There are plenty of benefits to working as a mental health counselor; the hours are generally flexible – which makes it the perfect role for working around family life – and the job itself can be incredibly rewarding. There are several different fields in the counseling industry, and you could find yourself working in a variety of places, from schools and universities to hospitals and nursing homes. If you’re thinking of changing careers and want to move into counseling, then read on.
1. Choose Your Speciality
Before you start thinking about education, you need to decide which field of mental health counseling you want to work in, and there are several to choose from. Some people decide they’d like to work with veterans, where they treat not only mental issues but also accompanying physical problems, while others prefer to base themselves with young people. This can mean you work either with the patient in their home or in a formal setting. There’s also the option of working with people suffering from substance abuse. You start by working on an intervention, and then change the style of counseling as time goes on, assisting the patient with maintaining their sobriety.
2. Get Educated
To begin working as a counselor, you’re going to need a Bachelor’s degree. You can choose any subject you like, but social science or psychology are both excellent foundations to build on. The next step is to study for a Master’s degree in one of the many accredited mental health counseling programs available. When you’re choosing, make sure it’s been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), as this will help when you eventually apply for your license to practice. If you’re changing careers and balancing your learning around your current job, look into studying online. There are plenty of great courses available that will set you on the right path.
3. Gain Some Experience
Aside from your education, you’ll need to have a thorough period of experience under your belt before you can apply to complete the exams for your license. The best way to begin is even before you start studying, by volunteering in a people-based setting – think hospitals, summer camps, and schools, or anywhere where you have the opportunity to show that you possess the leading skills to become a counselor. Not only will this look brilliant on your CV, but it’ll also impress the admissions people at your chosen college or university. Once you’ve completed your Bachelor’s and master’s degrees, you’ll have the opportunity to complete a period of supervised clinical experience. This is where you’ll work as a mental health counselor under the guidance of a fully qualified and licensed practitioner. You’ll work with patients and their families on a variety of issues such as substance abuse, mental illness, anger management, stress, and depression, and you’ll have the chance to put into practice many of the skills you gathered during your studies.
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