Beyond Clinical Work: Alternative Careers For Counselors

Medically reviewed by Corey Pitts, MA, LCMHC, LCAS, CCS
Updated March 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

After spending years in school, working under supervision, and taking licensing exams, many therapists feel compelled to stick with their chosen career path. However, if therapy isn’t providing you with the job satisfaction or work-life balance you need, there may be other career options to consider. You might choose to manage a group practice, work in product development, pivot to coaching, or consider a human resources position. A licensed therapist can help you discuss your options through in-person or online therapy sessions.

Does your career leave you feeling emotionally exhausted?

Who are clinical therapists, and what do they do? 

Clinical therapists generally include professionals like licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), licensed professional counselors (LPCs), and licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs). These professionals typically obtain at least a master’s degree in a psychology-related field and must complete supervised clinical training and pass certification exams. 

Clinical therapists may diagnose, assess, and treat mental health challenges with a range of talk therapy techniques and approaches. Additionally, they may work in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, or individual practices. Though clinical therapy can be a broad field with many alternative ways to practice, nearly all talk therapists spend most of their time working directly with clients. 

Why do some people choose to stop working in clinical therapy?

Clinical therapy can be a very rewarding field, but it is may not be without its challenges. Some of the most common reasons mental health counselors consider changing career paths include the following: 

The emotional burden

Working with clients who are struggling with their mental health can be emotionally exhausting, with many therapists experiencing compassion fatigue and burnout at some point during their careers. Some therapists find a way to make their work less overwhelming by scheduling fewer clients or prioritizing self-care, but others may decide they need to leave the field altogether.  

Not knowing how to help

Therapists may encounter complex cases, clients who do not seem ready to help themselves, or other unexpected challenges. In these instances, the therapist may not know where to begin or how to help, which can be frightening or overwhelming. These challenges can be common for early-career therapists with relatively little clinical experience.

Billing difficulties

Billing clients can be one of the most difficult aspects of talk therapy. Additionally, some therapists choose to accept health insurance, which can make the process much more complicated. Factors like billing codes, claims processes, payer regulations, and credentialing can take up a lot of a therapist’s time, which is often unpaid, and reimbursement rates from insurance companies for sessions are often well below market value. 

Therapists who decide not to accept insurance often offer sliding scale payments for clients who cannot afford sessions, though it may mean turning away clients who want to use their insurance. 


How to move forward when you don’t know what to do

If you’ve found yourself feeling burnt out, anxious, apathetic, or otherwise dreading therapy sessions, it may be time to consider your options. A licensed professional, such as a career counselor or therapist, can help you discover whether you should adjust your relationship with work or explore a new path. Below are a few steps you can take to determine your next career move.

Career counseling 

If practicing clinical therapy leaves you feeling unsatisfied, it may be a good idea to consider new career options with the help of a career counselor. These professionals can help you determine your skills, strengths, weaknesses, values, priorities, and personality type, which can, in turn, help you find a more suitable career. 

Common alternative careers for therapists 

You might think that your training is only relevant to clinical therapy, but there may be many jobs that utilize similar skills or can benefit from the expertise of a therapist. Here are a few popular alternative careers for counselors.

  • Group practice operation: If you prefer managerial work to direct client work, but still want to help people improve their lives, you may enjoy operating a practice. 
  • Product development: Some therapists find second careers developing or consulting on product development for therapists. This may include things like applications, services, and other industry-specific tools.  
  • Specialty training: If you’ve always enjoyed one element of talk therapy or working with a specific type of client, consider getting specialty training and focusing your time on that niche. 
  • Workplace training or consultation: Many workplaces hire or contract mental health professionals for staff communications, boundary-setting, and burnout-avoidance training. Organizations may also consult therapists to create healthier working environments for their employees.  
  • Patient advocacy: A patient advocate usually helps clients navigate their healthcare as a guide, believer, and spokesperson. They may communicate with medical professionals, insurance providers, and other professionals that often make the healthcare system complex and overwhelming for the average person. Like talk therapy, patient advocacy typically requires good listening skills and empathy, but it can also require detailed knowledge of the healthcare system and strong organizational skills.
  • Continued education: Some therapists are more inclined toward diagnostics and treatment management than they are to talk therapy. If this is true for you, you might want to consider continuing your education by going to medical school and becoming a psychiatrist. 
  • Coaching: Life coaching, personal development coaching, business coaching, career advising, or any other type of coaching may be more in line with your interests, and these types of clients can still benefit from your professional training in clinical therapy. 
  • Human resources (HR): HR positions often benefit from the strong interpersonal skills that therapists usually possess. Compared with talk therapy, HR positions tend to have more separation from employees and limited emotional intensity.
Does your career leave you feeling emotionally exhausted?


Therapists, like many other professionals, can benefit from speaking with a talk therapist. Unlike a career counselor, they can provide a more holistic service for both your career choices and your mental health. 

Benefits of online therapy

If you’re having difficulty finding time in your schedule for therapy sessions, or if you’d rather go home after work than commute to someone else’s office, you may want to try online therapy on a platform like BetterHelp

Effectiveness of online therapy

A 2022 study published in the journal Internet Interventions found that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can effectively reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms in adults with elevated stress levels, such as counselors who are reconsidering their career paths.


Clinical therapy can be a rewarding and satisfying career for many people. However, many practicing therapists experience challenges, such as burnout, compassion fatigue, inconsistent schedules, and difficulty working with insurance companies. If your clinical work has led to overwhelm or unhappiness, speaking with a therapist online or in person may be a good first step. They can help you incorporate stress-reduction, boundary-setting, and self-care strategies into your professional life or guide you to explore new career paths. For example, jobs in human resources, consulting, employee training, product development, or patient advocacy may offer you more career satisfaction or work-life balance.

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