Working in mental health is a true calling. Perhaps you are interested because you absolutely love psychology as a subject and want to dedicate your life to learn more. Perhaps you are interested because you love helping people and have an innate knack for helping your friends and family.
There are so many reasons to work in mental health, from a passion for the subject to being so inspired by a therapist or mental health worker in your own life you want to follow down their path. Regardless of what brought you to this moment, one thing remains certain – you deserve to find the right niche for your future.
There are so many different roles in mental health and so many different specializations. You deserve to find the perfect option for you that allows you to do work you believe in, in a field you are most excited about. From family care, personal mental health, to couples counseling and beyond, there are many different areas of the human mind and many complex relationship dynamics out there, meaning you not only can focus on the area you are most interested in, but you absolutely should specialize in it.
There are many ways to get started working in mental health. You can go through the medical route. In this route, you either complete medical school or nursing degrees and then specialize in mental health either with an MSN or with a psychiatric residency. To work within psychology as a therapist or psychologist, you will need several degrees within psychology, as well as thousands of clinical hours.
Mental health is a serious part of health and requires advanced education and licensure. In general, you will need a BSc, an MSc, and a Ph.D. or Psy.Din order to practice in mental health.
Every mental health career will typically start with a BSc in psychology. The good news for those who already have a degree or career and are looking to make a change, however, is that there are now excellent online psychology degree programs available. This means you can transfer credits to speed up your degree and don’t have to uproot your entire life in order to make this big career change.
Pre-pandemic online degrees typically suffered from an outdated educational model, but thanks to the massive influx of students requiring online and distance learning options, those issues are long gone. Online learning has never been better or more dynamic, allowing many the chance to change their career with an online degree that fits with their needs.
You will need that undergraduate degree in psychology in order to apply for and get started with your master’s degree. It is important to note that some states and programs do allow you to get started on your clinical hour requirements before you graduate from your MSc in psychology. Therefore, split your time between both if you can so that you can progress efficiently through the requirements and combine real-world training with the theoretical knowledge you will be learning in your degree.
Technically you can stop after your master’s degree, especially if you only want to become a therapist or counselor. If you want to become a psychologist, however, you will need to earn your doctorate. Again you can find places where you do this online.
Mental Health – Training Requirements
How many clinical hours you will need before you can earn your license will depend on the state. It could be anywhere from 2000 to 4000 clinical hours, but with the chance to start working towards those clinical hours before you graduate from your MSc, you can “speed up” the timeline towards your dream career.
Career Options if You Want to Work in Mental Health
Those education options open up so many great mental health career options, and the best news is that you can continue to progress through your formal qualifications as you work, so you can continue to earn real-life experience while you get paid.
At the heart, all of these roles help others with their mental health and interpersonal relationships. What you will be focusing on are demographics and situations. Some specialize in relationship issues. Others specialize in anxiety, or depression, or the loss of a loved one. The reason why you will need to specialize is simple: because people deserve the most in-depth advice and guidance through their concerns.
Don’t be afraid to stick to your roots, either. You can help those within your community better than an outsider can, and not just because your patients will be able to relate better to you. By sticking to your roots, you can offer unique perspectives and offer guidance that rings true and can help your patients better than any outsider professional could.
The other reason to stick to your roots and to specialize in areas that you are personally passionate about and have a background in is that you can help positively influence the discourse in that category.
There are many, many different career options, and the fact is, you can customize every single one of them, including these top options:
- Mental Health Counsellor
- Mental Health Social Worker
- Marriage and Family Therapist
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Organization Psychologist
- Child Psychologist
- Forensic Psychologist
- Life Coach
- And More
Healthcare Mental Health Options
There are two mental health roles that you can work towards within the healthcare sector. If you have gone through medical school, for example, you can become a psychiatrist by completing a four-year psychiatric residency. If you are a nurse, you can become a mental health nurse practitioner with the right MSN.
Working in mental health means working with what makes humans human. As humankind is incredibly diverse, it needs a very diverse range of mental health professionals out there helping people collectively improve and better themselves. There is value in your career, and you will make a difference, so choose the role and make it your own for the best results for yourself and your patients.