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How to Become a Mental Health Counselor: Complete Guide


Wanting to have a career in mental health counselling is not easy. You have to study, get an internship, see which state requires what and prepare yourself accordingly. If you want a career in this field and are hoping to learn everything about it, this post will definitely help.

In today’s article we are going to tell you, what is a mental health counselor career, what is expected out of counsellors in this field and how you can become one by following simple, basic steps. Keep reading the post to find out more.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental Health Counselor – Job, Salary, and Career Information:

1. What is mental health counselling about?

Mental health counselling is common and much needed in countries everywhere. Thousands of people every year deal with mental health illness and need someone to help them out. Those who don’t receive any help could also face death if the situation is prolonged. Therefore having a good mental health counsellor could really help.

Some of the most common diseases, a mental health counsellor has to deal with grief counseling and also includes  mental  health disorders, bipolarity, panic disorders, phobia, self esteem, chronic pain, generalized anxiety disorders etc.

2. Why is mental health counselling important?

Mental health counselling is important because it helps people get past everyday stress. It is quite overwhelming and difficult and could get slightly confusing and scary but sure is worth it. There are a lot of people who suffer with mental disorders and illness and need someone who can help them.

A counsellor in that case could be very helpful and will help people have basic mental health awareness  . These people are professionals, will give the skill and guidance needed to live a happy and normal life.

3. What is a mental health counselor jobs and salary like?

For a mental health counsellor, work begins with clients directly. Sometimes they meet families directly as well. They are professionals who know how to address different emotional and mental health issues. They usually assess the health of clients before the mental health treatment procedure begins. Then they also diagnose the mental illness depending on what the situation is.

A lot of people also prefer traditional psychotherapy and believe that such treatment can help mental health counsellors a lot. They also ask questions and explore different feelings and emotions of their clients. Depending on the experience Mental Health Counselor salary will be anywhere between $26,000 to $67,000 with average pay being $39,000 per year

4. What qualities do you require?

Counsellors expect you to be able to work with different people from different races, ages and socio economic levels as well as sexual orientations. You need to have a non-judgemental attitude, some empathy, authenticity so that people like you. You should be a guidance counseller to people around you. You also have to do some research from beforehand. If you have all of these qualities, then you would be perfect for a mental health counsellors job. Counselling after all is for those who express clearly.

5. What work environment do mental health counsellors work in?

Counselling expects you to be very attentive and see human interaction as closely as possible. Being a mental health professional, you are expected to work with several members in a team. The counsellor can have around 5 to 8 clients whereas the leading treatment meetings must be done regularly.

Mental health counsellors are expected to work full time. Those who practise privately have immense flexibility than those who have their own schedules set. Some work in the morning while some in the evenings while the rest work during weekends as well. The hours also include early mornings since several clients have special needs and can work during those times.

Mental Health Counselor Education and Career Requirements:

1. Get yourself a degree:

In order to become a mental health counsellor, you need to get your education done first. Getting a degree in arts or science or even psychology would help you go a long way. Once you have been accepted in school, go ahead and join a few student organizations where they do research. These places and institutions can help you earn a lot, boost professional growth and boost chances of networking as well.

However, you need to make sure you are taking up sociology and psychology as side subjects. Doing research is also helpful. Try your best to boost your GPA. Getting good marks will make it easy for you.

2. Go for a masters degree next:

Next you should go for a masters degree. Get a degree in science or arts and see if there are any options from there that can help you become a mental health counsellor. There are a few countries that want you to have a proper mental health counselor degree programme while some have other requirements. Do a thorough research and then go ahead with it. You should also take a Graduate Record Exam. It will help you understand how much you have learned so far and if you are ready to become a counsellor yet or not.

3. Internships:

Third, you should enrol yourself for an internship that can help you become a proper mental health counsellor. Apply to the class you want to be a part of. After that, try to form relationships with the people you meet there and encourage them to mentor you. Third, know that a lot of internships are not paid for. There are some who pay small stipends and other perks.

4. Get yourself a doctorate:

You could also consider getting yourself a doctorate done as several organizations prefer a PhD. It is also better if you have enough knowledge and experience. It will help you become the best in your respective field as well.

There are some people who practise this without getting a degree but we wouldn’t recommend you that. Even though it is optional, a lot of successful people do have a PhD and it will help you too.

How to Kick Start your Career in Mental Health Counselling?

1. Start as an independent practise:

You can always start this as an independent practise. You could have a non profit organization as well or take some help from a government agency. Think about a few benefits and cons before you begin your career. See how it benefits you and if there is security in it as well. You can also join an existing practise so that you can gain more and more experience. Third, do some research and see if you can pick and select your own clients. All of this matters a lot.

2. See if any position is available:

If the first position doesn’t suit you, then check if there is another spot that is available. You could try for different companies and mental health organizations that are looking for health counsellors. You could also check out a few websites and job portals such as LinkedIn where they provide you with mental health counselling positions.

Make use of the connections and relationships you have made in your college life and see if they are providing you with any job opportunities in the location you are currently residing in. There are plenty of agencies available too for help.

3. A national certification could really help your career:

Another thing you could actually consider is getting yourself a national certificate. It can help you make things easy for yourself and will also boost your chances of making more money. Secondly if the certificate is valid, then the state license will help you a lot in getting a job as quick as possible.

Finally, a certification exam is the same in all state licensure. However, you need to have a few more supervision hours so that you are nationally certified. So always keep that in mind.

Final Tips you Should Always Remember:

1. Decide the location:

First and foremost, try to determine the location. Where you would like to stay after finishing your studies could really help you decide how you should get ready for a mental health counsellors job. Every state has different requirements so keep that in mind. There are a few states which come with an equivalency while there are some that expect you to pass a certain exam.

2. It has several career options:

Also remember that there are plenty of career options that come with a mental health career options or counsellors jobs. You could become a nurse, social worker, mental health worker or a chemical dependency counsellor. So check all of these options before choosing one.

3. Go for special classes:

When you are in high-school, you should go for mental health classes or at least those that are related to them. It will help you understand the field and see whether you enjoy it for real or not.

With that, we bring the post to an end. If you have liked reading our article and have a few comments and feedback to suggest, do let us know in the box below. We would love to hear from you. Also do know that choosing a career in the mental health care is not easy.

It takes a lot of hard work and effort. You really have to be ready if you want to get the job of your dreams. Keep trying and let us know if the article was helpful to you. We look forward to your feedback.