Mental Health Counselor
Mental health issues tend to be multi-faceted. In light of this, mental health counselors are trained to treat their clients in a holistic manner, working in tandem with professionals in education, medicine, and related fields to get to the complex roots of each individual client’s unique struggles.
Their methods of assisting clients are diverse, as are the locations in which mental health counselors work. They might treat substance abuse at a rehabilitation center or provide in-home family counseling, for example.
Important Facts About This Occupation
Median Salary $40,850 per year
Similar Occupations Social worker; physician; psychologist
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 29% growth
Key Skills Interpersonal skills; Compassion; Listening skills; Organizational skills; Speaking skills
Duties and Responsibilities
Mental health counselors help patients work through personal issues like anger management, depression, suicidal thoughts, aging, parenting, self-image, relational problems, stress, or addiction. They provide psychotherapy, assessment, diagnosis, substance abuse treatment, and crisis management. Field Specialties Mental health counselors handle records and documentation of their cases and use these to collaborate with other professionals.
Common specialties are substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation counseling, school counseling, career counseling, marriage counseling, and family counseling. Mental health counselors may choose to specialize in a particular patient group, such as children, adolescents, adults, the elderly, couples, or families.
Most mental health counselors in the U.S. work in outpatient and residential care centers, individual and family services, and local governments. They are trained in a variety of therapeutic techniques used to address issues, including depression, anxiety, addiction and substance abuse, suicidal impulses, stress, problems with self-esteem, and grief. They also help with job and career concerns, educational decisions, issues related to mental and emotional health, and family, parenting, marital, or other relationship problems.
Mental Health Counselors also continue to play a growing role in the military mental health crisis, helping military personnel and their families deal with issues such as PTSD. Mental Health Counselors often work closely with other mental health specialists, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, and school counselors. In the U.S. states, Mental Health Counselors diagnose as well as treat mental illness, though the scope of practice for mental health practitioners varies from state to state.
A typical day for a counselor begins by reviewing upcoming scheduled patients and meeting with those patients. After each patient meeting, a recorded assessment of progress is noted in their patient file. Follow-up calls with other professionals to discuss patient care and treatment may be necessary. Meeting with hospitalized, institutionalized, or home-bound patients may also take place during the work day. Patient paperwork and notations to fellow professionals often require additional time in the office or at home.
A licensed mental health counselor spends many years training for this position. After successful completion of a master’s degree in mental health, a prospective counselor then performs two years of supervised clinical experience. Then, the candidate takes a licensing exam to receive the title of licensed mental health counselor.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, a mental health counselor completes a master’s degree in counseling. In a typical program, students take courses in psychotherapy, diagnosis, psychological assessment and testing, psychopathology, group counseling, and research. They also study counseling theory, human development, career development, lifestyles, and social contexts.
Training and Certification After completing a master’s degree in counseling, candidates gain at least two years of clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed mental health counselor, according to the American Mental Health Counselor’s Association. Upon successful completion of a certification test, the candidate is licensed as a mental health counselor.
Mental health counselors work with community agencies, substance abuse centers, hospitals, employee assistance programs, health care organizations, corporations, youth homes, and independent practices. They work with other professionals, including social workers, psychiatrists, and school counselors.
Licensed Mental Health Counselors
Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) are highly qualified, Master’s level, 3rd party reimbursable, cost-effective, public service oriented mental health practitioners. LMHCs work in private practice settings, and agencies, clinics, schools, and hospitals, providing quality mental health services for consumers. Licensed Mental Health Counselors are prepared to assist clients who are coping with a wide variety of problems and concerns.
Licensed Mental Health Counselors specialize in many areas such as the emotional problems of anxiety and phobias, depression, child and spouse abuse, family conflict, eating disorders, sexual dysfunctions, drug and alcohol abuse, crisis intervention, job and career issues, personal growth, bereavement, and crime victimization.
LMHCs have rigorous clinical training which includes clearly specified, comprehensive, educational and field training requirements:
• A Masters degree in counseling or a related field
• 60 credit hours in total
• 700 hours of pre-masters supervised clinical practicum and internship training
• 3360 hours of post-masters, supervised, clinical work experience prior to licensure
• A passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counselors Examination (NCMHCE)
• Training supervisors of LMHCs must have five years post-masters clinical experience
Importantly, LMHCs must continue their education and training to renew their license. They must obtain 30 hours of continuing education credits every two years. Additionally, to ensure the highest quality of care and protection for mental health services consumers, there are National Standards of Professional Practice and Ethical Standards to which LMHCs must conform.
Licensing requirements vary from state to state. In all states, mental health counseling licensure is required to independently practice, but can be practiced without a license if under the close supervision of a licensed practitioner. Licensing titles for mental health counselors vary from state to state: Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), and various forms of these titles may list differently per state statutes. The titled “Mental Health Counselor” (or variation thereof) is a protected title and a violation of state laws for persons to hold themselves as such without the proper credential.
“About LMHCs | MAMHCA” . n.p., 1 Jan. 1970.Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
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“Mental health counselor ” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. n.p., 1 Jan. 1970.Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
“What Does a Mental Health Counselor Do?”. n.p., 1 Jan. 1970.Web. 30 Jan. 2016.