What is a Mental Health Counselor?
Table of Contents
A mental health counselor is someone who helps people manage or overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives. They work in a variety of settings, such as private practice and mental health centres.
How to Become a Mental Health Counselor
What does a Mental Health Counselor do?
Mental health counselors typically do the following:
- Diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression
- Encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences
- Help clients process their reactions and adjust to changes in their life, such as divorce or layoffs
- Guide clients through the process of making decisions about their future
- Help clients develop strategies and skills to change their behaviour or cope with difficult situations
- Coordinate treatment with other professionals, such as psychiatrists and social workers
- Refer clients to other resources or services in the community, such as support groups or inpatient treatment facilities
Mental health counselors use a variety of techniques and tools to help their clients. Many apply cognitive behavioural therapy, a goal-oriented approach that helps clients understand harmful thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and replace them with positive, life-enhancing ones. Furthermore, cognitive behavioural therapy teaches clients to eliminate unwanted or damaging behaviours and replace them with more productive ones.
Some disorders can be overcome, but others need to be managed. In these cases, mental health counselors help the client develop strategies and skills to minimize the effects of their disorders or illnesses.
Mental health counselors provide treatment to individuals, families, couples, and groups. Some work with specific populations, such as the elderly, college students, or children. Counselors deal with a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, and suicidal impulses. They also help with mental and emotional health issues, and relationship problems.
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How to become a Mental Health Counselor
A master’s degree in counseling is required. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s-level program.
Counseling programs prepare students to recognize symptoms of mental and emotional disorders and to use effective counseling strategies. Specific programs, such as marriage and family therapy programs, teach students about how marriages, families, and relationships function and how they affect mental and emotional disorders. Both programs typically require a period of supervised experience, such as an internship.
Mental health counselors must be licensed. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.
What is the workplace of a Mental Health Counselor like?
Mental health counselors work in variety of settings, such as mental health centres, substance abuse treatment centres, hospitals, and colleges. They also work in private practice and in employee assistance programs (EAPs), which are mental health programs that some employers provide to help employees deal with personal problems.
Mental health counselors generally work full time. Because counseling sessions are scheduled to accommodate clients who may have job or family responsibilities, some counselors work evenings and weekends.