Thinking about a career in mental health? Good! You are needed! An estimated 31% of U.S. adults experience an Anxiety Disorder at some time in their lives, and almost 20% will experience Major Depressive Order. Mental health disorders are not at all uncommon, yet over 89 million Americans are not able to find or get the treatment they need from mental health professionals because there just aren’t enough. This article provides an introduction to the types of jobs available in the field, the traits needed, and general schooling and licensure requirements.
“Making A Difference” Is The Biggest Reason Many Chose This Career Path
Clinicians already in the field say that their desire to help people better their lives is the biggest reason why they chose a mental health career. They agree that personality traits like compassion, empathy, patience, caregiving, and good communication are typical of those in the field. And while those traits may seem obvious, there are other less obvious traits necessary for a successful career in mental health:
Flexibility - The field is ever-evolving, clients’ needs change, and your own daily work schedule may need to adapt to your patients’ schedules - ‘nine to five’ is not typical in this field.
Confidence - You’ll be helping clients to reconsider and relearn their thinking patterns, so you’ll need to be aware of your own issues, challenges and expectations before treating others.
Tech-Savvy - Not only is the field itself making more and more use of technology to solve privacy, productivity, and access issues, but you’ll need to understand your clients’ technology habits as it may impact their mental health.
Life-Long Learner - The requirements for licensure and accreditation are typically ongoing annual coursework in updated theory and treatment, so a natural curiosity and openness to new ideas is an important trait for anyone considering the field.
Multiple Types Of Professionals Can Choose A Career In Mental Health — Each Has Its Own Schooling & Licensing Requirements
If you feel these traits describe you, you’ll have multiple paths to choose from as you think about what kind of mental health professional you want to become. Professional job titles and specialties can vary by state, but the list below is a general overview of the most common, along with schooling and licensure requirements.
Regardless of job title, as a mental health professional, you may work in an inpatient facility (hospitals and psychiatric facilities) or an outpatient facility (community mental health clinics, schools, private practice) depending on what patient population you want to serve. You may even choose to see and treat patients virtually as the technology to do so has matured and the pandemic has created the need for remote patient visits.
Psychiatrist - licensed medical doctor who has completed psychiatric training; can diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe and monitor medications, and provide therapy; MD plus completion of a residency in psychiatry required; need to be a licensed physician in the state where they practice; may also be designated as a Board Certified Psychiatrist.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (NP) - can provide assessment, diagnosis, and therapy for mental health conditions; qualified to prescribe medications depending on the state; requirements also vary by state as to the amount of supervision by a licensed psychiatrist; requires M.S. or Ph.D. in nursing with a specialty in psychiatry; must be a licensed nurse in the state where they are practicing.
Psychologist - trained to evaluate patients’ mental health using clinical interviews, psychological evaluations, and testing; can make diagnoses and provide individual or group therapy but not prescribe medicine; need a Ph.D. in clinical psychology or other specialties such as counseling or education; licensed by licensure boards in each state.
Counselor, Therapist - trained to assess mental health and use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs; requires master’s degree (M.S. or M.A.) in a mental health-related field such as psychology, counseling psychology, marriage or family therapy, among others; licensure varies by specialty and state but examples include LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) or LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist).
Clinical Social Worker - trained to evaluate mental health and use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs; are also trained in case management and advocacy services; master’s degree in social work (MSW) required; licensure examples include LICSW (Licensed Independent Social Worker) and LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker).
Social Worker - provide case management, inpatient discharge planning services, and other placement services; requires B.A. or B.S. degree in social work.
Job Growth Outlook For Careers In Mental Health: Excellent
The field is experiencing growth, so if you’ve been thinking about jumping in, now is the time. In fact, employment for all professionals in the field of mental health is expected to increase 22% through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you’re considering a career in mental health, take a look at the types of jobs available with Telemynd - to get an overview of the number and range of choices in this field.
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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA): Behavioral Health Workforce Report
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Types of Mental Health Professionals