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What do I need in order to be a mental health counselor? Degree? Steps?

I am interested in this career because I like socializing with people as well as advising others when needed. Additionally I chose to focus on mental health because it has always interested me. #mental-health #mental-health-counseling

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Judith-Ann’s Answer

Estela, First I think it's great that you are interested in being a counselor. As stated by Natalie, there are many tracks that can lead you to being a counselor. You may enter through the education department and become a school counselor in Tx. You may enter through the Social Work Department, or the Psychology Dept. In some states, you may get a bachelor's degree in any chosen field, and then begin your work in your master's degree program. First of all, you must find out what your state requirements are for licensure, etc. Since I have been a Licensed Professional Counselor, the requirements have changed and require more hours of internship. Again, you need to check with your states requirements. You state that you like to socialize and give advise when needed. I think those are lovely skills to posses no matter what your chosen field. If I may, I would like to tell you a little about my experience as a counselor. First, you probably know socializing with your clients would not be a good idea as ethical boundaries prevent dual relationships. Second, most of my clients don't come for advice as much as just to be heard. It's amazing what a difference therapeutic listening can do for a person, as apposed to friends or relatives listening. As a therapist, I feel the best thing I do is listen without judgement and with unconditional regard for the uniqueness of each client. Each person that walks in the door has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. My job is to listen intently, seek out their strengths and build on those. If they need direction or guidance, there are many tools and techniques to offer. Also, it will be required that you yourself go to your own therapy sessions. I found those very helpful for my own personal growth. I'm glad you are thinking about the mental health field. I found it to be a wonderful fit for me, and I hope you find the same, should you decide to take this path.

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Nickesha’s Answer

Hi Estela,

It is great that you have an interest in being a mental health counselor. The more qualified professionals in the field, the better!
As many other posters have mentioned, an undergraduate degree in Social Science is the first step to being a counselor. Then a graduate degree will most likely be necessary. Mental health counseling can be a vast field with many specialties, and many schools might offer programs that focus on these different areas.
Examples of these areas are Rehabilitation Counseling, Marriage and Family, School and Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
Even though this has been mentioned several times, it is very crucial that you check the requirements of the state you plan on
attending graduate school and the state you plan on residing if they are different. A graduate degree in counseling usually requires an internship and a national licensing exam. There is also years of supervision while working in the field before licensure will be possible. It is a long process but well worth it.

Best of luck in your endeavors.

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Dr. Ray’s Answer

Dear Estela,

I just want to add a few comments to the previous responses. There are some positions available for people with bachelor's degrees in psychology, social work and related fields. Some examples are probation officers and child protective services workers. However they generally don't pay well and provide little autonomy. To function professionally as a counselor requires a master's degree, or a Ph.D. in some cases. You might want to take an introductory psychology course to see if the field is really what you thought it would be. You might also consider volunteering at an agency that serves children to get a taste of the field.

Whatever your eventual decision I wish you the best in pursuing your educational and career goals.

Ray Finn, Ph.D.

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Lauren’s Answer

To be a mental health counselor, get a bachelors degree (typically 4yrs) in some social service (Psychology, Social Work, Anthropology, etc), and then go to graduate school for counseling or social work (typically 2yrs). ALSO, go ahead & get into any volunteer work that involves you do "nice" or "helpful" things for people. Try to do diverse things. It's nice to say on a resume that you volunteered at the animal shelter for an hour or so on the weekends, but it looks better if you do that, volunteer w/ your church, volunteer for a community service provider (CASA or GAL to volunteer in the court system, homeless shelter, church, hospital, etc).

Also, if you're just into helping people because you have warm fuzzies and feel good about yourself, you're going to enjoy this career for maybe a few months until you're sick & tired of people being ungrateful. It's all about the greater good. It's all about that person you've been helping along who occasionally curses you for pushing them and then gratuitously thanks you with every fiber of their being because they finally got their life turned around. It's sticking w/ it and knowing you've made a difference somewhere even when you feel defeated. It's a hard industry. Volunteering will definitely help you decide if this is the right career choice before you invest thousands upon thousands into a degree.

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Natalie’s Answer

Hi Estela,

There a few different track to achieve you goal of becoming a mental health counselor and all of them include a college degree. First, you need to earn your bachelor's degree in Psychology, Social Work, Human Services or a related major. If you first earn a bachelor's degree in Social Work or Human Services, you should be able to obtain an entry level position in the field. But to advance (or if you majored in Psychology) and be the one providing counseling, you would need to a Master's in Social Work or Counseling. Both with Master's in Counseling and Social Work you will be able to become a licensed therapist.

Good Luck!