Mental health counselors are often one of the first helping professionals available to people in need of emotional and psychological support. They help their clients learn how to make healthy decisions. A mental health counselor is a professional who utilizes a variety of psychotherapy methods and techniques to help people experiencing psychological distress. The prevalence of mental health problems highlights the demand and need for qualified professionals to diagnose, treat, and prevent mental health issues. In A Guidebook to Human Service Professions, Gitner and Mears suggest that that by 2020, depression will be the second most costly health problem, surpassed only by heart disease. By the age of 55, around half of all adults in the United States will have experienced symptoms of at least one psychiatric problem.
Where Can You Find Mental Health Counselors?
You might find professional mental health counselors working in a wide range of settings including:
What Do Mental Health Counselors Do?
Some of the tasks that a mental health counselor may tackle on a regular basis include:
Counseling tends to view individual needs within a developmental context. Rather than focusing on dysfunction, counselors often see problems as arising from normal reactions to developmental changes or as difficulty dealing with specific life stages. As a result, counselors may focus on personal development by helping you learn the skills and coping abilities you need to deal with such life changes and stages effectively.
While counselors are often called upon to treat specific problems, they also tend to take an approach that focuses on overall wellness. Dealing with the immediate problem is important, but counselors also strive to help you function not just minimally, but optimally. Enhancing overall well-being by solving problems, improving resilience, encouraging healthy behaviors, and improving relationships is a key component of a counselor’s duties.
What Training Do Mental Health Counselors Have?
The minimum requirements for a licensed mental health counselor are a master’s degree in counseling and at least two to three years of supervised practice under a licensed professional. States also typically require a minimum of 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised practice before gaining independent licensure.
Once this has been done, aspiring mental health counselors must still pass a state licensing exam. In many states, counselors must first pass a test administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) in order to obtain a license.
Even after finishing licensure requirements, counselors must continue to stay abreast of current practices by completing a number of continuing education courses over the course of their professional lives.
Skills That Mental Health Counselors Need:
Aside from training and education, what type of skills should you have in order to succeed in this profession? Becoming an effective mental health counselor requires a solid knowledge base of psychology, therapy, and counseling. In addition to understanding this subject matter and techniques, counselors need to have good listening skills, the ability to communicate effectively, good critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and outstanding people skills. Emotional intelligence, compassion, empathy and nonverbal communication abilities are also critical.
Reasons You Might Want to See a Mental Health Counselor
People often face mental health challenges throughout life. Such struggles can include anxiety, depression, grief, addiction, and difficulty in coping with life’s stresses and challenges. Some of the reasons you might want to seek the assistance of a mental health counselor:
Remember, you don’t need to be experiencing symptoms of a psychological disorder to seek help from a mental health professional. Counselors, as well as other mental health professionals, can help you with a wide range of concerns, from stress to health to relationships. Whether your goal is to gain insight into your own behaviors, become a better spouse or parent, or become more motivated to achieve your goals, consulting a mental health professional can help.
For questions about the C.A.R.E.S. program or mental health in general, please contact:
Jackie S. Scarborough, Ph.D., LPC, ACS, BCPC
Director of Mental Health @ BOST, Inc.
Counseling and Relationship Enrichment Services (C.A.R.E.S.)
7701 South Zero Street
Fort Smith, AR 72903
PHONE: (479) 784-1449
FAX: (501) 222-6117
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