Millions and millions of American adults are diagnosed with emotional, behavioral, or mental disorders ever year.
Depression, anxiety, personality disorders, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive behavior, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress, psychoses are just some of the challenges facing both the people if America and the mental health services.
The need for effective mental health treatment and support in the US is more significant than ever, and mental health counselors are some of the most key professionals in this effort. Through a combination of psychotherapy, empathy, and an intuitive approach to problem-solving, it’s no overstatement to say that mental health counselors can change lives.
What Does a Mental Health Counselor Do?
A mental health counselor assesses, diagnoses, and treats these people to help them cope with and/or recover from these issues through various counseling strategies including interpersonal, cognitive-behavioral or psychodynamic therapy.
The approach is focused on the client rather than the illness through psychoeducation and prevention programs as well as crisis management. For clients with chronic mental illnesses, a mental health counselor may work in collaboration with a psychiatrist or refer the patient on to a psychiatrist.
Mental health counselors can choose to work with a wide range of clients or to specialize in certain population groups such as children, adolescents, the elderly, the disabled or the military.
How to Become a Mental Health Counselor
Training to be a mental health counselor takes several years and a lot of commitment, but if you are considering it as a career you should follow the following steps.
- Bachelor’s Degree
You will need to attain a bachelor’s degree in a field which is related to counseling like a psychology or behavioral or social science. This work is the foundation for a career in counseling as it covers key topics such as an introduction to psychology, basic therapy approaches, human development, and basic counseling skills.
- Master’s Degree
When you have graduated with a bachelor’s degree, you can move on to a master’s in mental health counseling, which is required in order for you to become a licensed mental health professional. There are many accredited mental health counseling programs which offer both campus-based and online courses.
- Internship experience
A key part of the master’s program is the practical counseling experience which is supervised by a licensed professional. This gives you the opportunity to get first-hand experience in a supported environment before treating clients independently.
- Sit required counseling exams
To get your license you will usually need to pass a recognized counseling exam such as the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) or the National Counselor Examination (NCE). Although licensure requirements vary by state, it is common for mental health counselors to need a master’s degree (from an accredited university), 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised experience and a passing grade at the exam.
- Acquire additional mental health certifications
Many licensed counselors choose to continue their training and education throughout their career to ensure they are up to date with the most relevant theories and treatments. For example, it is possible to specialize in providing counseling in schools, people who have been bereaved or for people suffering from mental health disorders.