Do you have a passion for helping others? Are you looking for a career that is both rewarding and challenging? If so, consider becoming a mental health counselor. This profession allows you to work with people who are struggling with various mental health disorders.
What’s more, it can be incredibly fulfilling to help someone overcome their struggles and regain their life. In this article, we will share everything you need to know on how to become a mental health counselor
Types Of Mental Health Specializations
There are many different types of mental health professionals. The type of counselor you become will likely depend on your interests and the population you want to work with. Here are some of the most common mental health counseling specializations:
Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC)
A mental health counselor is a licensed professional who treats a wide range of mental health issues and devises treatment strategies for his or her clients. This job demands that you obtain the appropriate certification in each state’s regulations.
Substance Abuse Counseling
Substance abuse mental health counselors work with people who are struggling with addiction. If you have a passion for helping people overcome addiction, this could be the perfect counseling specialization for you.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
Although this sort of psychotherapist can give mental health therapy, they may specialize in other types of non-mental-health counseling, such as rehabilitation and career counseling. Becoming an LPC in any state might require a license.
Behavior Disorder Counselors
This type of counselor helps people with conditions like ADHD, OCD, and Tourette’s Syndrome. If you’re interested in helping people manage their behavior disorders, this could be the right career path for you.
Steps On How To Become A Mental Health Counselor
Becoming a mental health counselor takes time and dedication. However, it can be a very rewarding career. If you’re interested in becoming a mental health counselor, here are the steps you need to take:
1. Get A Bachelor’s Degree In Psychology
Aspiring mental health counselors generally begin their education with an undergraduate degree in counseling-related disciplines such as psychology or sociology. Early study of lifespan human development and abnormal psychology might also help you gain an edge when it comes to graduate studies.
However, a bachelor’s degree in a different discipline, such as a Bachelor of Social Work, may fulfill the requirements for a graduate program. We recommend examining the entry standards for each master’s counseling program that interests you.
2. Earn A Master Of Mental Health Counseling Degree
To work as a licensed professional mental health counselor, you must first obtain your graduate degree in mental health counseling from an institution that has been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
While the CACREP is the most popular accreditor, a CACREP-accredited degree isn’t necessary for every state, and other accreditation may be required for certain degree specializations. Check with your state board for more details.
3. Pass Licensing Exams
In order to become a mental health counselor in any state, candidates must pass one or more National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) tests, such as the National Counselor Exam (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Applicants may also be required to obtain a license in their home state.
4. Complete Supervised Clinical Experience
After completing a master’s degree in counseling and passing the NBCC exams, most states require that mental health counselors complete a certain amount of supervised clinical experience.
This is generally accomplished by working under the supervision of a licensed mental health counselor in an outpatient or inpatient mental health setting. The number of required hours and other specific requirements will be determined by each state.
5. Get Licensed
Passing your licensing exam is a significant milestone in your path. After that, you must apply for a mental health license in your state. This will be considered an independent practice license by the authorities.
Various state legislations have different licensing requirements, so it’s important to adhere to the board’s rules wherever you want to work as a counselor.
6. Apply For And Earn Additional Mental Health Certifications
Licensed professional counselors may obtain national certification through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) or receive specialized training in grief, pastoral, school-based mental health counseling, or other mental health issues, concerns, or disorders.
7. Stay Up To Date on Mental Health Counseling News and Trends
Mental health counseling is an ever-evolving field with new research and findings reported regularly. In order to provide the best care possible to your clients, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest news and trends.
You can do this by subscribing to mental health counseling newsletters, reading industry-related blogs, or attending conferences and workshops.
Joining a professional mental health counseling association is another great way to stay abreast of the latest news and trends in the field, network with other counselors, and find resources to help you in your practice.
Some of the most popular mental health counseling associations include the American Counseling Association(ACA), the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
It takes time, dedication, and hard work to become a mental health professional. However, the rewards of helping others through their mental illness can make it all worth it. If you’re interested in becoming a mental health counselor, follow the steps outlined above. And remember, you can always reach out to your state counseling board for more information on licensure requirements.