Racheal Noble, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC, NCC
To become a mental health counselor you would need to complete a bachelor's degree. The bachelor degree matters based on the graduate program. For example if you get a bachelor in a foreign language, and then apply to a masters mental health graduate program you will probably have to take some additional courses to get the basic level of psychology and mental health so you will stay the course in graduate school.
It would be best to get a degree in psychology, sociology, marriage and family, or social work. After finishing the bachelor's degree, you will need to apply to graduate school which is typically two years. Some graduate programs have specializations where you can gain a speciality. For me in my master's program, I specialized in Forensic Psychology. It allowed me to work in substance abuse and in the prison because the course works guides you to do clinical work.
During your masters program (depending on the school) you will have to complete clinical hours for licensure. Again, this depends on the school and the state you plan to get licensed in, so you will have to make sure you do thorough investigation and ask lots if questions. Depending on the school you may need to complete a thesis and/or comprehensive exam. All the schools will have the cirriculum on their website, so think about what type of rigor will keep you interested.
Once you have completed the program and have the clinical hours, you can then take a state exam. It's usually about 4 hours, and there is material online to prepare you for it. After you pass, you will be considered a licensed intern to work and gain more experience by a state licensed individual. You will have to get supervised hours which. An range from 2k - 3k hours over the course of 2 yrs.
Once supervision is completed with a qualified supervisor, you can then take the state licensed exam and become a official licensed mental health counselor where you can work without supervision in a company or private practice.
Hope this helps
Thank you for your question. Being a counselor or therapist is a very rewarding career choice.
There are a few ways you can become a mental health professional. In short, you will need to attend graduate school and earn at least a master's degree. There are different degrees you can pursue which will look differently in their career paths. You can pursue a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), Master of Social Work (MSW), a PhD in Clinical Psychology or related field, just to name a few. There are licenses you will need to attain as well to practice in your state. There are also some licensures that do not require a master's degree, however, those may limit you in your scope of practice. Please note that for undergrad, you will want to pursue a major that is of interest to you, although the majority of students interested in counseling or therapy gravitate towards psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and the like.
If you have any questions, please feel free to comment and ask.
Best of luck!
Arshia recommends the following next steps:
Becoming a mental health counselor does frequently require a Master's degree. In order to identify which area of counseling you would like to study, I would suggest looking at different forms of counseling, such clinical work with children and/or adults, research, counselor education, and many others. I suggest taking a range of psychology classes as an undergraduate in order to help you decide on an area of interest. When choosing a graduate program, please be aware of the differences between them and try to assure that you will be attending a program that best suits your chosen path. Don't be afraid to change paths of study if you find that your first choice is not what you thought it was going to be.
As you pursue a degree, you might want to check into licensing requirements for the state(s) in which you might choose to work. They vary greatly , so make sure your grad. program prepares you for licensing in states where you would like to become licensed.
I wish you great good fortune and success in pursuing a rewarding life.
All the best,