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What is Mental Health Counseling?
Mental health counseling is a field that provides holistic and developmental therapy to individuals suffering from mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Counselors are responsible for identifying and assisting individuals demonstrating symptoms of as well as providing preventative counseling through education, regular sessions, and community service. Mental health counselors provide clarity to issues that may be plaguing individuals and developing a plan to resolve these issues with the patient.
Individuals wishing to become mental health counselors must earn a master's degree in counseling. Graduate programs require one to have earned a bachelor's degree, though the bachelor's degree need not be in counseling to be accepted. A mental health counseling program will provide individuals with the knowledge and techniques necessary to perform one's duties, with courses describing the various disorders one may encounter, social factors that may be present, and the methodologies used for diagnosis and treatment.
A curriculum in mental health counseling may include:
- Counseling Theory
- Crisis and Trauma Intervention
Employment Opportunities and Licensure
Individuals seeking employment as mental health counselors may find opportunities within hospitals, clinics, schools and colleges, private practices and private employers. Individuals will provide assistance based on the goals and needs of the employer, providing care and assistance to a variety of patients based on the type of employer. Individuals working in a private practice will have more control over their hours and choice of patients.
Licensure is required by all states in order to practice mental health counseling. Individuals must have earned a set number of hours of supervised clinical experience, take a state issued exam, and participate in annual continuing education courses in order to maintain one's license. Specific requirements will vary from state to state, and as such it is recommended that individuals research the requirements of the state they plan to practice in.
Job Growth, Salary, and Related Fields
Job growth is expected to increase over the next decade due to the effectiveness of such counseling and the increased interest in preventative healthcare coupled with the waning stigma regarding the seeking of assistance in regards to mental health issues. Additionally, insurance companies are beginning to provide more coverage for such assistance, resulting in a larger number of individuals able to seek assistance. The average salary for a counselor is approximately $48,000 per year, with starting and low end salaries being approximately $24,000 per year. Individuals working in larger, more populated cities will have an easier time finding work, and are more likely to have higher wages.