A career in clinical mental health counseling can be incredibly rewarding and enriching for those individuals interested in exploring the emotional and healing aspects of life. It involves providing psychotherapy, emotional support, and guidance to clients challenged by psychological issues. A successful counselor is empathetic and understanding as they work collaboratively with patients to understand how their current environment shapes their behavior. Those looking to enter this field should be prepared to pursue a degree program relevant to the discipline and participate in an additional post-graduate clinical training period. Still not sure if this career choice is right for you? Continue reading to learn more about this highly gratifying career path.

What Is Clinical Mental Health Counseling?

Clinical mental health counseling is a type of psychotherapy and practice geared to helping individuals manage a wide range of mental, physical, and emotional issues. Through collaborative conversations and trust-based relationships, clinical mental health counselors focus on recognizing and understanding how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors impact the person's overall well-being. This type of counseling is often solution-focused and aims to reduce symptoms, cope with distress more efficiently, resolve crises, challenge dysfunctional beliefs, and develop effective coping strategies. Clinical mental health counseling helps individuals gain insight into their lives by exploring their underlying feelings, values, and beliefs through individualized treatment plans that encourage positive change.

Should I Pursue It?

Pursuing a career in clinical mental health counseling can be very rewarding. Working with individuals directly to help them cope with their struggles and promote personal growth can be an incredibly gratifying experience. Clinical mental health counselors often work closely with other professionals to create the most beneficial treatment plans for clients, requiring both practical skills and empathy. These experiences hone one's problem-solving and interpersonal communication capabilities, which can be valuable in many aspects of life. Mental health counselors must also have a great deal of knowledge about psychology, research methods, psychopathology, and various treatment modalities. If you think this line of work could benefit you and those around you--personally, professionally, or both--it may be worth consideration! You never know what doors may open after exploring your passion for helping others lead healthier, more meaningful lives.

How Do I Know Which Master's Program to Choose?

It can be overwhelming to pick which master's program to pursue in clinical mental health counseling. It is essential to research the available programs and compare them with your goals and preferences. Considering the following points will give you insight into your options for a valuable education that can contribute to success in your chosen profession.

1.    What Relevance Does It Have for Your Career?

When considering enrolling in a master's degree program, reflecting on your career and personal goals is important. Ask yourself if this particular graduate program will be an asset to helping you reach those objectives. Think about how specific courses and the skills learned in the program will contribute to your success in achieving your goals. Also, consider which employers may recognize or value that degree and what types of job opportunities will open up for you upon completion of the program.

2.    Do They Offer a Practicum or Internships?

Another thing you should pay attention to is whether a program offers practicum or internship opportunities. Experiencing practical, in-the-field work at an early stage of your career can help you better understand the positions you may eventually be applying for, gain valuable references and insights from professionals in the field, and serve as an excellent platform to launch your resume into further job supply channels.

3.    Is the School Properly Certified?

Before beginning a master's program, it's vital to understand if your chosen college or university is certified. Double-checking the school's certification will ensure that potential employers will recognize your academic credentials when you've received your degree. 

4.    Does the Accreditation Still Stand?

Investigate the background of any school that offers the program you are interested in and verify its accreditation and reputation. A degree from an accredited institution will carry more weight than one from an unaccredited school, so taking some extra time to research potential programs can make all the difference. You deserve to get your hard-earned money's worth from your studies, so remember to check the school's accreditation before enrolling!

5.    What is the Overall Curriculum Like?

When considering a master's degree, it is essential to research the curriculum and make sure it fits your interests and goals. Researching the program can save you time and money by confirming you are taking the suitable classes for what you hope to achieve. Read through the course list thoroughly, paying particular attention to any available electives, as these may help give you additional skills or insight into the areas of interest most important to you. Ask questions if anything needs to be clarified, such as required reading or assessments - it's important to be clear on what exactly is expected from each course within an accredited program before enrolling.

What Career Choice is Best with a Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree?

You may wonder what careers in mental health counseling exist. Here are a few questions to ask yourself regarding your clinical mental health counselor career.

6.    Do I Have Many Career Options?

With a clinical mental health counseling degree, there are many opportunities to work in various capacities. You can choose the best setting for your individual skills, from private practice to university counseling centers, working with non-profits to clinics. You might provide crisis intervention or focus on primary care, working with long-term clients or short outpatient sessions - all while helping individuals manage emotional distress and create more meaningful lives.

7.    What Are the Different Facets I Could Pursue?

Becoming a clinician requires ongoing education and training to understand different theories, therapies, and systems to best serve clients. Depending on your interests and expertise, you could specialize in individual therapy, marriage and family counseling, substance abuse counseling, crisis intervention treatments and services, trauma-related issues, geriatric counseling, or other therapeutic interventions. There is also the option of working with certain populations, such as veterans or children.

8.    Should I Start My Own Practice?

Starting your own clinical mental health counseling practice allows you to shape how counseling is offered to clients, from selecting the best staff members and setting up payment plans and scheduling practices to developing new policies, services, and outreach opportunities. You have the chance to build a business that reflects your unique experience, preferences, and perspective on how healing should be facilitated. Starting a practice also gives you freedom — it can provide more flexible hours than a traditional job and make it easier for you to prioritize yourself and your family. It is important to weigh all of the benefits against some serious considerations, though — navigating contracts, making sure confidential information is secure, managing administrative tasks, and marketing are just some obstacles counselors may encounter when taking this career path. However, if starting your own practice aligns with your goals for the future of mental health counseling, it can be a gratifying decision!

9.    Could I Go into Education and Teach?

Your master’s in clinical mental health counseling could be an invaluable asset if you decide to enter the education field. With this degree, you have the knowledge and skills needed to excel as an educator and to better understand the emotional needs of your students to create a welcoming classroom environment. You can also use your training in conflict mediation, self-care direction, and problem-solving techniques to serve your students better and help them develop essential life skills that can contribute to their success in and out of the classroom. So pursuing a career in education with a master’s in clinical mental health counseling is achievable!

10.    Is Public Service, like Social Work, a Good Route?

Pursuing a career in public service, such as social work, can be an advantageous and educational route for those with a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling. This field of work requires specialized knowledge about mental health disorders and is beneficial for those looking to apply their skills to helping communities and individuals. Not only will the reimbursement often equal what one might receive working in the private sector, but those who choose this route also get the extra satisfaction of making a difference at the community level.

How Do I Decompress from Patients All Day?

As a clinical mental health counselor, decompressing after dealing with complex patient concerns each day is essential to keeping yourself well and able to continue providing quality care to your clients. Taking some time out of your busy schedule might feel like it would add more stress, but small actions every day will help you ensure that you are managing the inevitable stressors that come with being a clinical mental health counselor.

11.    Identify When You’re Overworked

As a clinical mental health counselor, it's important to know the signs of overwork. These can include fatigue, insomnia, difficulty concentrating and engaging with clients, and an overall feeling of being overwhelmed and irritable. If you experience these symptoms often while at work, taking measures to counteract them is crucial. Regularly scheduling breaks throughout the day and refocusing on yourself by participating in self-care activities can help alleviate feelings of being overworked. You may also consider reducing your caseload or asking for additional support from colleagues or supervisors to help manage workloads.

12.    Limit the Amount of Contact After Work Hours

As a clinical mental health counselor, limiting the amount of contact you maintain with clients after their scheduled sessions is vital. This is beneficial for those you serve in that they get appropriate space to gain insight and apply skills acquired in your work together and for yourself as a counselor by ensuring a reasonable boundary between professional and personal relationships. 

13.    Allow Time for Decompressing

It's important to take time out of your day to decompress. This could mean setting aside five to fifteen minutes each hour to relax, meditate, or take a walk. Learning to mentally disengage is incredibly valuable as it allows you to have more effective patient sessions. Decompressing throughout the workday can help reduce stress and burnout while giving you the mental clarity necessary to better understand your clients' needs and concerns. Try to commit some time each day for yourself, whether taking up a new hobby or just going for an evening stroll after work – whatever helps ensure you are recharged and ready for another successful day on the job.

14.    Discuss and Ask for Advice from Colleagues

Whether you are just starting in the profession or have been counseling for years, it is always beneficial to hear different perspectives on case material and ethical dilemmas. Consulting with colleagues can alleviate some of the stress associated with the profession and deepen your understanding of certain concepts by learning from each other. Additionally, discussing cases with colleagues provides insight into developing effective treatment plans and prevents burnout by setting boundaries and avoiding vicarious traumatization. By having regular conversations with others in the field, both professionally and socially, you can gain a greater appreciation of what it means to be a clinical mental health counselor.

15.    Don't Be Afraid of Mindless Activities

Doing something that allows your mind to shut off stressful thoughts can help you gain perspective and feel more energized when returning to work. Mindless activities, such as listening to music, connecting with friends on social media, or watching a silly movie, are all great ways to relax and recharge after a long day. It can be beneficial if you make the activity something you enjoy and look forward to doing each day. There's no reason to stay stuck in overthinking: take some well-deserved time out and dive into an activity that brings you joy.

Is Clinical Mental Health the Right Fit for Me?

Hopefully, the considerations outlined in this article have helped you decide if clinical mental health counseling is the right career for you.

16.    Does It Sound Interesting to You?

If you feel passionate about helping others with their mental health needs and have the required skill set, this could be an excellent career for you! Before taking any steps forward, take some time to research what roles clinical mental health counselors typically play and make sure it sounds interesting to you at the end of the day.

17.    Can you Manage the Intensity of Patient Care?

Even if a clinical mental health counseling career sounds interesting to you, it is important to ask yourself if you can handle the intensity of patient care that such a career often entails. It can be a demanding job, both physically and emotionally. To ensure success as a professional in this field, you must maintain your own emotional stability, be highly organized, and have effective communication skills. It is also essential to have the empathy and understanding needed to build strong relationships with clients who may feel vulnerable when discussing personal matters. All these points can help you assess whether you are prepared to handle the intensity of patient care that comes with being a mental health counselor.

Pursue Your Dream Career

After considering the points made in this article, if you still think a clinical mental health counseling career is the right fit for you, then start on the path toward your dream career with an online master’s in clinical mental health counseling from University of the Cumberlands. This online degree is an excellent option for prospective counselors who need flexibility in their education and are passionate about helping others. Contact us today to learn more!