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Become A Mental Health Specialist

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Working As A Mental Health Specialist

  • 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

  • $45,572

    Average Salary

What Does A Mental Health Specialist 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 Specialist

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 Specialist Jobs

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Mental Health Specialist Career Paths

Mental Health Specialist
Program Manager Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Child Welfare Specialist Case Manager Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Therapist Program Director
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Professional Clinician Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Program Director Clinical Director
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Program Director Registered Nurse Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
10 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Therapist Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Therapist Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Clinician Therapist Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Professional Program Manager Service Director
Director Of Support Services
10 Yearsyrs
Facilitator Program Coordinator Clinician
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Staff Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Service Coordinator Facilitator Direct Support Professional
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Specialist Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Program Director Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
10 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Specialist Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Service Coordinator Driver Direct Support Professional
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Facilitator Substance Abuse Counselor Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Mental Health Specialist?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Mental Health Aide 2.8 years
Youth Counselor 1.8 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 15.2%
Counselor 6.5%
Cashier 5.6%
Volunteer 4.6%
Therapist 4.1%
Teacher 3.6%
Supervisor 2.6%
Top Employers After
Case Manager 12.5%
Therapist 9.0%
Internship 7.0%
Counselor 7.0%
Clinician 5.6%
Teacher 3.5%

Do you work as a Mental Health Specialist?

Mental Health Specialist Demographics

Gender

Female

67.7%

Male

29.7%

Unknown

2.6%
Ethnicity

White

61.7%

Hispanic or Latino

13.9%

Black or African American

13.6%

Asian

7.0%

Unknown

3.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

66.5%

French

9.2%

Portuguese

3.2%

Russian

2.2%

Cantonese

2.2%

Mandarin

1.6%

Vietnamese

1.6%

Italian

1.6%

German

1.6%

Polish

1.6%

Hmong

1.1%

Greek

1.1%

Tagalog

1.1%

Chinese

1.1%

Japanese

1.1%

Arabic

1.1%

Marshallese

0.5%

Sami

0.5%

Telugu

0.5%

Turkish

0.5%
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Mental Health Specialist Education

Schools

Grambling State University

12.8%

University of Phoenix

9.8%

Southern University and A & M College

7.3%

Walden University

6.8%

Liberty University

6.4%

Capella University

6.3%

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

5.0%

Southern University at New Orleans

4.6%

Grand Canyon University

4.5%

Louisiana Tech University

4.4%

Ashford University

3.8%

University of Southern California

3.8%

West Virginia University

3.8%

Southeastern Louisiana University

3.5%

University of Cincinnati

3.3%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

3.3%

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

3.1%

National University

2.6%

University of Alaska Anchorage

2.6%

Ohio State University

2.5%
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Majors

Psychology

22.4%

Social Work

17.7%

Counseling Psychology

7.6%

Mental Health Counseling

7.0%

Criminal Justice

6.7%

School Counseling

6.2%

Business

4.7%

Sociology

4.1%

Nursing

3.6%

Clinical Psychology

3.3%

Human Services

3.0%

Education

2.3%

Family Therapy

2.0%

Human Development

1.7%

Health Care Administration

1.6%

Rehabilitation Science

1.5%

Elementary Education

1.3%

Liberal Arts

1.3%

General Studies

1.1%

Communication

1.0%
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Degrees

Masters

41.6%

Bachelors

32.8%

Other

12.7%

Associate

5.3%

Doctorate

3.6%

Certificate

3.1%

Diploma

0.7%

License

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Mental Health Specialist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Mental Health Specialist International Rescue Committee, Inc. New York, NY Jan 05, 2016 $55,000 -
$75,000
Mental Health Rehab Specialist Gardner Family Care Corporation San Jose, CA Apr 02, 2010 $53,172
Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist The Education Alliance New York, NY Apr 01, 2014 $50,000
Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist Gardner Family Care Corporation San Jose, CA Nov 30, 2016 $47,472 -
$55,033
Mental Health Specialist Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Jan 10, 2016 $46,509
Mental Health Specialist Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Jul 13, 2016 $46,000
Mental Health Specialist Children's Institute, Inc. Los Angeles, CA Jan 11, 2015 $45,000
Mental Health Specialist Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 08, 2016 $45,000
Mental Health Specialist Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Oct 01, 2015 $43,138
Mental Health Consultation Specialist Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Mar 24, 2014 $42,827 -
$49,711
Mental Health Consultation Specialist Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 29, 2014 $42,827 -
$49,711
Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist Community Connections, Inc. Washington, DC Feb 04, 2011 $42,230
Mental Health Specialist Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Sep 12, 2015 $41,000
Mental Health Specialist Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Jun 18, 2015 $41,000
Mental Health Assessment Specialist Safehaus, Inc. Warren, MI Oct 01, 2011 $40,000
Mental Health Assessment Specialist Safehaus, Inc. Warren, MI Oct 01, 2014 $40,000
Mental Health Specialist Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center Cincinnati, OH Apr 02, 2016 $38,422
Mental Health Specialist Union of Pan Asian Communities, Inc. San Diego, CA Oct 24, 2014 $35,360
Mental Health Wellness and Recovery Specialist Asian Pacific Community Counseling Sacramento, CA Nov 01, 2011 $34,080
Mental Health Specialist Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 22, 2014 $33,309 -
$43,159
Mental Health Specialist Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center Cincinnati, OH Aug 16, 2016 $33,225

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Top Skills for A Mental Health Specialist

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  1. Mental Health
  2. Treatment Plans
  3. Behavioral Issues
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provided information about mental health and addiction services.
  • Develop comprehensive and individualized treatment plans for children and their families by completing necessary assessments.
  • Provided behavioral interventions and assisted parents and teachers by creating individualized service plans to address a variety of behavioral issues.
  • Supervised and instructed independent living skills to neglected, abused and mentally compromised children at a residential treatment facility.
  • Welcomed and treated individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders as having two primary conditions each requiring attention.

How Would You Rate Working As a Mental Health Specialist?

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Top Mental Health Specialist Employers

Jobs From Top Mental Health Specialist Employers

Mental Health Specialist Videos

Mental Health Counselor, Career Video from drkit.org

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