We are blessed to be born in a time where mental health is given importance and not considered a taboo. Thanks to mental health counselors, who work tirelessly to protect the mental health of people and improve their quality of life.
What education requirements does one need to become a mental health counselor? How much does it cost? How long does it take to become a licensed mental health counselor? All of these questions will be answered in this article. Read this article fully to understand the entire process that is behind a licensed mental health counselor.
1.What Is Mental Health Counseling?
Mental health counseling is a process that goes on between an individual and a mental health professionals who treat the cognitive and emotional disorders of a person. They provide support to individuals who are facing emotional or mental distress. And they use different therapeutic techniques to treat a person and help them through their mental health concerns.
These mental health counseling can be done for individuals, families, couples and groups. Each of them will receive a different psychotherapy treatments according to their difficulties. The job of a mental health counselor is to make sure they get the utmost care and help.
2. What Is The Job Of A Mental Health Counselor?
A mental health counselor directly works with patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and other problems. They need to assess a patient through various sessions and create a detailed report individually to go through with the counseling further. So, they will have to evaluate and establish treatment plans for each of them.
They talk to clients, understand their problems, and diagnose their mental condition. One of the most important parts of their job is to listen to their patients. If you don’t have the patience to listen to everything your client has to say. You are not fit for the job.
Becoming a licensed mental health counselor might allow you to explore all the available specializations in the field to choose what is best for you.
3 What Mental Health Specializations Are There?
For all aspiring mental health counselors, this field offers a lot of specializations available for those who wish to focus on one or more areas in the field.
3.1 Behavior Disorder Counselor
This type of counselor provides treatment for clients who have certain behaviors that cause them problems in school and social life. For example, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), and Conduct Disorder (CD). They are pretty common among children and adults. Even though every one of us shows this behavior at some point in life. But behavior disorder is far too serious.
3.2 Substance Abuse Counselor
A Substance abuse counselor works with patients with a chemical dependency like drugs, and alcohol. They have a good knowledge of the impact of addiction and substance abuse. They provide addiction counseling and make sure that they recover fully from it.
3.3 Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
They are licensed professionals with master’s degrees who serve diverse clients with their mental health problems and provide counseling like rehabilitation. To practice any form of counseling it depends on what state you are in. In the US they do provide mental health care to millions. Mostly they serve nonmental health counseling to the clients including career counseling.
3.4 Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
There is not much distinction between the role of LPC and LMHC. However, both are different titles for mostly similar job descriptions. An LMHC focuses on addressing a wide range of mental health concerns of patients and helping them overcome it. To become one, you need to pass the national counselor examination and licensing exams as per state regulations.
4. How To Become A Licensed Mental Health Counselor?
There are some steps that you need to follow to become a licensed mental health counselor. And in that one of the main steps is to meet the state’s licensing requirement. You need to make sure you know what your state requires to obtain a license.
The below mentioned are some of the common steps that a general population going into this field go through. The journey will always be different for each individual.
4.1 Get A Bachelor’s Degree
For students who want to pursue their career as a mental health counselor, they need to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program that is related to this field. Psychology, and sociology are some of the related educational programs to be a mental health counselor. But you can apply for a master’s program even if your bachelor’s is from a different field in certain institutions. You need to check the admission prerequisites to confirm that.
However, a bachelor’s degree is a foundation to your career. It is important to choose what you want to do since it takes 3-4 years of your time to complete it. A degree in psychology can give you a strong hold early on in the field.
4.2 Get A Master’s Degree
If your goal is to become a mental health counselor, then it is mandatory to have completed a master’s degree program. For some mental health fields, just a bachelor’s degree is enough. But especially in the US, if you wish to practice as a mental health counselor, you need a license. So, to apply for a mental health license you need to have a master’s degree.
This will typically take 2-3 years to complete and get a degree. And some state require even licensed mental health counselors to get their master’s degree at universities accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. This will ensure the program’s quality meet the standard set by the mental health profession.
4.3 Supervised Clinical Experience
To get your license, you are required to perform a certain number of supervised clinical hours as per the National Board For Certified Counselors. The experience requirements change from state to state, however, you are expected to spend between 2000-3000 hours of clinical experience. During your college, you need to get hands-on experience under the supervision of licensed counselors as internships.
Before you earn your mental health counseling licensure, you need this supervised clinical experience where your performance will be evaluated by a professional counselor in a clinical setting.
4.4 Clear Your Licensing Exams
You need to pass the exams to be a certified counselor. Each state licensing board expects exam requirements to obtain a mental health counselor license. The National Counselor Examination For Licensure and Certification is one of the exams offered by the National Board For Certified Counselors. Another common exam that is offered by them is the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination.
However, the time required to prepare and clear these exams depends on every individual student’s background. For each state they expect different specifications to attain their license. In some you need to take both of these exams, the state law and ethics exam as well. So, you need to look at your state’s counseling board to be eligible for specific licensing requirements.
4.5 Apply For Licensure
A Mental health counselor licensure is evidence to your clients that you possess all the knowledge and educational requirements to practice as a counselor. You need to apply for licensure through the appropriate state licensing board. Licensure is considered an independent practice license for counselors to practice on their own. This is a big step in one’s career.
4.6 Additional Mental Health Certifications
The NBCC offers various additional mental health certification courses on specific issues or settings like addiction counseling or school counseling. This is completely a voluntary practice. Most mental health counselors who want to focus on specific sections will opt to complete these courses. These courses will prove valuable for counselors in adding their expertise in their field.
But in some cases, you need to do these certification courses by NBCC in certain states to obtain prior to licensure.
4.7 Maintaining Your License
In any field, there is always room for learning more and more. Especially in this field you need to stay up to date and closely look into the changes that are happening in this field. By researching and studying more you can give your best service to your client. But this requires regular study in the field you are pursuing or wish to pursue.
5. Mental Health Counselor Jobs
The field of mental health is growing as the demand for counselors is increasing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics an estimated increase of 23% in demand for licensed counselors. And about 43,000 new openings annually on average. Family Therapy is expected to grow 14% from 2021 to 2023 in the US. So, for those who aspire to be a mental health counselor. Now is the perfect time to unleash your potential in a market where the demand is more.
6. What Is The Salary Of A Mental Health Counselor?
For a field that looks quite promising, you can expect a handsome amount of money by being a licensed mental health counselor. The earnings significantly vary through each industry as the demand keeps on fluctuating. So, a licensed mental health counselor in the US earns a median salary of $52,092 per year. However, these vary from working in government organizations and residential treatment facilities. These are excluding cash bonuses, tips, and profit sharing.
7. How Long Does It Take To Become A Mental Health Counselor?
As we have seen in the steps above, to become a mental health counselor you need a bachelor’s degree that will go on for about four years. If you want to become a licensed mental health counselor, you need a master’s degree. That will take around two to even four years depending on the type of program you are enrolling. You also have to complete your clinical hours depending on the state law. Generally you are expected to spend around 2000-3000 hours as a clinical experience.
8. Is Mental Health Counseling A Good Career?
Well to answer this short. Yes, choosing a career as a mental health counselor is a choice to make this time when there is a lot of demand for licensed mental health counselors. Well you need to have the passion towards it to make it big and love what you do. This job requires absolute patience and control since you are dealing with human emotions. You can never know how they will react or what they might do. You need to have the sense of ick to help people through their tough times and make them normal.
You will have the power to change an individual’s life and their family’s life too. You need to make sure that utmost care is given to the clients and their well being is taken care of. You will enjoy the luxury of earning more money, respect in society and proudness in your work. You are literally giving back to society by making the people in them a better one.
Rehabilitation, Behavioral, Substance Abuse, and Career counseling are some of the popular demand jobs for counselors in 2023. However, a licensed mental health counselor is whom people will prefer. Nowadays, they have become too choosy with whom they want as counselors. That is because of the options they have in the market.
The number of people experiencing mental health issues are increasing day by day and we need more qualified mental health counselors to help them. We require professionals who are knowledgeable in the field to help people with their mental conditions. However it is a lot of work to identify what treatment to proceed, data collection, and time table. But if you love helping people and changing their lives. This is the best career you can ever find. Be sure to meet all the requirements of your particular state policy in terms of acquiring a license to practice to avoid discrepancies.