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If you want to pursue a career that allows you to help others overcome psychological challenges, then a clinical mental health counseling degree could be the path towards the perfect career. In fact, the clinical mental health counseling program at University of the Cumberlands offers the education and credentials you need to embark on a successful and rewarding clinical counseling career. Plus, there are promising employment opportunities in the current job market for those with a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling. Lots of different career paths are available to graduates, all offering challenging and rewarding careers for many years to come.

Clinical Counselors Are at the Center of the Solution to our Mental Health Crisis

Mental health care is changing. While there’s a growing awareness of the inescapable and damaging effects of untreated mental illness, there’s also an awareness that treatments exist which minimize or eliminate the harm caused by mental illness. This has resulted in a wide range of people and organizations coming together to support outreach to individuals in need of mental health care. This is where clinical mental health counseling comes in.

What Is Clinical Mental Health Counseling?

Clinical mental health counseling includes all services trained professionals provide to clients who are dealing with difficult circumstances in their lives – depression, relationship issues, loss of a loved one, workplace stress, trauma, etc. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “The practice of counseling psychology encompasses a broad range of culturally-sensitive practices that help people improve their well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve crises and increase their ability to function better in their lives.” 

The issues people face include personal difficulties of various nature which may include:

  • Emotional
  • Behavioral
  • Marital
  • Rehabilitative
  • Vocational
  • Educational
  • Life-stage changes

The APA limits the administration of counseling services to:

  • Licensed counselors
  • Psychologists
  • Nurses
  • Social workers

Counseling services may be offered to individuals, couples, families or groups through governmental, mental health or social service organizations. 

A clinical counselor is concerned with the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental disorders. Overall, however, a clinical counselor assists individuals who are often dealing with personal issues, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce. A clinical counselor gives patients the opportunity to talk things through, then offers various ways of dealing with or helping their client interpret the situation or problem in a healthy manner.

Educational requirements vary from state to state. A master’s degree is often the minimum requirement; however, a doctoral degree may be required. To be eligible for certification as a clinical mental health counselor, the National Board for Certified Counselors mandates that counselors meet educational requirements in certain topics such as mental examinations, psychosocial evaluations, diagnostic processes, treatment planning and psychopharmacology.

The overall description of clinical mental health counseling could be summed up as "clinical diagnosis and treatment."

Top 10 Specializations for Clinical Counselors

Certified clinical mental health counselors may have specialized areas of study. According to Zippia, the Career Expert, the top ten certifications include:

  1. Certified Professional Counselor
  2. National Certified Counselor (NCC)
  3. Mental Health
  4. Pastoral Counseling Certification
  5. Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC)
  6. Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC)
  7. Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC)
  8. Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor
  9. First Aid, CPR and AED Instructor
  10. Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC)

5 Reasons to Pursue a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling 

Keep reading to learn about the benefits of furthering your education in the growing field of clinical mental health counseling.

1.    More Opportunities to Make a Difference. 

Increased knowledge and expertise in counseling translates into more opportunities to work with individuals who have a genuine need, thereby making a lasting impact on their lives and the lives of those around them. Effectual clinical counselors have the ability to successfully overcome the barriers of age, gender and race. They assist individuals in all walks of life, helping them to overcome difficult challenges such as the loss of a loved one, depression, workplace stress, trauma, relationship issues and more. Clinical counselors may work in hospitals, community-based organizations or in their own private practice (with the proper credentials which may vary from state to state). In many states, a master’s degree is required if an individual wants to work in the fields of psychology and counseling.

2.    Job Security. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, someone working in the field of psychology can expect an eight percent increase in job opportunities between now and 2030. There is, and will be in the foreseeable future, a greater demand for individuals with a master’s degree compared to someone with only a bachelor's degree. This translates into better employment prospects for those with a master’s in clinical mental health counseling.

3.    Higher Salary.

An eight percent increase in job prospects translates into a greater possibility of finding a job with a higher paying salary as well.

The average salary for counselors varies depending on many factors, including:

  • Type of practice 
  • Location
  • Area of specialization
  • Education
  • Certifications
  • Additional skills
  • Years of experience

Larger employers generally offer more competitive salaries than smaller, not-for-profit social organizations. Private practice counselors often earn substantially more, depending on their hourly rate and the number of patients they see. However, private practitioners may be required to pay high insurance fees.

According to Salary.com, the average annual salary for clinical mental health counselors is $50,248.

Knowing that areas of specialty often affect salaries, let’s look at a few. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual salaries for different counselor specialties include:

These figures display a large variance in salaries, with some increases occurring when a master’s degree has been obtained.

Mental health counselors with a master’s degree earn $13,000 more annually on average than those with only a bachelor’s degree. This translates into an average salary increase of as much as 35%, although those with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and working in a traditional workplace setting may earn twice that of an individual with only a bachelor's degree.

4.    Job Flexibility.

With a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and the proper credentials, individuals may set up their own private practice as a clinical counselor. They may also provide consulting services to individuals as well as businesses. Acting as a private practitioner, they’re able to set their own rates and work flexible hours as well.

5.    Job Fulfillment/Sense of Accomplishment.

Job satisfaction and career fulfillment are paramount to a person’s overall well-being and personal success. With a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, individuals have more chances to learn, grow and help others overcome numerous psychological stumbling blocks. Job fulfillment and career satisfaction come mainly from knowing that they’ve made a real difference in someone else’s life. Let’s look at some examples:

Clinical counselors may choose to pursue a career in marriage counseling. A marriage counselor assists couples in gaining a clearer perspective on their relationship and addressing or dealing with issues causing problems or conflict. By helping the couple to "fix" their relationship, their marriage may yet be saved. This in turn often improves the lives of their children and many others around them. What began as helping two people ended up touching the lives of many.

Clinical counselors also help children cope with the aftereffects of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. They give abused children a fighting chance of leading a normal life. Without counseling, abused children have a very small chance of becoming emotionally mature adults capable of maintaining healthy adult relationships.

Both scenarios show that a career as a clinical counselor can be very rewarding. A clinical counselor helps people on a one-on-one basis and sees the results firsthand.

What Can You Do with a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling?

When you’ve earned your master’s in clinical mental health counseling, more jobs become available that you couldn’t access with just a bachelor's degree. A master’s may also be used as a stepping-stone towards more advanced careers such as management in a mental health care facility. With a master’s, the right work experience and education in health administration, the doors to a clinical directorship could also open.

A master’s degree can also be used as the next logical step toward a doctoral degree. A doctorate enables you to increase your earnings in more advanced careers such as counseling psychology.

Earning Your Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree

The field of clinical counseling is both rewarding and challenging. It’s filled with positive, life-changing experiences. With dedication and hard work, you can pursue a career that provides both satisfaction and fulfillment. Completing a master’s in clinical mental health counseling program could be the key that unlocks the door to a career that can make dreams come true — yours and your patients'.

If you're interested in learning more about clinical mental health counseling, reach out to University of the Cumberlands to learn more about our program.