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Become A Mental Health Therapist

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Working As A Mental Health Therapist

  • 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

  • $43,263

    Average Salary

What Does A Mental Health Therapist 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 Therapist

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 Therapist jobs

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Mental Health Therapist Career Paths

Mental Health Therapist
In Home Therapist Clinician Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director Case Manager
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Program Director Educator
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Consultant Adjunct Professor Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Nurse Practitioner Registered Nurse Supervisor
Clinical Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Therapist
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Director Of Social Services Therapist
Clinical Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Clinical Manager Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Social Worker
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Specialist Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Career Manager
Geriatric Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Co-Owner Case Manager
Housing Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Medical Social Worker Director Of Social Services Therapist
Lead Therapist
5 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Instructor Instructor Case Manager
Mental Health Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Licensed Professional Counselor Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Specialist Therapist Medical Social Worker
Social Work Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Medical Social Worker Clinical Social Worker
Social Work Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Case Manager Child Protective Investigator
Targeted Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Instructor Service Director Therapist
Therapist And Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Psychotherapist 4.1 years
Senior Clinician 3.9 years
Lead Therapist 2.9 years
Clinical Therapist 2.9 years
Mental Health Aide 2.8 years
Family Therapist 2.8 years
Therapist 2.6 years
Clinical Counselor 2.6 years
Clinician 2.5 years
Group Therapist 2.4 years
Primary Therapist 2.3 years
Health Therapist 2.3 years
In Home Therapist 2.0 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 14.3%
Case Manager 11.1%
Therapist 8.7%
Counselor 6.6%
Clinician 3.1%
Teacher 2.6%
Volunteer 2.6%
Top Employers After
Therapist 13.4%
Counselor 6.6%
Clinician 4.6%
Internship 3.0%

Mental Health Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

76.3%

Male

21.9%

Unknown

1.8%
Ethnicity

White

80.9%

Hispanic or Latino

9.7%

Asian

7.1%

Unknown

1.5%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

74.8%

French

5.2%

Portuguese

4.3%

Arabic

1.9%

Mandarin

1.4%

Russian

1.4%

German

1.4%

Hindi

1.0%

Thai

1.0%

Cantonese

1.0%

Tagalog

1.0%

Italian

1.0%

Chinese

1.0%

Amharic

1.0%

Swedish

0.5%

Swahili

0.5%

Sami

0.5%

Icelandic

0.5%

Vietnamese

0.5%

Cherokee

0.5%
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Mental Health Therapist Education

Schools

Capella University

12.9%

Walden University

7.6%

Liberty University

7.6%

University of Southern California

6.3%

University of Phoenix

6.0%

Jackson State University

5.0%

Portland State University

4.9%

University of Pittsburgh -

4.6%

Virginia Commonwealth University

4.5%

Wayne State University

4.3%

Webster University

4.3%

University of Utah

4.2%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

3.9%

Michigan State University

3.6%

University of Maryland - Baltimore

3.6%

Troy University

3.5%

Nova Southeastern University

3.5%

West Virginia University

3.3%

University of Louisville

3.2%

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

3.2%
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Majors

Social Work

28.6%

Mental Health Counseling

13.2%

Counseling Psychology

12.9%

School Counseling

12.7%

Psychology

8.3%

Clinical Psychology

5.7%

Family Therapy

4.5%

Education

2.4%

Rehabilitation Science

2.3%

Human Services

1.7%

Business

1.3%

Criminal Justice

1.1%

Nursing

1.0%

Sociology

1.0%

Educational Leadership

0.7%

Human Resources Management

0.7%

Human Development

0.6%

Public Health

0.5%

Elementary Education

0.5%

Special Education

0.5%
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Degrees

Masters

75.7%

Other

7.0%

Doctorate

7.0%

Bachelors

6.8%

Certificate

2.1%

Associate

1.0%

License

0.3%

Diploma

0.1%
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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Mental Health Therapist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Mental Health Therapist Northern Virginia Family Service Falls Church, VA Jan 06, 2014 $59,709
Mental Health Therapist Northern Virginia Family Service Falls Church, VA Jan 07, 2011 $56,641
Mental Health Therapist The Pious Society of The Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, Inc. Pompano Beach, FL Sep 17, 2016 $54,000
Mental Health Therapist Latino Community Development Agency Oklahoma City, OK Aug 15, 2016 $52,175
Mental Health Therapist Latino Community Development Agency Oklahoma City, OK Jan 10, 2016 $52,175
Mental Health Professionls-Therapist Asociacion de Puertorriquenos En Marcha, Inc. Philadelphia, PA Sep 16, 2011 $52,000
Mental Health Therapist Catholic Community Services of Western Washington Olympia, WA Aug 08, 2016 $50,067 -
$68,850
Mental Health Therapist Middle Peninsula Juvenile Detention Commission Williamsburg, VA Aug 24, 2011 $50,000
Mental Health Therapist (Qmhp) La Clinica Del Valle Family Health Care Center, In Medford, OR Aug 14, 2012 $48,672 -
$58,885
Mental Health Therapist (Qmhp) La Clinica Del Valle Family Health Care Center, In Medford, OR Jun 02, 2011 $48,672 -
$58,885
Mental Health Therapist University Settlement Society of New York New York, NY Jul 13, 2013 $48,000
Mental Health Therapist Ozarks Medical Center West Plains, MO May 22, 2014 $43,181
Mental Health Therapist Lehigh Valley Community Mental Health Ctr. Allentown, PA May 11, 2014 $43,077
Mental Health Therapist Lehigh Valley Community Mental Health Ctr. Allentown, PA Mar 11, 2014 $43,077
Mental Health Therapist Choices Counseling Services, P.C. Valparaiso, IN Apr 01, 2011 $41,740
Bilingual Mental Health Therapist Renacer Latino, Inc. Waukegan, IL Jan 15, 2014 $41,740
Mental Health/Substance Abuse Therapist CMET, LLC Fort Lauderdale, FL Sep 01, 2012 $41,740
Mental Health Therapist Center for Family Development Eugene, OR Jun 21, 2014 $36,500
Outpatient Mental Health Therapist Center for Family Development Eugene, OR Jun 20, 2011 $36,500
Mental Health Therapist Citywide Community Counseling Services Inc. Philadelphia, PA Mar 30, 2016 $36,338
Mental Health Therapist Northeast Community Mental Health Center Philadelphia, PA May 29, 2012 $36,317
Mental Health Therapist Northeast Community Mental Health Center Philadelphia, PA Sep 01, 2012 $36,317
Mental Health Therapist The Florida Center for Early Childhood, Inc. Sarasota, FL Dec 12, 2011 $36,000
Mental Health Therapist Wyandot Center, Inc. Kansas City, KS Sep 28, 2012 $36,000
Mental Health Therapist Korean Community Service Center of Greater Washing Gaithersburg, MD Sep 16, 2014 $35,479

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Top Skills for A Mental Health Therapist

IndividualTreatmentPlansMentalHealthServicesCrisisInterventionServicesSubstanceAbuseIssuesDualDiagnosisIntakeAssessmentsIndividualTherapyChildTraumaGroupTherapySessionsPsychosocialAssessmentsMentalIllnessDischargePlanningCommunityResourcesAngerManagementCognitiveBehavioralTherapyMentalHealthTherapyAlcoholMentalHealthAssessmentsDomesticViolence

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Top Mental Health Therapist 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:
  • Provided mental health screening, assessment, and individual treatment plans.
  • Conducted case management, Behavioral Health Court Assessments, and representation of the jail mental health services to the court.
  • Performed on call emergency crisis intervention services.
  • Provide treatment planning and therapeutic intervention for individuals with various mental illness and/or substance abuse issues.
  • Led intensive outpatient therapeutic groups for dual diagnosis adults.

Top Mental Health Therapist Employers

Mental Health Therapist Videos

Mental Health: What Happens in Counseling?

Mental Health Counselor, Career Video from drkit.org

How to become a mental health professional

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