Mental Health Counselor Career
Mental health is more important than ever as more people are subjected to stressors. Mental health counselors provide emotional and mental support for their patients by applying the skills gained from their studies.
This can include evaluations through talk therapies where clients are encouraged to express their experiences through various communication styles. Mental health counselors are also given the task of diagnosing and treating the emotional and mental disorders of their clients.
While it can take time to get certified, it can be truly rewarding when clients improve under therapy. If you are interested in learning about the pros and cons of being a mental health counselor, then continue reading.
The Pros of Being a Mental Health Counselor
There are many benefits to being a counselor specializing in mental health. These benefits often make the work interesting and fulfilling, which usually leads to many people gravitating towards this industry for their careers. Here are nine pros of a mental health counselor.
You Are in a Position to Impact Positive Change
Mental health counselors can help people make positive changes in their lives. The skills gained in graduate programs will come in extremely handy when applied to clients.
Since no client is the same, mental health counselors will find that applied theories and techniques will need to fit each and every situation. When acted on by clients, mental health counselors can gauge the improvement pace and make corresponding adjustments.
These methods and approaches can be tailored fit for individuals, partners, and families. Depending on your specialty, you can counsel clients at various stages of their lives.
Mental health counselors help their clients navigate through these life stages by encouraging self-improvement. Through practice, clients eventually become better proponents of their own mental health and emotional well-being.
Job and Career Satisfaction
Generally, mental health counselors report having high job satisfaction in their work. The ability to effect positive change in their clients is one of the main factors that make their work appealing and fulfilling.
Counselors agree that helping their patients work through their challenges with visible improvements is highly gratifying. The progress may take days, weeks, months, or even years but the results are quite satisfying for them.
While being a mental health counselor for your clients can require effort and consistency, the progress and outcome can be worth the wait. You will probably agree that it is tremendously rewarding to help someone transform into a better version of themselves.
You Help Promote Positive Impact Beyond Your Clients
Working with your clients to resolve their mental health issues is a highly satisfying experience. But if you think about it, your impact doesn’t stop there.
When you help clients improve their communication and relationship skills, you also affect the people around them. For instance, the progress of your client can have a direct effect on their family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and community members.
By creating a positive ripple effect, you and your clients help shape a better society. Eventually, it may lead to improved results in their home, work, and community lives.
Mental Health Counselors Are Increasing in Demand
When society progresses, so do various emotional and mental issues. The topical causes may change, but the underlying reasons for emotional trauma and mental disorders often remain steadfast over time.
Every client will have unique experiences that will require clinical understanding and analyses gleaned from graduate programs. It takes a special skill set to help clients unravel, comprehend, and resolve their issues.
This is where mental health counselors become invaluable. You will be asked to provide real solutions for people who may perceive their situations to be quite hopeless. While humans continue to exist, mental health counselors will always be in demand. According to the BLS, employment of mental health counselors is projected to grow 22 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than other occupations.
You Can Opt to Work For Yourself
Mental health counselors are found in many counseling centers. These can be government institutions or even non-profit agencies.
However, many mental health counselors opt to go into private practice and work for themselves. This means that they are more in control of their working environments and conditions.
By being a private practice, mental health counselors can also decide the kind of clients they prefer to work with. This means that you can work in the most optimal way that will benefit both you and your clients.
Multiple and Different Career Opportunities Await You
Mental health counselors have many options when it comes to their professional endeavors. For instance, a marriage counselor can eventually incorporate family counseling into their practice.
Alternatively, mental health counselors can transition from being therapists to administrators in counseling centers. They can also look into educational positions and join the academic industry, enriching their work experiences.
Since mental health counseling is such an expansive industry, it is very easy for therapists to switch or add career opportunities. As a result, their professional trajectories are as unlimited as their interests.
You Can Choose to Go Into Specialized Work
Mental health is very varied. While you can go into general counseling, you also have the option of going into specialized work.
For instance, you can focus on working only with couples that are married or in domestic partnerships. You may also narrow this field down even further by seeing clients with specific ethnic backgrounds or sexual preferences.
To make your practice even more specialized, you can explore seeing couples of specific backgrounds that are at later stages of their lives. Whatever you choose, you can make your clientele as specific or as broad as you want.
Remote Work is Even More Possible Now
Telehealth services have been more popular as clients and therapists realize their value. The reach is immense without requiring physical presence or travel.
If you choose to work remotely, you can work in the comfort of your home, your office, or anywhere in the world without having to be physically present for your client. Aside from convenience and ease, you can communicate with more clients.
This frees up time and resources for both clients and therapists. The flexibility of working from home as mental health counselor may pave the way for more people to experience your services.
Your Skills are Applicable Almost Anywhere
The skills you have gained through graduate programs and through work can be used almost anywhere. This means that the same concepts you used for one client population can be employed in other populations.
For instance, you may be specializing in working with couples therapy focusing on resolving communication and anger issues. The same methods and approaches you use for your clients can be used for other clients, such as children or parent-child clients.
By allowing yourself to apply your acquired skills to various types of mental health populations, you also enjoy flexibility while gaining more experience and knowledge. This helps you to work with more clients with varied mental health needs.
The Cons of Being a Mental Health Counselor
No job is perfect, and this applies even to mental health counseling. While the work can be rewarding, it has its downsides too. Here are four of them.
It Can Be Stressful Work
Like most careers, being a mental health counselor comes with its own sets of stressful work experiences. Most of the time, the stress comes from your clients and their mental health issues.
Since you are privy to the secrets of your clients, you will get to see their inner emotional and mental workings. You’ll learn the wonderful things as well as their deepest darkest fears.
All this information can take a heavy emotional and mental toll on your own health. Sometimes, your efforts can cause sleep loss, obsessive need for client progress, and even work nightmares.
You Need an Advanced Degree
Becoming a mental health counselor may eat up a lot of your resources. You need to earn a master’s degree to work as a mental health counselor.
It’s not just about the tuition for college and graduate programs either. The whole experience can take several years for you to complete the undergraduate studies and the graduate programs.
If you are truly interested to pursue a career in mental health counseling, you need to prepare the time and monetary resources to get your desired degree.
You Will Have to Face Various Business Obligations
Just because you are a mental health counselor doesn’t mean you will be neglecting the business side of your work. Aside from listening to and talking with your clients, you will need to attend to paperwork related to your job.
Mental health counseling is also a business, and you will need to fill in the required documentation that affects the administrative side. This can include communicating with insurance companies, care coordination with other therapists, and other business-related work.
On top of that, private practices also have to deal with managing their employees, the clinic, and other business obligations. As a mental health counselor, it is important that you factor this into your decision-making process.
Some Clients Can Make Work Difficult
Many of your clients will come of their own volition. Others will be forced to attend your counseling session by their family or as ordered by the courts.
Most of the time, these clients are hesitant and reluctant to accept that they require counseling. Generally, clients with mandated sessions will make your efforts extremely challenging because they believe that therapy does not work and is a waste of their time.
While you can show empathy and compassion, you may have your work cut out for you. These experiences may cause you dismay, discomfort, and discouragement.
Is Being a Mental Health Counselor Stressful?
There are many things that can make the work of mental health counselors both rewarding and stressful. While the rewards outweigh the drawbacks, they are still present.
Stress is present in every situation, whether the work is in mental health or in other industries. It is up to the skills and abilities of the counselor that can make the work enjoyable or stressful.
For instance, a trained counselor can quickly assess their client’s situation and make informed decisions. One of these decisions will be the tone of their sessions, which will dictate the speed of progress as well as the therapist-client relationship.
Depending on the counselor, these initial evaluations can be interesting or stressful. Each client will reflect the counselor’s ability to transform the sessions as informative and learning or painful and traumatic.
Is Being a Mental Health Counselor Worth It?
A career as a mental health counselor can be rewarding if the results affect both or all parties positively. Mental health counseling is an industry filled with growing experiences and, as mentioned above, skilled counselors are in high demand.
If you beat yourself up for every experience that didn’t give you the intended results, then you have stopped learning. Allow yourself to grow from all experiences and trust the process.
Both your client list and client trust will also take time to build. Some counselors may feel impatient or disheartened, but this is actually standard in many mental health counseling practices.
Sometimes, these can trigger our doubts and insecurities. We may wonder if we’re doing something wrong. And these are the times when you need to take your own advice. If you were your own patient, what would you say to yourself?
It may feel hopeless at times, but you also need to understand that the client with the most progress is the one who is most interested in their own well-being. Nothing you can do or say will dissuade them from their beliefs.
Your role is a facilitator, and your task is to help clients with the desire to improve at their own pace.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Mental Health Counselor?
After earning an undergraduate degree, a licensed mental health counselor will need to have anywhere from three to seven years to become a mental health counselor, depending on the time commitment, intern hours, post-graduate experience and licensure requirements.