Today, more people are becoming aware of mental health issues, the impact of these issues on their overall well-being, and the importance of getting help on time. This increased awareness has led to increased demand for qualified mental health professionals to help the ill navigate their woes.
Employment of mental health professionals such as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to increase by 23% till 2031. This is higher than the average among most professions in the US. Mental health professionals also earn a minimum of $47,000 per year. These stats make it an impressive choice for professionals aspiring for a gratifying career.
If you are interested in helping people navigate their emotional problems and understand more about how the human brain reacts to different situations, becoming a mental health professional may be the right career choice for you. And here’s what you need to know in order to get started:
- Complete a bachelor’s degree
You can become a mental health professional by pursuing an undergrad in any liberal arts field and knowing a few things about psychology. But it would be wiser to study psychology as your major.
Studying psychology as a subject will teach you evidence-based practices and theories to apply when practicing as a full-time professional. It is important to have this basic qualification to start working in different setups and gaining experience. And acquiring a bachelor’s degree in psychology will give you the base knowledge to provide the best care to your patients.
- Think of a master’s degree
After completing a bachelor’s degree, you should consider earning a postgrad. You can become a mental health professional by studying social work, but it would be best to evaluate the difference between MSW vs masters in counseling and make a choice.
Once you’ve decided on the path you want to take, your next goal should be to pursue a master’s degree. The master’s degree will give you a detailed understanding and knowledge of mental illnesses and their triggers. Many career paths that lead to being a mental health professional require a master’s degree.
During this time, you can also apply for internships at reputed institutes and further your experience in the field. Supervised experience will allow you to experience the work environment and give you a bigger perspective on how things work.
- Obtain a license
After you have some experience working under a licensed mental health professional, you can also apply for a license to become a practicing psychologist or mental health professional. There may be certain licensing exams you need to clear, but that varies from state to state.
This way, you can start independently or work with a team of professionals at any mental health institute. Having a chance to work at these institutes will improve your career outlook and give you more exposure. The government also licenses capable individuals to run their mental health practices.
However, these licenses must be renewed yearly or after a certain period, based on national guidelines. By continuing their practice, professionals are able to renew their licenses without much worry.
- Apply for jobs
After you have the license, you can apply for jobs at many different institutes, hospitals, or rehabilitation facilities. What you have studied In theory may be very different from how it is applied in real life, and the only way to further your knowledge and skills is to work in the field.
You can work as a substance abuse counselor, behavior disorder counselor, licensed professional counselor, or licensed clinical counselor. There are also jobs in family and child care services, individual and group counseling, and even crisis intervention. The scope of work is diverse, and there are many different career paths to choose from.
- Keep learning
Even when you’re done with your studies, you must continue learning. Science is constantly evolving, what methods once worked may not work in the future, and if you are not in touch with recent developments in psychology and treating mental health problems, you may fail to deliver the proper care your clients deserve.
Seeking additional mental health counseling certificates is a great way to stay in a learning environment. You can read mental health journals, research, and blogs, to add more to your know-how and skills. Look for a mentor who can teach you new methods of helping your patients.
- Work on your communication skills
It is crucial to have good communication skills as a mental health practitioner. While communication skills develop with time, they can also be learned.
To effectively communicate your point and deal with people from various social and cultural backgrounds and people with different levels of intelligence, you need to be good at communication. Not only should you be eloquent, but you should also be a good listener and ensure you make your clients feel that they are in a safe space. Be non-judgmental and empathetic toward your patients.
Mental health is a growing field that promises excellent professional opportunities. You’ll come across numerous opportunities to give back to people and society while making a pretty penny for yourself. Use the tips mentioned in this article to kickstart your career and thrive.