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What careers are involved in Mental Health?

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Amy’s Answer

If you're looking specifically at careers in the mental health field, something you may find helpful to know is that there are two general approaches to mental health care: the medical model and the wellness model. The medical model approaches mental health from the perspective of identifying symptoms, diagnosing a problem, and applying different solutions, with a focus on brain and body structures and chemistry. (For example, a person may be diagnosed with depression and prescribed a combination of medication and talk therapy that helps them identify unhelpful patterns of thought.) That tends to be the approach taken more often by psychologists and, especially, psychiatrists. Their education might include classes in anatomy, brain function, etc.

The wellness model sees mental health as just one part of life that's influenced by many other factors, not necessarily a problem to be solved but an opportunity for growth or change. (For example, if a person feels depressed because of their poverty, they might be offered empathy-based talk therapy plus career counseling, and maybe even connected with local resources to help with food and clothing.) The wellness model tends to align more with counselors and social workers. Their training would include classes in cultural diversity and human development, for example.

There is a *lot* of crossover between these fields. Some counselors diagnose mental illnesses, and many psychologists use wellness-based approaches in their daily work. These professionals often work together, too. Historically, though, the careers started with different assumptions and the training tends to reflect that.

(I'm in the middle of my masters degree to become a school counselor and licensed professional counselor.)

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Rebecca’s Answer

There are so many careers that involve mental health! I am a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) in this role I can work in any setting that has people who need mental health services: hospitals, clinics, jails, schools, nursing homes, assisted livings, substance abuse programs, and home care to name a few. Nurses (RN, LPN) doctors, physician assistants (PA) can also work in these settings. In these settings there are usually non-medical staff too. These might be people like mental health therapists, social workers, psychologists and behavioral health technicians. There are also many careers in the military, public service and police department that involve mental health. I hope this helps to answer your question and gets you thinking more about mental health. There are so many opportunities, I know I named several but I am sure there are more, and such a need for these type of services in our country.

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Mark’s Answer

There are so many careers that involve some aspect of Mental Health response or attention. Immediately I think of non medical fields such as law enforcement at every level. Constantly police officers are dealing with the mentally ill at many levels starting with the victim, their abusers, everyday people who deal with mental illness on a daily basis. The police officer offers advice, has the power to order a mental health evaluation, needs to recognize abuse, possibly of a child or elderly victim, or investigates and discovers that the suspects mental health has caused that individual to commit a heinous crime, for example the seriel killer or rapist.
How about a School Child Psychologist. They're dealing with mental health evaluations also on a daily basis. They are also responsible for interceding when abuse has been discovered.
Counseling, or crisis interventionists are also critical to the Mental Health field.
From a medical stand point, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are the obvious medical field individuals who are so important when we talk about mental health. The physicians however have to go to quite a bit more college, meaning: more than an associates or bachelor's degree. We're talking graduate degrees and medical degrees which require two to four additional years of school beyond the degrees I mentioned and possibly medical school.

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Rachel’s Answer

My sister is a psychiatrist and specializes in treating the mental health of her patients. She has a diverse hospital-based and outpatient practice. Psychiatry is a great field requiring a medical degree.

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Wendy’s Answer

I agree with Mark and also something that is becoming big in my area is Peer Recovery/Support Specialists and Peer Run organizations that use these specialists to lead support groups and one on one sessions. They are also hired by and several other types of professionals work with community service boards to service those dealing with mental health barriers.

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Richard’s Answer

Some options to consider:

Psychiatrist -- requires 4 years of college,4 years of medical school, and 4 years of residency. Can provide counseling and medication.

Psychologist -- requires 4 years of college then a PhD. Can provide counseling

Nurse -- requires 4 years of college

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Charles’s Answer

Hi! I am a psychiatrist, and in particular an Emergency Psychiatrist. That means I deal with sudden, serious situations, and also many times deal with situations in places other than normal offices and hospitals.

Parts of my career have included driving around a large city as part of a mobile crisis team, going to people's houses when they are having an acute crisis and need someone to help them right now. In this situation we would often go instead of the police, and the families are so grateful.

I have also worked on the streets, and in shelters, with the homeless population, reaching out to offer social heal and medications, trying to give people options for improvement.

I have done many years of work in emergency rooms. A psychiatrist in an emergency room can help when someone is brought in very upset, or angry, not feeling in control, or sometimes when too intoxicated or high, or after they have made a suicide attempt, or are thinking about it. The psychiatrist in the emergency room can talk to and counsel the person and help them get the treatment they need, whether in the hospital or not.

I also talk to patient in emergency rooms, in hospitals in other states, when they don't have a psychiatrist at that hospital. This is done through video chat, and we talk to sort out the problem and plan what would be helpful.

So my part of mental health care is very specific, but it shows you how many different ways you can be part of the system to help people with mental health issues.