Mental Health Jobs – A guide to a career in mental health

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Why work in Mental Health?

Getting into the mental health industry is often inspired by a few unique factors.

People who want to join this diverse field are often quite altruistic — they may feel their calling is helping others in need. This is a major part of most mental health jobs.

These types of workers are often assisting patients with debilitating mental illnesses who may need therapy and help accessing community resources. They may lead educational workshops about specific health issues, like the importance of not sharing needles. Mental health workers can be patient advocates or give them directions to find their way to an important medical appointment. In this field, there are plenty of ways employees get to help others.

Another major factor is how interesting it is. Learning the motivations behind human behavior is fascinating. If you’ve ever wondered how thoughts are processed, how mental illnesses change the landscape of the brain, or why people can simultaneously believe two conflicting ideologies, psychology is for you. And if you’re interested in what you’re doing, you’re much more likely to enjoy your job.

Mental health professionals are always learning new information about psychology — whether it’s through continuing education or from being an experimental psychologist. There are researchers testing psychological theories and writing studies who continue to uncover fascinating truths about humanity. Their work helps improve treatments for individuals suffering from mental illnesses.

What is a Typical Day Like in a Mental Health Job?

Working in a mental health role means having a career where no day is the same. You may be doing some of the same things, like leading group therapy sessions or completing community outreach, but there is plenty of variety.

Your tasks will depend on where you’re working and your job title. For instance, being a psychologist in a hospital compared to being an industrial psychologist for a company. Even still, there is some overlap.

On the job, a Mental Health Worker can expect to:

  • Meet with their patients to discuss their needs.
  • Notate patient sessions with accuracy.
  • Maintain impeccable patient records.
  • Diligently follow HIPAA protocols to ensure patient confidentiality.
  • Create treatment plans and advocate for their patients’ needs.
  • Complete continuing education requirements to maintain their license.
  • Contact a patient’s insurance to discuss coverage.
  • Schedule appointments.

What Qualities Does a Mental Health Worker Possess? 

Joining the mental health field means having a role that’s both challenging and rewarding. There are plenty of highs and lows within the profession, so you’ll need to be someone who knows how to take care of yourself and your own mental health. Helping others is important, but you can’t accomplish this goal without caring for yourself too.

Part of this entails setting firm professional boundaries. Leave your work at work. It also means making self-care a top priority. Going too long without tending to your own needs can lead to immense burnout.

Besides boundaries, it’s also important to have empathy, respect, and rapport with your patients. Being a mental health workers guarantees you’ll be exposed to vulnerable populations. It’s imperative to meet them where they are or risk damaging the practitioner and patient relationship.

It’s important to be an ethical person as well. The people you’re treating are struggling with mental illnesses and/or behavioral problems and are in a vulnerable position. They are deserving of compassionate treatment.

You’ll also need to be organized, adept at record keeping, and technologically literate. Part of this profession requires plenty of paperwork and notetaking — you’ll need to be able to find what you need when you need it.

What are the Educational Requirements for a Mental Health Role? 

Depending on where you’re working and what kind of role you’re pursuing, your educational requirements greatly vary.

There’s a myth that you’ll need a college degree to be qualified for a psychology job. This isn’t accurate. Some roles, especially ones that are entry level or administration-based, only require a high school diploma. You may need to earn a special certificate, but you won’t have to attend a university and incur student loan debt.

Of course, there are still plenty of mental health careers, like therapy or social work, that will require attending college. For instance, a licensed clinical social worker will need a bachelor’s, master’s, and special certification after they complete their schooling. Some roles, especially the research-based ones, may mean pursuing a doctorate.

A higher educational degree will open more doors for you but it’s not a necessity. Find which psychological subset interests you to see how much or little education may be required.

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What are Some Specific Types of Mental Health Careers?

If you’re realizing you have a passion for helping others and an interest in human behavior, it’s time to start narrowing your focus to a specific psychological specialty. Luckily, there are dozens of options.

Here are a few of the many subsets of mental health:

  • Mental Health Therapist: Becoming a Mental Health Therapist means diagnosing and treating your patients’ mental illnesses. Your patients could have PTSD and other anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, or another personality disorder. These counselors help the people they’re working with navigate the challenges of life and give them strategies to cope with their mental illnesses. They offer their patients compassionate advice in a nonjudgmental environment.
  • Counseling Psychologist: Separate from a Mental Health Therapist, a Counseling Psychologist is a subsection of professional psychology. The people they work with can be any age and from a plethora of backgrounds. Counseling Psychologists help their patients with a wide range of issues including health concerns, difficulties at work or school, and complicated social situations.
  • Business Psychologist: Instead of working in a medical facility, these mental health professionals are employed within a business setting — sometimes as an employee or otherwise as a consultant. Business Psychologists can work with individual team members to discuss their career aspirations and improve their work performance. They also help companies develop their culture to ensure a comfortable environment for the people working within it.
  • Psychometrist: Psychometrists are a type of psychologist that is an expert in medical evaluations. They give patients with learning disorders, mental illnesses, brain injuries, and neurological diseases tests to determine the severity of their condition and their medical needs. They work with a supervising psychologist or neuropsychologist who interprets their results.
  • Child Psychology and School Psychology: Child Psychologists work with children and teenagers to help treat their mental illnesses. Besides leading an individual or group therapy session, these psychologists administer tests and conduct research. Child psychology is closely linked to school psychology. School Psychologists spend their time working with school personnel and parents to assist children with their educational needs. They may work with students with learning disabilities and those who are gifted. If a student needs a different set of educational requirements, that’s where a School Psychologist comes in.
  • Forensic Psychologist: If you’re interested in the intersection between psychology and law, forensic psychology is an excellent option. Forensic Psychologists use their psychology expertise to help solve legal problems. They are also trained to understand the legal system, ethics, and professionalism. Being employed within this field means committing to lifelong education to keep up with the ever-evolving relationship between psychology and the law.
  • Addiction Counselor: Addiction Counselors treat people with addictions. Their patients may have substance abuse problems and struggle with maintaining sobriety. They also could suffer from other addictions, like gambling or shopping. It’s an Addiction Counselors job to help their patients learn other healthy coping mechanisms and get them to change their use habits.
  • Research Psychologist or Experimental Psychologist: If you’re someone who’s interested in studying human and animal behavior, try being a Research Psychologist. These scientists conduct experiments to learn more about memory, attention, motivation, effects of substance abuse, and genetic factors affecting behavior. Most Experimental Psychologists are hired by colleges or research centers, but some of them work in zoos.

Should You Pursue a Mental Health Career? 

If you’re searching for a new career and eager to make a difference in your community, then the mental health profession could be a wonderful new start. Whether you want to conduct psychological experiments or help the unhoused, there are so many options. Let your passion be the guide.