7 Facts About Mental Health Counseling Schools and Careers

mental-health-counseling-common-questions1Mental health counselors play an important role in our society. They help people with mental health disorders like depression, OCD and PTSD overcome their challenges and develop into healthier human beings.

Read below to get answers to the questions students ask the most: online school options, financial aid, becoming a licensed counselor, and more. What other questions might you have about studying to become a mental health counselor?

Can I go to school online?

There are an abundance of schools offering online bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling and psychology. If you want to take advantage of federal financial aid resources for your online courses, you should make sure to choose a school and program that are accredited.

What careers can I pursue with a mental health counseling degree?

A mental health counselor can maintain a private practice or work in any number of environments, including substance abuse treatment facilities, hospitals, correctional institutions, counseling centers, schools, universities and government agencies.

How do I apply for financial aid?

Government aid is the most common, however, before you can be considered you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the school you plan to attend must be accredited. Other options include scholarships, grants, private loans and PLUS loans.

What type of accreditation should I look for in a psychology school?

Schools and programs can have either institutional or specialized accreditation or both. In the case of mental health counseling schools, the specialized accreditation organization is The American Psychological Association. Meanwhile, the Higher Learning Commission, which is divided into six regional associations, provides institutional accreditation.

What steps do I need to take to become licensed?

Aspiring mental health counselors must earn a master’s degree and complete 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience in order to become licensed. Most states will also require that you pass an exam. To find out the exact steps to take in your state, check with the National Board of Certified Counselors or your state board of psychology.

What continuing education requirements should I expect throughout my career?

Mental health counselors are usually required to complete continuing education requirements every one to two years. The number of credits varies by state. As an example, Washington requires mental health counselors to complete 36 hours of CE every two years. Be sure to check with your state on approved courses because not all topics or lessons will be accepted.

Is it better to work for myself in private practice or an institution within the mental health counseling field?

A number of factors influence whether a mental health counselor should work in private practice or for an institution. Although private practice can offer flexibility, if you’re new to the field and lack a large patient base, you’ll have to work hard at marketing yourself and getting referrals–a process that will happen throughout your career. While you won’t necessarily get the schedule flexibility of a private practice, working at an institution allows you to gain valuable knowledge from colleagues and likely receive employer-paid benefits.

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