addictions Counselor House Manager Home Manager
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Outpatient Physical Therapist Mental Health Clinician
Mental Health Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Service Provider Integrator
Health Unit Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Mental Health Aide 3.0 years
Health Therapist 2.4 years
Top Careers Before Mental Health Professional
Internship 16.2%
Case Manager 12.2%
Counselor 7.0%
Therapist 6.5%
Volunteer 4.2%
Clinician 3.0%
Teacher 2.9%
Cashier 2.7%
Supervisor 2.6%
Top Careers After Mental Health Professional
Case Manager 13.1%
Therapist 10.7%
Counselor 6.7%
Clinician 5.6%
Internship 5.5%

Do you work as a Mental Health Professional?

Average Yearly Salary
$42,000
Show Salaries
$25,000
Min 10%
$42,000
Median 50%
$42,000
Median 50%
$42,000
Median 50%
$42,000
Median 50%
$42,000
Median 50%
$42,000
Median 50%
$42,000
Median 50%
$71,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Centra
Highest Paying City
Santa Rosa, CA
Highest Paying State
Rhode Island
Avg Experience Level
2.3 years
How much does a Mental Health Professional make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Mental Health Professional in the United States is $42,644 per year or $21 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $25,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $71,000.

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 Sep 11, 2015 $53,500
Mental Health Professional Clinician Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. Anchorage, AK Nov 09, 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

  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:
  • Meet with clinical mental health services staff for the purpose of reviewing client progress and to assure quality treatment planning.
  • Collaborate with treatment team with clinical social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and rehabilitation counselors to develop individualized treatment plans.
  • Collaborated and provided support to law enforcement agencies in meeting the needs of incarcerated individuals in need of crisis intervention.
  • Conducted group therapy sessions on different mental illness topics: depression, personal lost, anxiety, abuse, etc.
  • Provide clinical and administrative consultation with mental health professionals and paraprofessionals treating individuals with multifaceted disorders by utilizing necessary community resources.

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Top 10 Best States for Mental Health Professionals

  1. Rhode Island
  2. Nevada
  3. Delaware
  4. Maine
  5. Connecticut
  6. Idaho
  7. Oregon
  8. Alaska
  9. Washington
  10. New Hampshire
  • (37 jobs)
  • (67 jobs)
  • (33 jobs)
  • (113 jobs)
  • (105 jobs)
  • (51 jobs)
  • (144 jobs)
  • (57 jobs)
  • (249 jobs)
  • (29 jobs)

Mental Health Professional 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 5,236 Mental Health Professional 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 Professional Resume

View Resume Examples

Mental Health Professional Demographics

Gender

Female

66.1%

Male

21.8%

Unknown

12.0%
Ethnicity

White

62.6%

Black or African American

15.8%

Hispanic or Latino

11.7%

Asian

6.7%

Unknown

3.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

75.0%

Portuguese

2.9%

German

2.9%

Japanese

2.9%

Hebrew

1.9%

French

1.9%

Indonesian

1.0%

Dutch

1.0%

Chinese

1.0%

Mandarin

1.0%

Vietnamese

1.0%

Igbo

1.0%

Yoruba

1.0%

Gujarati

1.0%

Persian

1.0%

Hindi

1.0%

Russian

1.0%

Polish

1.0%

Croatian

1.0%
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Mental Health Professional Education

Schools

Liberty University

12.3%

Capella University

10.4%

Southern University at New Orleans

8.5%

Walden University

7.6%

University of Phoenix

6.7%

Webster University

6.6%

Grambling State University

6.2%

Grand Canyon University

4.3%

University of Texas at Arlington

4.1%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

3.9%

Southern University and A & M College

3.3%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

3.2%

Virginia State University

3.1%

Norfolk State University

3.0%

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

3.0%

University of Louisiana at Monroe

3.0%

Virginia Commonwealth University

2.9%

Fayetteville State University

2.8%

Elizabeth City State University

2.7%

North Carolina Central University

2.5%
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Majors

Social Work

22.7%

Psychology

14.8%

School Counseling

11.2%

Counseling Psychology

9.5%

Mental Health Counseling

8.9%

Criminal Justice

5.3%

Sociology

3.6%

Clinical Psychology

3.4%

Human Services

3.4%

Business

3.3%

Family Therapy

3.1%

Rehabilitation Science

2.1%

Education

1.9%

Nursing

1.2%

Health Care Administration

1.1%

Elementary Education

0.9%

Public Administration

0.9%

General Education, Specific Areas

0.9%

Human Development

0.9%

Educational Leadership

0.8%
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Degrees

Masters

60.6%

Bachelors

26.0%

Other

6.3%

Doctorate

3.1%

Certificate

2.0%

Associate

1.7%

Diploma

0.2%

License

0.1%
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Mental Health Professional Videos

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Updated May 19, 2020