Everybody has an opinion and a certain point of view. Many people love to gossip and dispense advice, especially when asked. We also like to think we know way more about life and the people living in our world than we actually do. Many times we feel that we are in a fantastic position to give out advice, perhaps even more so than other people. With this mind…What is a mental health counselor except someone who tells people what they should be doing? I can do that! You may be thinking to yourself. In reality, there is a lot more to the mental health counseling profession than simply handing out opinions and advice.
The first, and perhaps most important difference between a mental health counselor and your average person on the street lies in the training a professional mental health counselor receives. A professional advertising as a mental health counselor typically has at least a master's degree in counseling psychology, while many can claim even more qualifications on top of that…a master's degree is the absolute bare minimum. This is required for every counselor before they can obtain a clinical license.
Aside from a thorough academic understanding of mental health issues, counselors are required to fulfill various other professional criteria before they can obtain a license to practice. These include passing additional clinical examinations, completing a supervised work experience under a more experienced licensed counselor (similar to an apprenticeship) and follow an extremely strict ethical code, such as when the confidentiality of a patient's details is at stake and needs to be protected.
Secondly, professional mental counselors are trained not to allow personal bias and prejudices get in the way of their work with clients. We have a negative tendency to judge the lifestyles and beliefs of other people. A professional counselor is trained not to allow their personal beliefs to affect the relationship with their clients and to provide assistance on whatever treatment goals the client wants to obtain. A professional counselor will put aside their personal opinions and meet their clients wherever they are at in order to ensure a professional, helpful relationship is developed and maintained.
Finally, mental health counselors are designed to be advocates for their clients. We all have come across situations where we were not prepared to deal with the circumstances or we don't understand that our rights or boundaries are being violated. In these incidences, a professional mental health counselor is trained to help plead the cause for a client's rights or needs. They can help communicate with other medical professionals or people in authority on behalf of their clients. At the same time, counselors help their clients learn how to advocate for themselves, if they have struggled with doing so in the past. Being able to advocate for ourselves is crucial in learning to be healthy assertive adults.
What is a Professional Mental Health Counselor
There are many types of counselors in various career fields. For instance, in many colleges and universities there are counselors who help students choose a major or choose classes for the upcoming semester. These counselors offer general guidance but are not trained to work with mental illness or behavioral health issues. A school guidance counselor might help you select what college or university to apply too. A travel counselor will help you pick the best vacation package and help you select the best prices. All of these counselors are trained to provide assistance in a very narrow field.
According to the American Mental Health Counseling Association (AMHC), clinical mental health counselors are highly-skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy. They combine traditional psychotherapy with a practical, problem-solving approach that creates a dynamic and efficient path for change and problem resolution. In other words, these graduate educated professionals are trained to be highly empathic, active listeners who also diagnose mental disorders and offer solution oriented feedback to their clients when asked. They help their clients set up goals and hold their clients accountable for working on those goals.
In addition to their initial graduate school training, in order to remain licensed as a clinical mental healthcare professionals, professional mental counselors must complete several hours of continuing education in the counseling field every year. These continuing education classes include learning about issues such as ethics, new advancements in counseling techniques and proper clinical diagnosis.
Where to Go When Seeking Help?
If your computer is broken, you would call someone experienced in solving IT problems; if you need to have your car serviced, you will look for an automobile mechanic. After all, you probably wouldn't ask a friend to fix your computer or your car, even if they said they could.
Mental health counselors are trained to work with people and their specific circumstances. The first counselor you interact with may not be the best fit for you though. Just like in other professions, different counselors tend to specialize in different issues depending on personal interest, aptitude, and advanced clinical training such as mood disorders, psychosis, addiction and so on. If you're struggling with it, chances are there is a counselor who is experienced in working with it. Therefore, if the first counselor you meet isn't a good fit, don't give up! Look for or ask for a referral for another professional counselor.
If you are seeking help for any kind of mental health issue, it is a good idea to first speak to a general therapist or mental health counselor to determine the actual nature of the problem facing you. The outcome of this process may surprise you; for instance during this process you may learn the difficulties you have at work or in your love life are actually much deeper in their roots than you thought. Any mental health professional will be happy to refer you to a colleague who can provide you with the best care from another counselor with extensive experience in your specific kind of issue, or to a psychiatrist if psychiatric tests or medication might be required.
While we should all strive to be kind and supportive to one another, mental health counseling really isn't something your average friend or family can provide. However good a friend's intentions are, handing out thoughtless advice on mental health matters can do more harm than good at times. Just because someone means well, doesn't mean they have the ability to help you. Besides, your friend or family member is not an impartial third party, they are already biased since they are so close to you. If someone is suffering from a mental health issue, which can range from severe clinical depression to simply not being able to handle the stress of recent life events, there is a world of difference between professional counseling and someone's ordinary opinions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the role of a mental health counselor?
A mental health counselor works with individuals and groups that may be experiencing mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, relationship issues and more. They assist clients in discussing their emotions and experiences, use critical thinking skills to help clients problem solve and set goals for themselves to improve their lives.
What does it mean to be a mental health counselor?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a mental health counselor is a licensed professional who helps individuals and families who are experiencing mental illness, substance abuse, relationship difficulties, or other ongoing stressors. They hold a Master’s degree in mental health counseling.
Mental health counselors work with clients to help them gain insight into their problems and emotional experiences. They have the option to work in various settings, such as private practice, residential facilities, substance abuse/addiction counseling, or school counseling.
How long do you have to go to school to be a mental health counselor?
To become a licensed professional counselor, one must obtain a Bachelor’s degree in a human services, social science, or psychology field, which typically takes 4 years. Then an individual must enroll in a 1-2 year program to earn a master’s degree in mental health counseling which may include a 1 year internship. An individual will then have to follow their state’s requirements for licensure (which may include a counseling exam) and pursue national certification through the National Board of Certified Counselors NBCC.
What is the difference between a mental health counselor and a therapist?
While both are mental health professionals, there are distinct differences between a mental health counselor and therapist.
A mental health counselor must hold a Master’s degree in Mental Health counseling. They tend to have a more broader scope in their approaches to counseling, and less in-depth knowledge of clinical research.
On the other hand, the title of a therapist incorporates those who are licensed in Social Work, psychologists and Marriage and Family therapists. Several different educational routes may be pursued to become a therapist, including a Master’s degree in Psychology, Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Master’s degree in Social Work, etc.
Should I see a counselor or therapist?
If you are experiencing any distressing situations that are impacting your mental or emotional health, it would definitely be wise to seek out the support of a mental health professional.
Often times, counselors work with clients on addressing a particular issue such as stress management or substance abuse concerns. They utilize critical thinking and problem solving skills, and help clients to set goals to improve their lives. Counseling tends to be more short-term than therapy.
A therapist may be more beneficial for those living with mental illness. Ongoing cognitive behavioral therapy proves to be helpful in exploring the connection between one’s thoughts and behaviors, and developing healthy coping strategies.
Is mental health counseling a good career?
Yes! The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the mental health counseling field would grow 20% between 2014-2024, which is 13% higher than the national average.
There are a wide variety of settings in which a licensed mental health counselor may choose to work, such as private practice, residential facilities, substance abuse/addiction counseling, or school counseling.
Is Counseling a stressful job?
Compared to other careers mental health counseling is considered high stress. However, it is a rewarding job for many individuals who want to be in a meaningful role that makes a difference in the lives of others. It is crucial for mental health professionals to maintain healthy work/life balance and prioritize rest and self-care to appropriately manage stress.
What skills do mental health counselors need?
It is imperative for mental health professionals to possess strong emotional intelligence, listening/non-verbal communication skills, the ability to show empathy, and critical thinking skills.
How much does an LPC make an hour?
On average, a licensed professional counselor makes anywhere between 26-37 dollars per hour.
Where do LPC make the most money?
The top ten states with the highest annual salary for a licensed professional counselor include Texas, Virginia, Nebraska, Kentucky, Arkansas, Michigan, Illinois, Delaware, Georgia and Wyoming.
How do I get into counseling?
To become a mental health counselor, one must first earn a Bachelor’s degree in a human services, social science, or psychology field, which typically takes 4 years. Then an individual must enroll in a 1-2 year program to earn a master’s degree in mental health counseling which may include a 1 year internship.
One must then follow the required steps for licensure in their particular state. You may have to pass a counseling exam such as the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). At that point, you can pursue national certification through the National Board of Certified Counselors NBCC.