Different Types Of Mental Health Careers

Updated June 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

If you're interested in pursuing a career in mental health, there are many roads that you can choose to go down, including mental health careers in Washington DC and around the country. Various mental health jobs and human services roles can be explored and considered.

Mental health roles don't only include practicing therapy, working as a social worker, or conducting research for national institutes; there are various ways that you can make a difference as someone who works in the mental health or general healthcare field, such as becoming a substance use counselor or finding a position in human resources.

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Working in psychology

Licensed clinical psychologists can diagnose and treat people with mental health disorders and conditions. Clinical psychologists have doctorate degrees and can provide assessments to individuals to diagnose and treat them. In addition, they can help people understand their behavior and manage mental health issues effectively.

Licensed clinical psychologists can practice therapy and provide research services in a designated setting, such as a university or an accredited college. As a clinical psychologist, there are many jobs in Washington DC and other locations that may fit one’s education and experience, with a variety of job title options available.

Neuropsychologists, often holding a master's degree or higher, may be more research-oriented by the nature of the field. They can be essential to the world because they research things associated with our brains and allow us to learn more about neuroplasticity daily. Neuropsychologists help us discover information about the brain and how it works. They can also keep us updated on the latest information and studies, contributing to the high demand for their expertise.

The world of psychiatry

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating those with mental illness and behavioral issues. A psychiatrist's career can be gratifying and offer opportunities for career development. They differ from psychologists and social workers in that they can prescribe medication as a licensed medical professional.

Some psychiatrists provide therapy and medication, whereas others exclusively work with medication management. Psychiatry is an excellent field for people who want to specialize in helping people who are neurodivergent or who have brains that function differently in various ways. If you want to work with a diverse population of people with mental health issues or similar conditions and hold a valid unrestricted state license, the world of psychiatry might be a fabulous fit for you.

Social work

People who are social workers typically work in organizations or nonprofits. They might work in clinics, too, but they don’t diagnose mental health conditions. However, they do sometimes provide therapy and can refer clients to different mental health services depending on their needs. A bachelor's degree is often a basic requirement for entry-level positions in this field.

Social workers play an integral role in understanding family dynamics and providing referrals for family issues. In addition, social workers can help the community, address how much of a support system a person has, and offer referrals if an individual would benefit from having their needs met in a different capacity.

Substance use counselors

A substance use counselor works with individuals who have issues with substance abuse, such as using substances and alcohol. 

This individual may counsel their clients and help them maintain sobriety via therapeutic counseling. They may facilitate group therapy sessions with other clients living with substance use disorders, which are vital in the community.


Nursing is another vital field. If you’re working in an inpatient residential facility, you may help treat clients in the hospital under long-term care for mental illness. If you work as a detox nurse in substance abuse, you may help clients safely detox from substances and start their mental health recovery. 

Nurses play an essential role in society regarding what they can do for people with mental health issues, and it’s a very dynamic field.

Counselors, therapists, or clinicians

You may be considering additional mental health training after achieving an undergraduate degree. There are more options for clinicians when you move on to higher education. Pursuing a master’s degree may open doors for mental health jobs. When you have a master’s degree, there are many options for careers in the mental health field. For example, LPCs are medical professionals certified as licensed professional counselors, while LMFTs are licensed marriage and family therapists. As a therapist, counselor, or other medical professional who has successfully completed their education, you can specialize in various areas to provide specialized support for clients with diverse emotional issues.

Clinical social workers

MSW stands for “master’s in social work.” LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker. 

Licensed clinical social workers require a master’s degree in social work and must complete special training in case management. Social workers can treat clients in a variety of environments. They may work in the community at job training centers, welfare-to-work programs, the local department of human services, or a nonprofit organization. If you have an LCSW, you may work with clients in a practice setting. 

Social workers understand family dynamics and consider sociological concerns when treating clients. They often consider the cultural and economic circumstances a client is dealing with when treating that person with therapy.

In many ways, looking at these outside factors can improve the quality of care the client receives. The social worker often understands the environment where the client lives, their family dynamics, and how they relate to their support system. If there are safety concerns, an LCSW can provide referrals to a client for assistance with parenting courses, housing, or government assistance. LCSWs will be more apt to provide these referrals if they work in community-based organizations.

Family nurse practitioners

Family nurse practitioners typically provide health care for the entire unit. From giving regular checkups to assessing mental health issues, FNPs care for the whole family. FNPs ask questions about mental wellness in addition to evaluating physical wellness. If you’re a family nurse practitioner and you see the entire family, you can play a role in monitoring the familial dynamics and mental health as a whole. 

To be a family nurse practitioner, you must have a master’s or doctorate. You can play an essential part in mental health in this role. A family nurse practitioner takes each of the family unit’s mental health seriously. They can make referrals to psychiatrists or therapists if the parents or children have mental health concerns or conditions.

Certified peer specialists or peer-to-peer support

Sometimes it’s nice to speak to someone who isn’t a clinician to get mental health support. That’s the idea behind a peer support role. 

A peer support specialist typically has lived experience with mental health conditions. A peer support worker can provide a shoulder to lean on during hard times. Peer support workers have a vital role in the sense that they understand what it’s like from lived experience to have a mental illness and can guide people in this position to help them maintain support systems. 

They may have a sense of empathy and understanding towards the people they work with and can touch lives uniquely because of what they’ve been through. Knowing that you’re not alone can be invaluable. Sometimes you need someone who has been through a similar experience to guide you or listen to your concerns. A peer support specialist normally has keen listening skills that enable them to genuinely hear you and offer advice, empathy, tools, and support.

Getting help

Whoever your clients are, it can be important that you care about them like the counselors at BetterHelp have demonstrated. The online therapists here are passionate about helping people cope with various life stressors and mental illnesses. If you’re seeking mental health services, online counseling can be an excellent place to get assistance with your mental health needs. Search the network of BetterHelp counselors to find the perfect fit for you.

A review of 17 studies found that online counseling may be even more effective than in-person therapy when treating certain conditions. In addition, other studies have revealed that many people feel more comfortable telling information about themselves via video chat than they might feel face-to-face.

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One way to achieve mental health goals is to seek online therapy. Our mental health matters as much as our physical well-being. It’s a holistic picture; one without the other may not be enough to lead a healthy life. That’s the idea behind integrative medicine. A provider in the varied mental health field considers your physical well-being and your mental health and can treat both.

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