How to Become a Mental Health Professional

Mental health professionals are in high demand. The BLS predicts a 25% increase in employment for mental health and drug addiction counselors by 2029.

When it comes to becoming a mental health professional, there are so many different factors to consider. It’s a great way to make a difference in the lives of people. Becoming a certified mental health practitioner is one of the best ways to do so.

Keep on reading to explore your options for a career in mental health and the path to becoming a counselor. 

How to Become a Mental Health Professional

When it comes to becoming a certified mental health counselor, your path may vary from that of your classmates. The following stages, on the other hand, show a normal route.

It is important to note that the LMHC title is not the same in every state. And, it may be referred to by a different name in other jurisdictions. Before you begin the process of becoming a mental health counselor, verify the licensure requirements in your state.

Depending on the student’s background, state regulations may differ. And, this includes license criteria, test eligibility, and relevant paths.

The best approach to becoming a licensed mental health counselor is to conduct your research. This way, you can find out whatever state’s requirements are for the sort of license you want.

But, here are the common steps that you’ll need to go through. 

Getting a Bachelor’s Degree

You’ll want to focus on counseling-related undergraduate majors like psychology or sociology. These are common among those aspiring to careers in mental health counseling.

Get a head start on your graduate studies in mental health counseling. You can do so by enrolling in courses like lifespan human development and abnormal psychology. Doing it early on in your degree program is beneficial.

Some graduate programs may accept a bachelor’s degree in completely another discipline, such as a Bachelor of Social Work. Check the admissions criteria for the master’s in counseling schools.

Complete Your M.A. in Counseling Psychology

Most states need a master’s degree in counseling. However, the designation of this degree varies from program to school.

You’ll want to keep an eye out for the Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

They ensure that the program’s content and quality match the high requirements of the mental health profession.

However, despite CACREP’s widespread popularity, CACREP-approved degrees are not necessary for all states. For further information, talk to the state board in your area.

Take Your Licensing Exams

You’ll have to take a minimum of one of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) examinations. These include the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination.

These are required of all prospective mental health counselors in all states, Guam, and Puerto Rico combined (NCMHCE). Some states require applicants to complete state-specific tests, although this varies widely.

Complete Your Supervised Clinical Experience

To become a licensed mental health counselor, you must complete an internship. It needs to be under the supervision of a qualified counselor. And, it will be set during your graduate or post-graduate studies.

Certain levels of licensing in various states may need between 2,000 and 3,000 clinical hours. A temporary professional license is required for post-degree practice. And, students must earn an initial license to do so under the supervision of a qualified independent practitioner.

It’ll be called an Associate Licensed Counselor. Or, it’s Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern depending on your state.

Apply For Licensure

Getting your driver’s license is an important first step in your career. After that, you’ll need to apply for a mental health license in your jurisdiction.

An independent practice license will be issued as a result of this. It is vital to follow the state’s counseling board criteria if you wish to practice in that particular state.

Getting Additional Certifications

In order to become a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), candidates might go through the NBCC.

Typically, this is optional, however, it may be mandated by certain states prior to licensing in some jurisdictions. A candidate should check with the NBCC. It’s essential to see whether certification criteria vary from licensing requirements.

You may seek certification in mental health counseling after you have obtained a license.

This certification is available to mental health counselors who have completed a 60-credit graduate degree. Or, ones who are already NCCs, and have a minimum of 3,000 hours of postgraduate clinical experience.

You can also pick a certification in your field of interest, like the substance abuse counselor certification

Maintain Your Mental Health Counselor License

If you’re a certified mental health counselor, you may want to keep up with the latest trends and developments in the industry.

You may be able to give better treatment to your patient if you keep up with your education. As a result, you may be required by your state to get regular credit hours of continuing education.

Exploring Other Mental Health Jobs

You may also come across other professionals, like Certified Peer Specialists.

These experts have first-hand knowledge of mental illness or drug abuse. They are usually well-versed in helping others get back on their feet. They guide them toward their objectives and foster the development of their own personal assets.

They are a source of assistance, direction, and mentorship.

Social Workers and Pastoral Counselors

Case management, inpatient discharge planning, placement services, and other services to promote healthy living are all provided by social workers with a bachelor’s or master’s degree (B.A. or B.S.).

Also, clergy with clinical pastoral education training work as pastoral counselors. They’ve been taught to diagnose and help those in need of help. A Ph.D. in counseling is an acceptable credential for pastoral counselors.

Becoming a Counselor: Simplified

If you’re thinking about a career in mental health counseling, you’ll need to take into account your employment outlook, day-to-day responsibilities, and educational needs.

Health educators, community health workers, social workers, and school counselors may also be of interest to you. We hope that our guide has shed some light on how to become a mental health professional. Next, you’ll want to head straight to our career section for more information and tips on the industry as a whole.

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