Mental health counselors play an important role in helping individuals and families deal with complex emotions. For example, they may provide counseling services for someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one, a child whose parents are going through a divorce or a patient who suffers from anxiety, depression or an eating disorder.
Individuals who are interested in learning more about career opportunities in mental health should know that earning an advanced degree, such as an online Master of Arts in Counseling with a focus in Clinical Mental Health, can provide them with the skills and professional acumen they’ll need to pursue jobs in this field.
What Is Mental Health Counseling?
Mental health counselors may help patients overcome difficult emotions, such as anger or grief, or deal with major life changes, such as the loss of a spouse or child. Others help patients who are working to overcome alcohol or drug addiction, or individuals who suffer from a behavioral disorder, such as compulsive shoplifting.
Counselors work in a variety of settings, depending on the type of patients they work with. Examples include hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, mental health clinics, drug rehabilitation centers and private practices. Most mental health counselors work full time, Monday through Friday, although professionals who work at an inpatient facility may need to work nights, holidays and weekends.
Career Opportunities in Mental Health
There are a variety of positions available in this field, such as mental health counselor, substance abuse counselor, college counselor, marriage and family counselor and behavioral disorder counselor. The online Master of Arts in Counseling program at Wake Forest University is designed to help students develop several important competencies, such as analytical skills, compassion, interpersonal skills and listening skills, all of which are needed to excel as a counselor.
Mental Health Counselor: Mental health counselors provide treatment to patients of all ages in a one-on-one or group setting, although some work with specific populations, such as children or the elderly. They treat clients who are struggling with a variety of conditions, such as stress, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that, as of May 2018, the median annual salary for mental health counselors was $44,630, although earners in the top 10% reported an annual salary of more than $72,990. The BLS projects that employment of mental health counselors will grow by 22% between the years 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average growth projected for all occupations.
Substance Abuse Counselor: Substance abuse counselors, also known as addiction counselors, focus on helping clients overcome addictions to alcohol or drugs in both individual and group settings. They work to determine how clients’ mental health impacts their addictive behaviors and then use that information to develop treatment and recovery plans. Data from the BLS indicates that the annual earnings for substance abuse counselors is similar to mental health counselors, with a median salary of $44,630 per year. Employment growth in this field is also expected to grow by 22% between the years 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average growth projection for all fields.
College Counselor: College counselors provide advice and guidance for individuals in the college admissions process. They work with clients one-on-one to help them make choices about postsecondary education, such as determining which schools are likely to be a good fit based on their size, their location and the strength of their academic programs. Professionals who choose this path also help clients craft individualized admissions strategies for each school they plan to apply to. The BLS indicates that, as of May 2018, the median annual salary for school and career counselors, including college counselors, was $56,310. However, earners in the highest 10% reported salaries in excess of $94,690. The BLS projects that employment of college counselors will grow by 8% between the years 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average projected growth of all occupations.
Marriage and Family Counselor: Career opportunities in mental health also include marriage and family counseling jobs. Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples and families in a private practice setting and help clients overcome emotions associated with difficult changes in their lives, such as divorce, job loss or the death of a loved one. The BLS reports that, as of May 2018, the median annual salary for marriage and family therapists was $50,090, although earners in the top 10th percentile earned more than $82,240. The BLS further reports that job growth in this field is forecast at 22% between the years 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average growth forecast for all occupations.
Behavioral Disorder Counselor: Behavioral disorder counselors help clients identify and overcome negative behavior patterns, such as compulsive lying, shoplifting or substance abuse. They work to identify the cause of the problem, such as low self-esteem or a sudden change at home or in a significant relationship, and help clients develop plans to overcome their disruptive behaviors. Behavioral disorder counselors work with individuals and groups, although some prefer to work with specific populations, such as veterans or teenagers. According to the BLS, as of May 2018, the median annual salary for behavioral disorder counselors was $44,630, although the earners in the top 10% reported salaries of more than $72,990. The BLS projects 22% job growth in this field between the years 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average projected growth for all occupations.
Benefits of an Online Master of Arts in Counseling
Professionals who want to advance in their counseling careers are likely to find that earning an advanced degree can help them toward that goal. Wake Forest University’s online Master of Arts in Counseling with a focus in Clinical Mental Health offers a diverse curriculum, including coursework in theories and models of counseling, lifespan development and crisis management. The program has been designed to help graduates pursue a wide range of career opportunities in mental health counseling. Learn more today.