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What jobs can I work on that will help me get into and prepare for mental health counseling or clinical psychology graduate school?

I have a bachelor's degree in sociology and I'm looking for a mental health or psychology-related entry-level job where I can learn and that will help me have a better chance at getting into grad school. I am particularly interested in counseling psychology, talk therapy. I see a lot of behavioral technician jobs around, not a lot of mental health technician jobs. What would someone in the field suggest?

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Subject: Career question for you

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Paul’s Answer

For someone with a bachelor's degree in sociology and an interest in pursuing a graduate degree in mental health counseling or clinical psychology, there are several entry-level positions that can provide valuable experience and strengthen your application for grad school. Here are some suggestions:

### Behavioral Technician
Behavioral technician roles are widely available and provide hands-on experience working with clients, often in applied behavior analysis (ABA) settings. These positions involve implementing behavior intervention plans, collecting data, and working directly with individuals who have developmental disabilities, including autism. This experience is valuable as it helps you develop skills in behavior modification and client interaction.

### Mental Health Technician
Though less common than behavioral technician roles, mental health technician positions can be found in hospitals, psychiatric facilities, and residential treatment centers. These roles involve assisting with the care of patients with mental health issues, monitoring their condition, and supporting therapeutic activities. This position provides direct experience with a diverse patient population and insight into clinical settings.

### Case Manager
Case managers work in a variety of settings, including non-profits, government agencies, and healthcare facilities. They coordinate care for clients, connect them with resources, and develop treatment plans. This role requires strong organizational and communication skills and offers exposure to the broader mental health system and various therapeutic approaches.

### Peer Support Specialist
If you have personal experience with mental health challenges, peer support specialist roles can be a meaningful way to contribute to others' recovery journeys. Peer support specialists use their lived experience to provide support, advocacy, and guidance to individuals currently navigating mental health issues. This role emphasizes empathy and direct client interaction.

### Research Assistant
Working as a research assistant in a psychology or psychiatry department can provide a strong foundation in the scientific methods used in clinical psychology. Research assistants often help with data collection, literature reviews, and experimental procedures. This role enhances your understanding of evidence-based practices and can lead to publications or presentations that bolster your grad school application.

### Counselor Assistant or Support Staff in Counseling Centers
Some counseling centers, particularly those in educational institutions, hire assistants to support licensed counselors. These roles may involve administrative duties, initial client screenings, and assisting with therapeutic activities. Working closely with professional counselors provides insight into the practical aspects of counseling and therapy.

### Community Outreach Worker
Community outreach workers engage with populations in need, providing education, resources, and support to improve mental health outcomes. These roles often involve working with underserved communities, developing cultural competence, and understanding systemic barriers to mental health care.

### Crisis Counselor
Crisis counselors work in emergency settings, such as hotlines or crisis intervention centers, providing immediate support to individuals in distress. These positions require strong communication skills, the ability to remain calm under pressure, and knowledge of crisis intervention techniques. Experience in this area demonstrates your capacity to handle high-stress situations and provides a solid foundation in acute mental health care.

### Volunteer Positions
While not paid, volunteering in mental health settings can also be highly beneficial. Many organizations seek volunteers to support their programs, and this experience can be just as valuable as paid work in demonstrating your commitment to the field and gaining practical skills.

Each of these roles offers unique opportunities to gain relevant experience, develop essential skills, and build a network within the mental health field. Pursuing any of these positions will not only enhance your grad school application but also provide a clearer understanding of your interests and strengths within mental health counseling and clinical psychology.
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Sean’s Answer

Try interning for a local mental health agency and apply at a accelarated rate and work hard. Got to make your own luck so to speck.

Best,

Sean
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hello Carmel

To increase your chances of getting accepted into mental health counseling or clinical psychology graduate programs, consider gaining experience through entry-level jobs in related fields. Here are some suggestions:

Behavioral Health Technician: This role involves working under the supervision of a mental health professional to provide basic therapeutic services, such as administering assessments, implementing treatment plans, and recording progress. Behavioral health technicians may work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, and community mental health centers. This position can offer valuable hands-on experience in the mental health field and help you develop essential skills for graduate studies.

Crisis Counselor: Crisis counselors provide immediate emotional support to individuals experiencing traumatic events or mental health crises.

They may work in emergency departments, hotlines, or community organizations. Crisis counseling roles can help you gain experience in active listening, empathy, and problem-solving skills – all crucial competencies for mental health professionals.

Residential Counselor: Residential counselors live on-site at group homes or other residential facilities for individuals with mental health issues or developmental disabilities. They provide daily support and supervision to residents while helping them develop life skills and manage their conditions. This role can offer a unique perspective on long-term care and recovery processes – knowledge that can be beneficial during graduate studies in mental health counseling or clinical psychology.

Community Outreach Worker: Community outreach workers collaborate with various organizations to promote awareness of mental health issues and connect individuals with available resources and services. They may also facilitate support groups or educational workshops for specific populations (e.g., veterans, LGBTQ+ individuals). This role can help you build strong communication skills and gain a deeper understanding of diverse communities’ needs – both essential components of successful mental health professionals.

Research Assistant: Research assistants contribute to ongoing research projects by collecting data, conducting literature reviews, analyzing findings, and preparing reports under the guidance of experienced researchers in psychology or related fields. Working as a research assistant can provide valuable insights into current research trends and methodologies while enhancing your critical thinking abilities – important skills for pursuing advanced degrees in psychology or counseling fields.

School Counselor: School counselors work within educational institutions to help students navigate academic challenges, personal issues, and career planning decisions. They may also collaborate with teachers, administrators, parents/guardians, and community partners to create supportive learning environments for students from diverse backgrounds. A school counseling position can offer valuable experience working with children and adolescents while developing essential communication skills – assets that will benefit you during graduate studies in mental health counseling or clinical psychology programs focused on child development or adolescent populations.**

Authoritative References Used:

American Psychological Association (APA). (n.d.). Careers in Psychology: Mental Health Professionals & Related Careers [Online]. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ed/gradprograms/fields/mentalhealthcareers

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (n.d.). NAMI Helpline [Online]. Retrieved from https://www.namihelpline.org/get-help/helpline
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (n.d.). Behavioral Health Workforce Education Training Technical Assistance Center [Online]. Retrieved from https://bhworkforcecenterquarterlynewsletterarchive2017topresent/behavioral-health-workforce-education-training-technical-assistance-center/.

God Bless You, Richly, JC.
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Patrick’s Answer

Carmella, choosing a career in mental health counseling or clinical psychology is a worthy and influential decision. Your sociology degree has already given you a solid base in understanding social behaviors and systems, crucial to mental health. To boost your odds of getting into a graduate program and gaining rich experience, there are several key steps and job opportunities to think about.

First, it's vital to get real-world experience in a mental health setting. Roles as a behavioral technician can offer you extensive experience working with clients, understanding behavioral interventions, and learning about different psychological conditions. In this role, you'll work under the guidance of licensed therapists and psychologists, allowing you to learn from their expertise. You'll often work with individuals with autism or other developmental disorders, giving you a firm grasp of behavioral therapies and client interaction.

Besides behavioral technician roles, Carmella, think about applying for positions like case manager, mental health assistant, or rehabilitation specialist. These roles usually involve working with clients who have mental health conditions, substance abuse problems, or are recovering from mental health crises. They offer a wide exposure to different aspects of mental health care, including client assessment, creating treatment plans, and offering support and resources. These roles will help you build key skills in client interaction, crisis intervention, and case management, all useful in a counseling psychology or clinical psychology career.

Volunteering or internships in mental health clinics, hospitals, or non-profit organizations can also be very beneficial. These experiences not only boost your resume but also show your dedication to the field. Many graduate programs appreciate applicants who have shown commitment through volunteer work, as it shows a real passion for helping others and a proactive approach to gaining relevant experience.

Also, it's important to look for mentorship and networking opportunities within the mental health field. Joining professional organizations like the American Psychological Association (APA) or the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) can give you access to resources, conferences, and networking events. These connections can lead to potential job opportunities, recommendations, and valuable advice from experienced professionals in the field.

Lastly, Carmella, think about gaining research experience, if possible. Many graduate psychology programs value research experience, as it shows your ability to engage with scientific literature, understand research methods, and contribute to the field's advancement. Look for research assistant positions in psychology departments at local universities or mental health research centers. Even if the research isn't directly related to counseling psychology, it can still give you a solid base in understanding psychological theories and practices.

To sum up, Carmella, while starting positions like behavioral technician roles are a good first step, expanding your search to include case management, mental health assistance, and volunteer opportunities will boost your practical experience and increase your chances of getting into a graduate program. Networking, mentorship, and research experience are also vital elements that will strengthen your application and set you up for a successful career in mental health counseling or clinical psychology.
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Anna’s Answer

Hi Carmella!

You've received some fantastic suggestions for job hunting. I'd like to add one more - consider exploring volunteer work. Look for nonprofits that align with your interests and check out the volunteer roles they offer. This is an excellent way to gain diverse experiences, and it often comes with the benefit of flexibility.
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Carmella !

The type of job you can think about to have some experience in the mental health field will depend on the experience you already have. Although a Bachelors Degree in Sociology is substantial in itself, I am not sure if it prepared you to do counseling or therapeutic direct services. Sociology is the study of groups of people. It's great to have employment on your grad school application, but that alone doesn't lean on who is accepted and who isn't. It also depends on your grad school's acceptance rate. While it is great to have a job, you don't take it to become prepared for a future job, you'd have to currently qualify for whichever job you obtain.

I would suggest looking for positions as a Case Manager, Behavioral Technician, Living Skills Counselor, Direct Services staff or any Bachelor level position which you qualify for. Until you have the strong psychology theory and technique study, you wouldn't be able to do therapy with any patients.

Sociology has a strong research and subject overview of various social institutions, topics, and types of people whereas psychology would give you the strong foundation for actually knowing the various types of therapy or counseling you could do. You would also need to know the various standard techniques and modalities in order to obtain your certification and license. Double check this with your academic counselor on campus as perhaps there are differences in what is required where you live.

For a job now, read the employment notices on Indeed, Linked In and other employment websites to get an idea of what the requirements are. The job title whether it's behavioral or mental health technician doesn't matter as long as you are qualified for the position. Social service agencies have different job names for various positions, many calling them different titles for the same type of work.

My advice is to send your resume around to all the social service agencies in your city. Also go to their websites and frequently read their Employment or Career section on their website to see which positions you can apply for. Sometimes they are happy to receive a random resume because an opening may have just become available. I have left a link for you of the social services and non-profit organizations in Las Vegas for you below. I've also left some links below about being a counselor or a therapist. I hope that it helps.

Best wishes and I hope that you find a job that you really like !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

INDEED'S LISTING OF SOCIAL SERVICE JOBS IN LAS VEGAS https://www.indeed.com/q-Social-Services-l-Las-Vegas,-NV-jobs.html?vjk=fe98e2f0130d9b62
SOCIAL SERVICES AND NON-PROFITS IN LAS VEGAS TO SEND A RESUME TO https://greatnonprofits.org/city/las-vegas/NV
STEPS TO TAKE TO BECOME A COUNSELOR https://www.psychology.org/careers/counseling/
HOW TO BECOME A COUNSELOR IN NEVADA https://www.counselingdegreeguide.org/licensure/nevada/
HOW TO BECOME A THERAPIST https://www.talkspace.com/blog/how-to-become-a-therapist/
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