If you're good with people and can handle critical and stressful situations while remaining calm yourself, one of the things you might want to consider as a career move is being a mental health counselor. Mental health counseling is a very in demand career these days, as both mental illness and drug abuse bring to the fore the need for these professionals.
What are a mental health counselor's duties?
Mental health counselors work in a variety of fields, including substance abuse, stress management, family and couple counseling, suicide prevention, and other issues related to mental health. Of course, many of these areas also overlap. Oftentimes, a mental health counselor may work in group situations for individuals who face similar problems, such as those with depression. They also often work in tandem with social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, psychiatrists, and psychiatric nurses.
Do mental health counselors specialize in one particular area?
Yes, usually mental health counselors focus on one particular area, such as substance abuse, marriage counseling, or with a particular age group such as adolescents, for example.
What do a mental health counselor's duties entail?
It might surprise you to know that a fair amount of the mental health counselor's duties entail simply watching and observing, then recording those observations so that they can be followed up on with therapy and other treatment. Of course, this isn't simple watching and observing as you and I might do when we're just relaxing. Instead, a mental health counselor collects a lot of his or her data this way. Once these observations have been made and recorded, the mental health counselor can work in tandem with other professionals to decide what difficulties are inherent in a particular situation and how they can be handled. Treatment for mental health disorders can include medication, talk therapy, and other types of intervention.
Ultimately, a mental health counselor seeks to restore mental health and well-being within a family or individual. In some cases, he or she may be working with an individual or group who has not experienced well-being, high self-esteem, and other healthy psychological conditions much (if at all) in their lives. In this case, one of the things a mental health counselor does is to help patients see themselves as worthy individuals, work on self-esteem and prevention or healing of drug abuse resulting from mental health issues.
Where do mental health counselors work?
Mental health counselors work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, counseling centers, HMOs, and government agencies. They also make home visits to people who need them, including those with family issues to work on. Oftentimes, as stated previously, they work in tandem with family services to provide families with counseling if they need it.
Am I right for a position as a mental health counselor?
That depends. You have to love working with people and you have to have a very strong and calm demeanor. As a mental health counselor, you'll be working with people who are upset and emotionally unstable. By having a soothing presence that keeps others calm, you can help difficult situations go much more smoothly if you yourself always remain calm. That's a tall order to follow, so again, being a mental health counselor isn't for everyone, even if you may have an aptitude for it in other areas.
You must have a master's degree in an area that is accepted as qualifying, such as in mental health counseling. Other acceptable areas of specialization may also be applicable, depending on whether or not they are consistent with the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. You must also have at least two years of clinical experience after you've completed your master's degree and you must pass an examination given by the National Board for Certified Counselors. In addition, you must complete continuing education hours every two years to have your license renewed.
What are the hours worked and salary for a mental health counselor?
In most cases, mental health counselors work a 40-hour work week; the hourly wage as of 2006 averaged about $19 an hour.
Certainly, being a mental health counselor isn't something everyone can do. You have to have a strong, calm demeanor, be able to handle stressful work situations well, and be able to work with people in crisis while retaining your own cool throughout. Your job is to calm people and provide guidance to them as they work through some pretty significant emotionally-based issues. In some cases, people may also have mental health or other issues whereby you will work in tandem with other professionals both in mental health and in and social services, for example, so as to provide the best course of treatment. It is very rewarding work, but it is also challenging.