Being a mental health professional is more critical now than ever before. Mental health concerns are rising globally, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. One in four people suffers from mental disorders, and over 970 million people worldwide suffer from mental health or substance abuse disorders.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States, affecting 18.1% of adults. Mood disorders, such as depression, are the second most common, affecting 9.5% of adults. Suicide rates in the US have also been steadily increasing over the past few decades, with 47,173 deaths by suicide reported in 2019 alone.
Mental issues can be a challenging and sometimes profoundly personal topic to discuss, which is why mental health professionals must be adequately prepared to handle their caseloads. If you plan on starting a career in the mental health field, there are a few things to consider.
Taking an Educational Degree
One of the most important aspects of becoming a mental health professional is obtaining the necessary education and training. An educational degree provides the foundational knowledge and skills to help your clients effectively.
The best degree to take when pursuing a career in mental health is a Bachelor of Arts Major in Psychology. This degree program offers an in-depth understanding of human behaviour, mental disorders, and the most effective treatment methods. Students in this program will also learn about counselling techniques, research methodology, and statistics, essential skills for a mental health professional.
Additionally, obtaining a degree in psychology is often required for mental health licensure. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most require at least a master’s degree in psychology or a related field. However, having a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology will give you a valuable head start and prepare you for further education if necessary.
Identify Career Path
The mental health field encompasses a range of career paths, and identifying the right one for you is essential. It can help you specialize in an area you’re passionate about, develop expertise in a particular field, and build a successful career. Here are four steps to help you identify your career path in the mental health field:
Assess Your Interests
The first step in identifying a career path is assessing your interests. Mental health professionals can specialize in various areas, such as clinical psychology, counselling, social work, psychiatry, or neuropsychology. Understanding which size aligns with your interests can help you narrow your search.
Consider Your Skills
Mental health professionals need a range of skills, such as empathy, active listening, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Assessing your skills will help you identify areas where you excel and need improvement. This can help you identify the right career path and develop the skills required.
Research Career Options
Once you have identified your interests and skills, it’s essential to research the different career options available in the mental health field. Look for job descriptions, qualifications required, and the job outlook for specific roles. This research will help you narrow your choices and make an informed decision.
The best way to gain insight into a specific role is to gain experience in that field. Consider volunteering, shadowing a mental health professional, or engaging in internships. This experience will give you a better understanding of a mental health professional’s day-to-day tasks and challenges.
Build up Your Career
Building a career as a mental health professional involves several essential steps. Once you have obtained the necessary education, identified your career path, and gained experience, it’s time to build up your career.
One important aspect of building a career is developing a personal brand. Your brand expresses your unique skills, strengths, and values; it sets you apart from other mental health professionals. Developing a personal brand involves highlighting your strengths and building a reputation through networking, social media, and word of mouth. Remembering that your brand is how others perceive you is essential, so staying professional and authentic is vital.
Another way to build your career is to consider continuing education. Additional certifications, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, trauma therapy, or addiction counselling, can set you apart and make you more marketable. It also provides an opportunity to develop skills further and stay up-to-date with the latest research.
You can also consider joining professional organizations, such as The American Psychological Association, The National Association of Social Workers, or The American Counseling Association or The British Psychological Society. These organizations provide access to networking opportunities, continuing education, and valuable resources to help you stay informed of industry trends and challenges.
Being a mental health professional is a rewarding yet challenging career path. It requires dedication, empathy, and hard work. But with the proper education, knowledge of the field, and commitment to helping others, you can make a difference in your client’s lives. With an understanding of what it takes to be successful in this industry, you can start building up your career as a mental health professional.