What is a mental health counsellor?

Mental health awareness has grown into a mainstream topic over the last few years. These days, it is much more socially acceptable to discuss mental health challenges and speak with mental health professionals such as therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. One result of the growing acceptance of mental health care is that there is now more demand than ever before for mental health services.

The new surge in demand for trained and qualified therapists and counsellors has led to a serious need for new professionals to join the sector. If you have considered working in the mental health and wellbeing sector in the past, now might be the right time to take a step forward and pursue counselling as a career path.

The role of a mental health counsellor 

Mental health counsellors are trained professionals who utilize psychotherapy methods to help their patients who are experiencing mental distress. They oftentimes work in mental health clinics, schools, hospitals, private practices, university campuses, social service agencies, government agencies, correctional facilities, community health centers and even businesses.

The role of a mental health counsellor involves a number of different aspects and is much more than just talk therapy. Mental health counsellors will speak with patients to assess and diagnose the symptoms of what the individual is experiencing and then provide psychotherapy to address the symptoms and diagnoses.

The therapy will involve speaking with the patient about their history, relationships, emotions, and thoughts. In some instances, group sessions with couples or families will be held as well. Depending on the care the patient needs, the counsellor will help them to develop a treatment plan, set goals and reflect on aspects of their life that may be negatively impacting them such as stress, health issues, prejudice, or bullying.

The location in which the counsellor lives will also likely impact the type of work they will carry out or the work that is most commonly available to them. For example, in places where there is an opioid crisis, there may be more work available to assist individuals who are struggling with addiction and sobriety.

Becoming a mental health counsellor

If you feel like becoming a mental health counsellor could be a good fit for you, then there are a number of steps you need to take in order to qualify. You first need a master’s degree in clinical mental health counselling, which will provide you with the training you need to properly treat and care for your patients. Upon successful completion of your master’s, you will need to become a licensed professional counsellor – this is a process that will look different in every state but broadly will involve examinations and supervision.

If you are currently working, the prospect of returning to school for a master’s degree can be daunting. However, there are a number of programs that are offered on a fully flexible, remote basis that allows students to continue working and meeting any family obligations while also studying.

Going back to school is never an easy step to take, but if you feel called to the mental health sector, then this is a good option for a career change as there are many clinical mental health counselling jobs available in Ohio and across the Midwest.

Mental health in the US

The new surge of acceptance regarding mental health diagnoses and treatment has not meant that there are lower rates of mental illness, but it does mean that more people are willing to seek out treatment sooner. There is a considerable amount of research on the prevalence of mental illness in the US; one study found that in the US, nearly 1 in 4 adults experience mental illness at any given time, and other studies have shown that roughly 1 in 2 adults will experience a mental health crisis during their lifetime.

The rates of mental illness in a population vary from country to country, but the US has particularly high rates of mental illness. This is potentially due to the limited social services available and the fact that the healthcare system in the US does not make it easy for individuals to seek out what could be considered preventative care. In the mental health sector, preventative care means regular therapy to help an individual work through their challenges and learn how to adapt to the world before the individual experiences a crisis that serves as a catalyst for mental illness.

There are now many companies seeking to fill the gaps left by the US healthcare sector by providing affordable talk therapy via digital platforms. These companies include Talkspace, ReGain and TeenCounseling, among others.

What it takes to succeed as a mental health counsellor 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to succeeding as a mental health counsellor, and this is a good thing – not every patient will connect with every counsellor, and a diversity of personality types helps the sector meet patient needs. That being said, most successful counsellors tend to be invested in their career and love what they are doing, as working in mental health can be a personal calling.

Mental health counsellors also tend to be compassionate individuals who are intellectually curious, flexible, patient and have respect for the diversity of human experience. If you feel called to work in mental health or recognize these traits in yourself, then you may want to consider taking the next step and starting a master’s degree to become a mental health counsellor.

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