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Become A Mental Health Worker

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Working As A Mental Health Worker

  • 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

  • $34,950

    Average Salary

What Does A Mental Health Worker 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 Worker

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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Do you work as a Mental Health Worker?

Mental Health Worker Jobs

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Mental Health Worker Career Paths

Mental Health Worker
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Counselor Case Manager
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Program Director Educator
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Clinician Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Therapist
Clinical Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Staff Nurse Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Therapist Occupational Therapist
Director Of Rehabilitation
8 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Clinical Coordinator Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Social Worker
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Case Manager Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Clinician Medical Social Worker Career Manager
Geriatric Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Registered Nurse Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Psychiatric Technician Licensed Practical Nurse Residence Director
Housing Director
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Technician Specialist Direct Support Professional
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Therapist Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Technician Substance Abuse Counselor Social Worker
Social Services Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Counselor Social Worker
Social Work Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Instructor Program Director
Unit Director
5 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Mental Health Worker?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Mental Health Aide 2.8 years
Milieu Therapist 2.5 years
Support Worker 2.2 years
Residential Worker 2.1 years
Youth Worker 1.7 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 13.8%
Cashier 7.8%
Volunteer 5.8%
Counselor 5.4%
Teacher 2.5%
Top Employers After
Case Manager 12.1%
Internship 7.7%
Therapist 6.9%
Counselor 6.1%
Clinician 4.6%
Supervisor 3.3%
Teacher 3.0%

Do you work as a Mental Health Worker?

Mental Health Worker Demographics

Gender

Female

66.3%

Male

32.0%

Unknown

1.7%
Ethnicity

White

79.6%

Hispanic or Latino

11.3%

Asian

6.7%

Unknown

1.6%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

65.2%

French

9.5%

Portuguese

3.8%

Italian

3.0%

German

2.7%

Hindi

2.3%

Chinese

1.9%

Japanese

1.9%

Mandarin

1.5%

Russian

1.5%

Arabic

1.5%

Urdu

1.1%

Romanian

0.8%

Cantonese

0.8%

Tagalog

0.8%

Swedish

0.4%

Vietnamese

0.4%

Samoan

0.4%

Dutch

0.4%

Korean

0.4%
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Mental Health Worker Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

15.0%

Liberty University

7.9%

University of Alabama

6.6%

Capella University

6.0%

Walden University

5.9%

Towson University

5.7%

University of Southern California

5.6%

Shelton State Community College

4.4%

Pennsylvania State University

4.2%

Kaplan University

4.1%

Grand Canyon University

4.1%

Fordham University

3.9%

Temple University

3.6%

Southern Connecticut State University

3.5%

University of Utah

3.5%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

3.3%

Saint Cloud State University

3.3%

National University

3.2%

San Diego State University

3.2%

Ashford University

3.0%
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Majors

Psychology

21.8%

Social Work

16.3%

Nursing

8.5%

Criminal Justice

6.6%

Mental Health Counseling

5.9%

Counseling Psychology

5.5%

Business

4.9%

Human Services

4.0%

School Counseling

3.9%

Sociology

3.8%

Clinical Psychology

2.9%

Education

2.3%

Health Care Administration

2.2%

Nursing Assistants

1.9%

Medical Assisting Services

1.8%

Human Development

1.8%

Liberal Arts

1.7%

General Studies

1.5%

Family Therapy

1.5%

Special Education

1.5%
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Degrees

Bachelors

32.8%

Masters

32.2%

Other

17.6%

Associate

8.7%

Certificate

4.5%

Doctorate

2.4%

Diploma

1.2%

License

0.5%
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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Mental Health Worker Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County San Jose, CA Sep 04, 2013 $70,040
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers California State Prison-Sacramento CA May 06, 2009 $66,612 -
$80,964
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers New York State, Office of Mental Health D/B/A Creedmoor Psychiatric Center Queensbury, NY May 13, 2011 $62,918
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Sunset Park Health Council New York, NY Jul 10, 2014 $60,044
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Youth Connection of Ventura County (Casa Pacifica) Camarillo, CA Nov 13, 2007 $60,000
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Eliot Community Human Services Salem, MA Aug 02, 2011 $60,000
Mental Health Social Workers Patton State Hospital Patton Village, CA Nov 15, 2007 $57,324
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers University Settlement New York, NY Nov 01, 2011 $57,000
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Creedmoor Psychiatric Center Queensbury, NY May 09, 2011 $55,168
Mental Health Social Worker Instituto Familiar de La Raza, Inc. San Francisco, CA Sep 15, 2010 $55,000
Mental Health Worker Queens Child Guidance Center, Inc. NY Sep 15, 2015 $53,000
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Transitional Living Center Inc. Devils Lake, ND Jun 08, 2011 $53,000
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Clifford W. Beers Guidance Clinic, Inc. New Haven, CT Jun 24, 2011 $52,788
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Absolute Health, Inc. Laplace, LA Jun 13, 2014 $52,175
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers La Frontera Center Inc. Tucson, AZ Sep 15, 2010 $44,799
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker Interfaith Works Rockville, MD Nov 01, 2011 $44,720
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker Interfaith Works, Inc. Rockville, MD Nov 01, 2011 $44,720
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker Interfaith Works Gaithersburg, MD Mar 01, 2014 $43,867
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Norman Regional Health System Norman, OK Feb 11, 2010 $43,347
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Riverside Community Care Norwood, MA Sep 18, 2009 $43,180
Mental Health & Substance Abuse Social Worker Telecare Corporation/Garfield Neurobehavioral Cent Oakland, CA Oct 21, 2009 $43,046
Mental Health Worker North Shore-LIJ Health System New Hyde Park, NY Oct 01, 2010 $37,733
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Asian Community Mental Health Board Oakland, CA Dec 06, 2010 $37,608
Mental Health & Substance Abuse Social Worker Queens Child Guidance Center NY Feb 06, 2008 $37,170
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker Community Counseling Centers of Chicago Chicago, IL Aug 22, 2008 $37,054
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker Interfaith Works Gaithersburg, MD Sep 17, 2014 $37,024
Mental Health Social Worker Salisbury Behavioral Health, Inc. Glenside, PA Oct 01, 2013 $36,773 -
$38,693
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers University Settlement New York, NY Jan 05, 2011 $36,608
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Friends of Grace Seniors Inc. Englewood, NJ Dec 16, 2010 $36,608

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Top Skills for A Mental Health Worker

MentalHealthIssuesCrisisInterventionIndividualTreatmentPlansPatientSafetyDailyLivingSkillsVitalSignsMentalIllnessSubstanceAbuseGroupTherapySessionsDirectPatientCareDailyLivingActivitiesLifeSkillsADLDirectSupervisionTherapeuticEnvironmentSafeEnvironmentCPRSocialSkillsRecreationalActivitiesSocialWorkers

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  1. Mental Health Issues
  2. Crisis Intervention
  3. Individual Treatment Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Interact with and oversee residents who have been diagnosed with a variety of psychiatric diagnoses and/or mental health issues.
  • Implement deescalating and Non-violent Crisis Intervention techniques.
  • Program Manager to assigned residents with mental illness to provide support and care so individual treatment plans and goals are met.
  • Assessed and maintained patient safety according to unit and hospital guidelines.
  • Educated residents on daily living skills and mental health development and monitored their safety.

How Would You Rate Working As a Mental Health Worker?

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Top Mental Health Worker Employers

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Mental Health Worker Videos

a day in the life of a mental health nurse

Mental Health Counselor, Career Video from drkit.org

A Day in the Life of NHSC Mental Health and Behavioral Health Care Providers