Mental Health Counselors are considered Social careers according to the Strong Interest Inventory® Assessment. This Inventory contains hundreds of careers and sorts them into six categories depending on a number of professional and workplace preferences of the people who tend to be successful in them. After taking a brief assessment, job-seekers are then directed to the career code categories for which they have shown the strongest proclivities. For instance, individuals who hold Social careers enjoy having influence over others’ lives, especially in supporting them in times of need or vulnerability. They enjoy discussing feelings, and are often comfortable speaking in large group settings.
Mental Health Counselors work closely with individuals in one-on-one or group settings to help them achieve optimal mental and emotional health. This may include targeted counseling about issues related to addictions and substance abuse, stress, aging, family and marital problems or a wide range of other challenges individuals face in their lives. To this end, counselors encourage clients to express their feelings about current and past events with the goal of making them critically aware of new developments or their current situation. The first step towards this goal is typically to conduct diagnostic interviews, observations or tests. Then, a treatment plan is developed and implemented based on counselors’ knowledge and clinical experience, and based on clients’ ongoing progress, improvement, and response to treatment interventions. Documentation is key to these undertakings. Counselors must maintain all federal and state-mandated paperwork, as well as progress notes and diagnostic records which may be used by themselves as well as other professionals. They are also legally obligated to maintain client confidentiality, except in cases when court mandates may require the divulging of certain information or if a patient demonstrates an intent to harm themselves or others.
Counselors may also provide other kinds of support to their clients, for instance by planning or leading structured social or recreation activities, counseling and supporting family members who may also be affected by clients’ situations. They may also refer clients to other resources, including other specialists or community resources who may be able to provide them additional support. Those who are in leadership or executive positions may also supervise other counselors or assistants. Those who are in professorial roles may also have graduate students to manage. All of these responsibilities fall under the role of Mental Health Counselor.
Many kinds of tools and technologies are used by Mental Health Counselors, including computers, printers and scanners. E-mail software, Microsoft Office Suite, and basic medical and client database software may also be used to track patient outcomes, schedule appointments, and fulfill similar responsibilities. In addition to familiarity with these tools, the majority of Mental Health Counselors hold a Master’s degree (62%), with a good percentage holding a Bachelor’s degree instead (34%). All counselors, regardless of education level, benefit from a solid academic and practitioner foundation in psychology, therapy, and counseling, as well as well-developed skills in verbal comprehension and expression as well as critical thinking. A professional level of fluency in English as well as in any other languages that may be spoken by their clients is necessary to provide the high level of care and service that their clients require and deserve.
A Mental Health Counselor’s salary varies based on geographic location as well as amount of experience. The average Mental Health Counselor’s salary is $41,880, with Alaska averaging above $60,000 and Montana averaging almost half of that, at just $33,270 per year. There is significant variation within each state, where the highest Mental Health Counselor’s salary is in California, for instance, earning over $81,000 per year, while the lowest incomes for Mental Health Counselors in the same state are under $27,000 annually. Growth rates vary nationwide, with growth occurring in Utah and Colorado (over 35% growth projected before 2024). However, the most jobs are being added in New York, Texas, and Florida, each of which is projected to add over 1,000 new jobs before 2024.
Below are some employment trends for Mental Health Counselors:
- Median Mental Health Counselor’s Salary: $20.13 hourly; $41,880 annually
- Employment: 135,000 employees
- Projected growth (2014-2024): much faster than average (14% or higher)
- Projected job openings (2014-2024): $54,500
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Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2022 employment projections Onetonline.org