Mental Health Counselors

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Also known as: Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Mental Health Counselor


Career Video transcript
Mental health counselors help to make life better for people with mental or emotional problems. They start by listening to find out what's wrong. They're trained to help people talk about a wide range of issues, from depression to substance abuse and family tensions. In addition to advising their clients, mental health counselors work closely with other specialists in their field.

For example, a patient might need to see a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication or be connected to a social worker who runs a support group. Many mental health counselors have private practices or work for agencies. Others are on staff at schools, senior citizen centers, and even corporations. They frequently work flexible hours, often evenings and weekends.

It's a profession with national standards for education, training, and clinical practice. Most states require some form of licensure or certification. The American Mental Health Counselors Association is the professional organization that oversees all counselors. Membership requires a master's degree in counseling, clinical work experience, and passing a license exam in the state where you plan to practice.

Mental health counselors need compassion and strength. It's not easy to listen to people struggling with serious problems, but knowing how to help them can be very rewarding.
What they do
Counsel with emphasis on prevention. Work with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. May help individuals deal with issues associated with addictions and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging.


Critical decision making
Level of responsibilities
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
Dealing and handling conflict

Competition for this position
Communication with others
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
Comfort of the work setting
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
Exposure to job hazards
Physical demands
Plan or conduct programs to prevent substance abuse or improve community health or counseling services.

Evaluate the effectiveness of counseling programs on clients' progress in resolving identified problems and moving towards defined objectives.

Gather information about community mental health needs or resources that could be used in conjunction with therapy.

Discuss with individual patients their plans for life after leaving therapy.

Counsel family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, or supporting clients or patients.

Assess patients for risk of suicide attempts.

Learn about new developments in counseling by reading professional literature, attending courses and seminars, or establishing and maintaining contact with other social service agencies.

Refer patients, clients, or family members to community resources or to specialists as necessary.

Collect information about clients through interviews, observation, or tests.

Meet with families, probation officers, police, or other interested parties to exchange necessary information during the treatment process.

Evaluate clients' physical or mental condition, based on review of client information.

Daily Tasks
Main Activities
Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.

Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.

Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.

Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.

Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.

Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People
Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.

Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.

Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.

Sociology and Anthropology
Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.

Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

English Language
Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

Philosophy and Theology
Knowledge of different philosophical systems and religions. This includes their basic principles, values, ethics, ways of thinking, customs, practices, and their impact on human culture.

Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.

Knowledge Areas
Main Activities
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.

Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.

Speech Clarity
The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

Speech Recognition
The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.

Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

Service Orientation
Actively looking for ways to help people.

Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Knowledge Areas
Average Salary
$39,890 per year
Extensive   [more info]
Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of college and an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to be able to do their job.

Most of these occupations require graduate school. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).

Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.
Job Outlook
Rapid Growth
Career Traits
Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.


Work Experience

Expected On the Job Training