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The modern world is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, and more people are beginning to realize that their mental and physical health are equally important. If you consider yourself to be a mental health advocate, and you are passionate about helping people live their best possible lives, then you may want to look into the field of clinical mental health counseling.

What Is Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Why Is It Important?

According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association , clinical mental health counseling is a form of therapy that addresses the client’s individual needs, typically relating to emotional distress or personal challenges. It is designed to be a personalized approach to therapy, one in which the counselor not only serves as a sounding board for the patient but also uses various tools, interventions, and resources to help clients improve their overall wellness.

The number of adults who are receiving clinical counseling services has been steadily rising over the past few decades, emphasizing the need for qualified and caring mental health counselors. According to Statista, nearly 42 million adults in the United States received clinical counseling services in 2021, with many citing anxiety and depression as the reason for needing counseling.

What Does a Clinical Mental Health Counselor Do?

A clinical mental health counselor often works directly with clients to provide then with individualized or group therapy treatment modalities. According to Workable, the primary responsibilities of a clinical mental health counselor include:

  • Coordinate and organize therapy sessions for individuals or groups.
  • Design treatment plans based on the individual needs of the clients.
  • Monitor progress and document sessions.
  • Collaborate with other professionals in order to ensure that the client is receiving all care and services required as part of the treatment plan.
  • Identify problematic behavior and work with clients to curb the behavior.
  • Partner with family members, friends, or coworkers in order to support the needs of the client.

Day-to-day life for clinical mental health counselors varies drastically, depending on where they work and the type of clients that they work with. For many mental health counselors, no two days are alike.

What Is Mental Health Counseling?

Mental health counseling is a form of psychological care in which a patient sorts through their personal problems and emotional difficulties with a licensed, professional counselor. It is a growing industry that continues to be more in demand as people begin to recognize the important role that mental health and well-being plays in their lives.

Where Do Clinical Mental Health Counselors Work?

Clinical mental health counselors work in a variety of settings, such as:

  • Private Practices
  • Hospitals and Clinical Offices
  • Schools
  • Detention Centers
  • Substance Abuse Facilities

There are both full-time and part-time positions available for those interested in a career in mental health counseling, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The hours for these positions can vary significantly, with some counselors working in the evenings or on the weekends in order to meet the needs of patients. Some even work on an as-needed, emergency basis.

How Do You Become a Clinical Mental Health Counselor?

While the BLS notes that most entry-level counseling positions require a bachelor’s degree, most practices and facilities that employ clinical mental health counselors prefer that job candidates also have a master’s degree in the field. Otherwise, if the candidate does not have a master’s degree, they are most likely being overseen by a licensed individual; due to all states requiring the appropriate master’s degree for a clinical mental health license.  A master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling gives you the advanced knowledge and skill set required in order to provide patients with compassionate and effective counseling services.

In addition, all states require counselors to maintain an active license in order to practice. The licensing requirements will vary based on the state in which you intend to practice.

Benefits of Mental Health Counseling

The mental health crisis is real—and it is impacting people of all ages. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, millions of people across all age groups in the United States are suffering from mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more. NAMI notes that 1 out of 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness each year, and 1 in 6 youth experience a mental health disorder each year. The prevalence of mental health conditions in the United States emphasizes the impact that counselors can have on the populace and helping to treat people with their various conditions.

Facing the Epidemic of Addiction

Addiction is becoming a mounting crisis in the United States, with scientists and medical professionals noting that the Opioid crisis continues to grow. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 10 million people in the country misused prescription opioids in 2019 alone, more than 70,000 people died from a drug overdose.

The reality of the matter is, more people are dealing with addiction than we realize, and many of those individuals could benefit from counseling services designed to help them overcome addiction. Mental health counselors may work at a substance abuse treatment center or as a private practitioner, allowing them to specialize in therapy for addiction. According to the NYC Psychiatric Associates, addiction counseling can be used to complement other treatments for addiction, and often helps those suffering from addiction to gain a new perspective and develop coping mechanisms to help them avoid destructive behavior in the future.

Family and Marriage Counseling

There are a variety of factors that can put strain on relationships, and family and marriage counseling can help to address those strains while strengthening the relationship between all parties involved. Whether a couple is suffering in the wake of an affair or a family is feeling burdened by personal issues that are taking place in the home, a marriage and family counselor can provide both individual and group therapy designed to treat their circumstances and improve the overall relationship.

According to Medical News Today the goal of family and marriage counseling is to develop positive relationships with healthy boundaries, improve communication, reduce conflict, and improve problem-solving skills in relationships. People often pursue family and marriage counseling when they are going through a divorce, dealing with a traumatic event, managing grief, or adjusting to new circumstances in the home.

Diagnosing and Treating Mental Illness

Mental illness is commonly misunderstood, and the symptoms can vary from one individual to the next, which can complicate the path toward treatment for many individuals. In fact, according to NAMI, the average amount of time between mental health disorder symptom onset and treatment is nearly 11 years. This startling number emphasizes the important role that mental health counselors play in diagnosing and treating mental illness.

Some symptoms of mental illness may include:

  • Feeling withdrawn or isolated.
  • Engaging in risky behavior.
  • Significant changes in weight.
  • Inability to stay still or focus.
  • Prolonged or severe insomnia.
  • Excessive use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Heart palpitations, panic attacks, or feelings of anxiety.

Mental illness looks and feels different for each individual patient, which is why it is so important that anyone exhibiting any signs of mental illness works with a counselor in order to better understand the root cause of their symptoms. Clinical mental health counseling often plays a pivotal role in a treatment plan, which may include other interventions in order to provide the patient with the best possible results.

Mental Health Needs of the Elderly

According to the Pan American Health Organization, the number of senior citizens suffering from mental health disorders is expected to double by 2030, highlighting the need for effective and compassionate mental health counseling services that address this growing issue.

As the expected lifespan for adults grows and the population continues to age, more senior citizens are being impacted by loneliness as well as physical health disorders, such as dementia, that can result in mental health disorders. Health care providers and family members will need to remain vigilant and recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. In all likelihood, mental health counseling services for the elderly will be in much higher demand in the coming years, particularly as people begin to recognize the signs of mental health disorders in their loved ones.

Helping People With Stress

One of the primary reasons that people solicit the help of therapists and mental health counselors is to help them manage their stress. Stress is playing an increasingly detrimental role in the daily lives of many children and adults, due a variety of factors, including economic uncertainty, social change, evolving technology, and more.

The bottom line is stress is not something that anyone should be learning to live with. In fact, when an individual endures unchecked stress and anxiety, it can have a ripple effect on other areas of their lives.

Identifying your stress and learning to manage it with the help of a clinical counselor can help you live a healthier and happier life. According to Choose Therapy, as a clinical mental health counselor, you can help patients manage their stress by:

  • Helping your clients understand the root cause of their negative thoughts or problematic behavior.
  • Pointing your clients toward solutions that could help them better manage their stress.
  • Teaching your clients new skills and coping mechanisms that they can enact when their stress levels are elevated.

What’s the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Clinical Counselor?

Both psychologists and clinical counselors specialize in working with clients who experience mental health disorders. However, psychologists are trained more intensively in the use of various psychological assessment tools. In addition, psychologists can only be licensed as psychologists at the doctorate level. Clinical counselors can become licensed at the Masters level. This means that psychologists go through a longer education and training period. However, clinical counselors can obtain their doctorates in counseling, supervision, marriage and family counseling, etc. Overall, the most significant difference between these two practitioners is their philosophy and approach. While psychologists apply a medical model, professional counselors view their clients through more of a wellness model. They ask how well the client is versus how sick they are.

Develop an Expertise in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Relying on eight educational curriculum domains adhered to by most counselor education programs in the U. S, while also emphasizing best practices in counseling, the online master of science in clinical mental health counseling from Post University is the ideal program for those who are interested in this field. Throughout the degree program, you will be educated by faculty instructors who are also practitioners, with some who are also writers, researchers, and presenters. They come together to create an educational foundation for your career interests and goals, allowing you the opportunity to carve out a path that suits your personal and professional goals.

Request more information about our online master’s in clinical mental health counseling today.

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Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and its outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.