What Do Clinical Mental Health Counselors Do?

A clinical mental health counselor taking notes on a clipboard while talking to a client.

The need for professional care is evident, with the National Mental Illness Alliance (NAMI) reporting that one in five adults suffers from a mental illness each year.

Clinical mental health counselors have the expertise to provide clients with a safe haven using evidence-based therapeutic techniques. And just as important, it has the potential to change society’s perception of what it means to be physically and mentally healthy.

Interested in the potential of this life-changing career? Read on to find out if it’s right for you.

What is clinical mental health counseling and why is it important?

Clinical mental health counseling helps qualified professionals address and manage their clients’ emotional, psychological and behavioral challenges, according to Dr. Matt Growiak, clinical faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). It is a therapeutic process that Through talk therapy, assessment, and the development of effective management strategies, it helps promote well-being, enhance coping skills, and foster personal growth.

Dr. Matt Growiak and text Dr. Matt GrowiakIn addition to individual importance, Growiak emphasizes the high cultural importance of clinical mental health counseling. He particularly focuses on the ability of professionals to advocate for positive social change by spreading mental health awareness and empowering marginalized voices.

The demand for professionals in this field reflects its importance. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health counselors is projected to increase by 22% by 2031, compared to the average for all occupations. It’s four times faster.

BLS is a result of people continuing to seek addiction and mental health counseling services, states seeking treatment and counseling services, and the continuing need for counselors to provide adequate care to veterans. , partly indicates that this tight percentage is to be expected.

What Do Clinical Mental Health Counselors Do?

The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) defines clinical mental health counselors as “advanced professionals who provide consumer-oriented and flexible therapies” and “traditional psychotherapies and practices” to pave the way for change. It is defined as “combining comprehensive problem-solving approaches”.

“Mental health counseling is within the medical profession because the issues we work with our clients can be life-threatening,” Growiak said. “Think, for example, of imminent harm to yourself or others.

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) notes that a clinical mental health counselor’s day-to-day responsibilities tend to vary by client, work environment, and area of ​​expertise.

But Mood Health shows that the majority of a clinical mental health counselor’s day is typically spent dealing with clients. According to Glowiak, sessions can be held in one-on-one, couple, family and group settings, depending on individual needs. According to AMHCA, clinical mental health counselors may be available outside of scheduled appointment times in crisis situations. This may include helping clients deal with acute distress or referring them to emergency services.

Because all client sessions should be carefully documented, the American Counseling Association (ACA) emphasizes documentation as another key component of a clinical mental health counselor’s day. Paperwork typically includes evaluations, progress notes, and treatment plans.

Growiak said mental health counselors repeatedly make time to attend workshops, research seminars, and events held by industry-based organizations. This gives you the opportunity to learn about the latest research and therapeutic approaches to treat your clients most effectively.

Counseling Today points out that some clinical mental health counselors are personally committed to raising awareness of mental health in the public. This includes organizing workshops, speaking at public forums, and mentoring Support Her groups.

The role of clinical mental health counselors can be particularly demanding, so the importance of daily self-care should not be overlooked. Growiak strongly agrees, saying, “Self-care is a major theme in this profession, because without self-care, you can’t give your best to others. They say, ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup.’ Like,” he said.

Where Do Clinical Mental Health Counselors Work?

Clinical mental health counselors work in a variety of settings. BLS identifies the largest employers of Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors in 2021 as:

  • Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Abuse Center
  • Personal and family services
  • Hospitals – state hospitals, regional hospitals, private hospitals
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Residential Facilities
  • government

Other settings may include prisons, probation or parole agencies, juvenile detention facilities. A clinical mental health counselor may also choose to set up their own private practice and work for themselves.

Concerning time constraints, the BLS notes that “although most substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors work full-time, part-time work is also common. The environment may require you to work at night,” he said. , at night or on weekends. ”

How Much Do Clinical Mental Health Counselors Earn?

The BLS reports that the 2021 median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will be $48,520, with the top 10% earning more than $77,980.

Of the major industries in which substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors work, government has the highest median annual wage in 2021 at $60,450, followed by hospitals (state, local and private) at 49,630. was dollars.

How do I become a Clinical Mental Health Counselor?

“The process of becoming a mental health counselor is multi-faceted and ongoing. Even if you become a clinical mental health counselor, continuing education is required (among other requirements) to maintain your license.” Growiak said. “We must also comply with federal and state laws, as well as the policies and standards of governing bodies and organizations.”

He says that the first path to becoming a clinical mental health counselor usually follows standardized procedures, but that there are some differences between jurisdictions.

  1. get a bachelor’s degree: A bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or other related field will help you gain a deeper understanding of human behavior and psychological principles.
  2. Advance to master’s course: In addition to your bachelor’s degree, you must have a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a closely related field.
  3. gain clinical experience under supervision: Many candidates choose to earn state-required hours through internships and apprenticeships while pursuing a master’s degree.
  4. pass the licensing exam: All states in the United States require candidates to pass one or more exams developed by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). You may also be required to pass state-specific exams.
  5. Apply for license: After completing all state licensing requirements, you can apply for a formal practice license.

Depending on the state you practice in, your official title may be different. AMHCA lists the following as the most common:

  • CMHC: Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • LPC: Certified Professional Counselor
  • LMHC: Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • LPCC: Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
  • LCPC: Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
  • NCC: Nationally Certified Counselor

Once you are officially licensed, you are free to start working with clients professionally.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a clinical counselor?

Psychologists and clinical mental health counselors are both mental health professionals who work to help people with emotional, psychological and behavioral problems, but there are some important differences between the two professions. There is a difference.

According to Glowiak, these distinctions include, but are not limited to:

  • education: Psychologists usually have a doctorate in psychology, while clinical mental health counselors often have a master’s degree in counseling or a closely related field.
  • concentration: Psychologists are trained to perform comprehensive psychological assessments, including assessments of cognition, personality, and emotions. Conversely, clinical mental health counselors are trained in counseling techniques, therapeutic interventions, and client-centered approaches.
  • Scope of implementation: In most cases, psychologists have a broader scope of practice than clinical mental health counselors because they are empowered to conduct formal psychological assessments and diagnose mental health disorders.
  • client needs: Psychologists often work with clients who suffer from mental health problems that are considered more serious and prevalent than clinical mental health counselors.

These professional differences create opportunities for psychologists and clinical mental health counselors to work together and potentially refer each other to ensure that clients receive the most comprehensive care.

Are you ready to change the world?

When it comes to pursuing a career in clinical mental health counseling, many find it worth the effort.

Just ask Growiak. “Being a mental health counselor is one of the most fulfilling careers a person can have,” he said. “Work is rewarding, but the fulfillment that comes from helping someone reach a better place cannot be underestimated.”

To learn more about SNHU’s Master of Counseling degree, see which courses to take, which skills to study, and how to request information about the program.

Kelly Hamilton is a copywriter for a higher education institution. You can find her on her LinkedIn.

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