As the worldwide coronavirus pandemic continues to affect every single area of modern living (without exception), one silver lining in the vast proverbial dark cloud is that the topic of mental health has been pushed further towards the forefront of conversation.
Many people who have themselves suffered with their emotional health and wellbeing have decided to become mental health workers and counsellors, but there are conversely thousands of others who enter the profession because they want to help others or who simple find the whole topic exceedingly interesting.
Whatever your motivation for the pursuit of a rewarding career in the public mental health sector, continue reading to learn of the eight different available pathways to becoming a professional.
- Mental Health Counsellor
- Primary Care Physician
- Clinical Psychologist
- Mental Health Nurse
- Clinical Social Worker
- Children’s Wellbeing Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
Continue reading to learn more about the three aspects of a career in mental health that encapsulate every available pathway into the profession: counselling, nursing and psychology.
Mental Health Counsellor
Perhaps one of the most popular avenues within the professional mental health sector is that of a pursuit as a career as a mental health counsellor.
Essentially, a mental health counsellor is a crucial proverbial cog in the journey of supporting an individual in improving their own mental health and wellbeing. It is estimated that around one in four adults in the United States experiences some kind of mental illness or issue in their lifetime, which means your expertise will always be required.
From a study conducted in 2022, there are currently approximately around 280,000 mental health counsellors working across the length and breadth of the United States and working across a wide variety of settings including hospitals, private offices, individual and family services, substance abuse centers and outpatient mental health services.
Mental health counsellors usually diagnose, talk to and treat their patients on an individual, one-to-one basis and usually they choose to specialize in a specific area of mental health, such as young adults, children, grief and bereavement and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
As with other careers within the professional public health sector, there is a recognized career path of progression to become a mental health counsellor, which is exactly as follows:
- An undergraduate bachelor’s degree in psychology or another medical science-related subject
- Following this, you should successfully acquire a postgraduate master’s degree. Choosing to study online will afford you top-class tutoring yet still afford you time to carry out your other responsibilities, both personal and professional.
- Embark on at least one full year of professionally supervised work experience
- Apply for your official, state-endorsed mental health counsellor license
The subject of mental health is absolutely fascinating and there are always a myriad of new discoveries in terms of treatments and techniques to best help an individual break the cycle of self-destruction and instead make positive changes to their approach to daily life and biological factors.
There is a wide plethora of different factors that influence and impact one’s levels of emotional and health wellbeing, including: environmental factors, the ability to handle stress and anxiety and many, many more. As well as the intense academic research undertaken as part of the degree to study and become well-versed in mental health counselling practices, cognitive behavioral therapy can be learnt and experimented with alongside, during and after the acquisition of your degree.
What Is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an incredibly successful and popular treatment that is most often used by clinical psychologists to help individuals solve their issues themselves. Crucially, CBT has its foundations in the active and conscious changing of either their behavior, feelings and thoughts to a particular situation which results in the improving of the other two.
Three of the more common Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques used by clinical psychologists include:
1. Thought Recording
Thought recording is the act of physically recording one’s thoughts on daily worksheets and is based on the scientifically proven method of cognitive restructuring.
Chunking is essentially the mental breaking down of problems and issues into smaller and subsequently more manageable, chunks and is designed to clear the mind by grouping relevant pieces of information together and getting rid of irrelevant data stored in your brain.
3. ‘The Worry Tree’
The Worry Tree is specifically and solely designed to accurately and effectively change the way you think, both about a specific problem and in general. Developed by Butler & Hope (1995), the Worry Tree is essentially one of the most effective ways of changing one’s perspective on life and preventing a small, niggling worry turning into and out-and-out catastrophe.
Mental Health Nurse
Mental health nurses are some of the most respected professionals of all and such a career is not only incredibly demanding yet simultaneously intensely rewarding, but specialist mental health nurses are also in consistently growing demand.
Every working day in the career of a mental health nurse is entirely different. You may be dealing with the same patients on a regular basis and even form somewhat of a professional attachment and connection, or alternatively treat a wide variety of different people every single day.
However, there are certain key roles and responsibilities of a mental health nurse that are generally part and parcel of the job. Such duties include:
- Diagnosing, treating and supporting individuals through periods of mental health issues
- Assessing regularly and consistently monitoring the individual’s condition, treatment and progress
- Administering talking therapies and counselling sessions
- Supporting individuals in taking their medication, their wellbeing and their progress
- Working with both the individual and their family members towards a successful treatment plan
As a mental health nurse, you will work both on your own and as a part of a wider medical team, including psychologists, occupational health practitioners, psychiatrists and other therapists.
As the discipline requires specific skills and personality attributes, it is important to ask yourself some honest and intimate questions to ascertain whether you are indeed someone who will flourish and succeed in the intensive profession of mental health nursing.
Skills and attributes required to be a professional health nurse include, but are in no way limited to:
- Compassion & Empathy
- Excellent Communication Skills
- Adaptability & Flexibility
- A Non-Judgmental Approach
- Good English Language Skills
- Honesty & Integrity
- Emotional Intelligence
- Be A Team Player
- Courage & Confidence
If you are absolutely sure you are ready to plunge into the professional world of mental health nursing, you must first obtain an undergraduate degree in nursing then go on to specialize in mental health nursing itself. Work experience is also an absolute necessity, and it would be even better if you got some experience working in the mental health sector under your proverbial belt before you start your bachelor degree program.
Clinical psychology is essentially the specialism of psychology that deals with the provision of comprehensive and continuous behavioral and mental health care , diagnosis and treatment for individuals who are suffering with a wide plethora of different mental health issues.
Usually, individuals seek out clinical psychologists by themselves and on their own terms, but on some occasions, they are appointed to an individual by the court system to assess individuals incarcerated in jail or prison and other establishments.
The primary functions of a clinical psychologist include assessing the individual, professionally intervening, consulting with other professionals and then conducting research which adds to their already rich pool of knowledge.
Clinical psychologists are similar in terms of more general doctoring in that they follow the same procedures and steps in order to restore mental and physical health respectively. Diagnostic interviews are conducted which are specifically designed to encourage the individual to talk about themselves and how they are feeling. Next, a behavioral assessment is undertaken to allow the clinical psychologist to evaluate and observe the individual’s behavior and detect any patterns or links that may be occurring. Additionally, standard psychological tests are undertaken to best assess the particular issue which are usually administered in the form of questionnaires and various multiple-choice checklists.
After the detailed assessments of the individual, the clinical psychologist will then recommend a course of treatment, or more likely a mixture of several different treatments. For example, if an individual is suffering with depression and has been for a few years or more, they may well be prescribed anti-depressants combined with a thorough counselling session using cognitive behavioral therapy. Other approaches in terms of counselling include the humanistic approach and the psychodynamic approach.
In the case of individuals who are, for example, currently imprisoned in prison who a clinical psychologist is treating, they are likely to also be involved with consulting with other medical professionals, establishments and institutions. In addition, clinical psychologists often team up with members of community health initiatives and provide their specialist expertise to collaborate with groups as well as individuals.
Clinical psychologists also conduct research related to their specialism as well as embark on original and innovative research into new areas of discovery.
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