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Mental Health Counselor

What Is a Mental Health Counselor and How to Become One

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What Does a Mental Health Counselor Do?

A mental health counselor is a healthcare professional who helps people facing various mental health issues. This job may include holding individual or group therapy to address issues like anxiety and depression, addiction, family or career issues, relationship issues, or other unhealthy and difficult situations in the patients’ lives. A mental health counselor provides skilled assistance through conversation with their clients, but is not licensed to provide prescriptions for medications.

How Do You Become a Mental Health Counselor?

To become a mental health counselor, you need education and training. After completing high school, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, like psychology or counseling. You then must continue your education, completing a master’s degree in counseling, followed by a long period of supervised clinical experience. Once you have both the education and clinical requirements, you are eligible to take the licensing exam. Some mental health counselors continue to pursue a doctorate in counseling psychology.

Can a Licensed Mental Health Counselor Prescribe Medication?

A licensed mental health counselor can provide counseling and therapy to help patients cope with mental health challenges, but they are not, by law, licensed to prescribe or recommend medications. This particular area of treatment can only be addressed by licensed psychiatrists and licensed psychiatric nurse practitioners. While therapy and counseling can be very helpful, a patient who also needs medication will need to be referred to a psychiatrist for evaluation.

Where Does a Mental Health Counselor Work?

Licensed mental health counselors work in a variety of medical facilities, including private practices and hospitals. They can also work in inpatient mental health facilities and drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. Some government agencies, such as community programs may also hire licensed mental health counselors, as do some corporations, as a service to their employees to cope with stress and work-life balance. Police and military agencies also utilize licensed mental health counselors.

Are Mental Health Counselors in Demand?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mental health counseling field is expected to grow by 20% between 2016 and 2026. This is a much higher rate of growth than the average for other careers over this same timeframe.

Mental Health Counselor Job Description Sample

With this Mental Health Counselor job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember though, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for their Mental Health Counselor position.


Our clinic is looking for a Mental Health Counselor to join our staff. In this position, you help our clients by performing behavior analysis tests and laying out a treatment plan for their mental disorder. You need to develop trusting relationships with your patients, so communication skills are crucial. Our perfect candidate has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling. We also accept candidates with a degree and experience as a social worker. Experience with rehabilitation, human services, or interventional medicine is also a plus.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Help diagnose clients
  • Develop a treatment plan to address specific mental disorders
  • Meet with clients on a regular schedule
  • Track client progress and adjust treatment as needed
  • Help clients find the appropriate services they need outside of counseling

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in psychology
  • Master’s degree in counseling
  • Treatment planning experience
  • Social work experience (preferred)
  • Strong communication and listening skills

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