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Average Salary
$46,360
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
11%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
33,846
Job Openings

Mental Health Therapist Careers

Mental health therapists support people with mental health issues. The clientele is as diverse as can be, from troubled teens to dysfunctional families and adults. Mental health therapists assess cases and provide counseling and therapy to resolve communication problems or internal conflicts.

Mental health therapists might work in schools, hospitals, or human service agencies. Sometimes they operate a private practice, but whatever the case, their work is rooted in the community, being aware of every available resource and support service.

If you are considering a job as a mental health therapist, being compassionate has to be your priority. You have to know how to communicate and, perhaps more importantly, how to listen. If you are able to handle the emotional weight of this position, you are in for a highly rewarding profession.

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.

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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Average Salary
$46,360
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
11%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
33,846
Job Openings

Mental Health Therapist Career Paths

Top Careers Before Mental Health Therapist

Therapist
10.8 %

Top Careers After Mental Health Therapist

Therapist
18.1 %

Mental Health Therapist Jobs You Might Like

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Average Salary for a Mental Health Therapist

Mental Health Therapists in America make an average salary of $46,360 per year or $22 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $60,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $35,000 per year.
Average Salary
$46,360
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Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
Campbell, CA
Salary Range50k - 75k$61k$61,473
Washington, DC
Salary Range47k - 75k$60k$59,988
Camden, NJ
Salary Range44k - 69k$55k$55,396
Oakton, VA
Salary Range42k - 68k$54k$54,072
Vancouver, WA
Salary Range45k - 59k$52k$51,721
Medford, OR
Salary Range43k - 60k$51k$51,405
$24k
$75k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Bilingual Homebased Mental Health Therapist II-License Preferred
Bilingual Homebased Mental Health Therapist II-License Preferred
Mental Health Center of Denver
Mental Health Center of Denver
05/31/2021
05/31/2021
$45,91405/31/2021
$45,914
Mental Health Therapist II, III or Licensed
Mental Health Therapist II, III or Licensed
Sea Mar Community Health Centers
Sea Mar Community Health Centers
05/28/2021
05/28/2021
$51,60405/28/2021
$51,604
Bilingual School-Based Mental Health Therapist
Bilingual School-Based Mental Health Therapist
Seneca Center
Seneca Center
05/27/2021
05/27/2021
$60,50005/27/2021
$60,500
Mental Health Therapist II-License Preferred-Emerson Street
Mental Health Therapist II-License Preferred-Emerson Street
Mental Health Center of Denver
Mental Health Center of Denver
05/26/2021
05/26/2021
$45,91405/26/2021
$45,914
School Based Mental Health Therapist
School Based Mental Health Therapist
Merakey
Merakey
05/24/2021
05/24/2021
$52,17505/24/2021
$52,175
See More Recent Salaries

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Mental Health Therapist Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Mental Health Therapist. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Mental Health Therapist Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Mental Health Therapist 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.

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Mental Health Therapist Demographics

Gender

female

71.4 %

male

24.2 %

unknown

4.4 %

Ethnicity

White

75.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

12.8 %

Black or African American

6.1 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

74.2 %

Portuguese

4.3 %

French

4.0 %
See More Demographics

Mental Health Therapist Education

Majors

Degrees

Masters

47.4 %

Bachelors

42.4 %

Associate

3.9 %

Top Colleges for Mental Health Therapists

1. California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$6,798
Enrollment
31,503

2. Hunter College of the City University of New York

New York, NY • Public

In-State Tuition
$7,182
Enrollment
16,205

3. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

4. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,948
Enrollment
17,238

5. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

6. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

7. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

8. SUNY at Albany

Albany, NY • Public

In-State Tuition
$10,011
Enrollment
13,434

9. San Jose State University

San Jose, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$7,796
Enrollment
27,125

10. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216
See More Education Info

Online Courses For Mental Health Therapist That You May Like

Addiction & Mental Health (Dual Diagnosis) Integrative 12hrs
udemy
4.6
(1,075)

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Interventions: Drug & Alcohol Addiction & Mental Health - Integrative Holistic Approach...

Certificate in Integrative Mental Health
ed2go

(20 contact hours) Learn a groundbreaking, holistic and integrative approach to treating mental health problems. This course will provide complementary methods of care which are combined with medications and psychotherapy to effectively address the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of individuals with a variety of mental health conditions...

Managing mental health issues in the workplace
udemy
4.2
(856)

Learn how to support your own mental health and wellbeing and that of your staff...

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Top Skills For a Mental Health Therapist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 22.4% of mental health therapists listed mental health on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and emotional skills are important as well.

Best States For a Mental Health Therapist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a mental health therapist. The best states for people in this position are Nevada, California, North Dakota, and Delaware. Mental health therapists make the most in Nevada with an average salary of $59,158. Whereas in California and North Dakota, they would average $58,911 and $57,501, respectively. While mental health therapists would only make an average of $55,331 in Delaware, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. California

Total Mental Health Therapist Jobs:
8,932
Highest 10% Earn:
$86,000
Location Quotient:
1.29
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. North Dakota

Total Mental Health Therapist Jobs:
266
Highest 10% Earn:
$82,000
Location Quotient:
1.2
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Delaware

Total Mental Health Therapist Jobs:
314
Highest 10% Earn:
$84,000
Location Quotient:
1.05
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Mental Health Therapist Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ mental health therapists and discovered their number of mental health therapist opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Pacific Clinics was the best, especially with an average salary of $54,051. Kokomo Healthcare Center follows up with an average salary of $50,300, and then comes Youth Villages with an average of $51,585. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a mental health therapist. The employers include Heywood Hospital, Aptihealth, and Tava Health

1. Pacific Clinics
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$54,051
Mental Health Therapists Hired: 
98+
2. CommuniCare
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$50,300
Mental Health Therapists Hired: 
38+
3. Youth Villages
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$51,585
Mental Health Therapists Hired: 
36+
4. South Bay Community Services
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$55,063
Mental Health Therapists Hired: 
27+
5. LifeWorks NW
3.5
Avg. Salary: 
$50,305
Mental Health Therapists Hired: 
26+
6. Fairfax Water
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$48,040
Mental Health Therapists Hired: 
25+

Mental Health Therapist Videos

Updated October 2, 2020