COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELORS
Our communities have people (across the socioeconomic spectrum) that need counseling services. Many of them have one form, or another, of mental health issues. Mental illness exists in various sensitive populations such as the homeless.
Often, the mental illness can exacerbate inherent situations of struggle and limited resources among these populations. Some of these populations of people are actually dealing with a combination of
physical challenges with mental conditions, adding to the magnitude of their situation. These clients often rely on clinics that are understanding and can work with them, given their uniquely sensitive life struggles/demands and financial situations.
COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELORS KNOW THEIR ENVIRONMENTS WELL
Community mental health counselors are practiced at working with diverse populations in clinics and other community agencies. These counselors perform many of the duties that mental health counselors perform in private practice. Community mental health counselors go beyond the scope of a usual mental health counseling practice and get into other areas, such as: assisting clients with scheduling appointments and teaching them how to use public transit, libraries, and other community services. With these valued counselors having a keen understanding of the nuances of the populations they serve, these counselors thus serve an invaluable role in our society.
EDUCATION FOR COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELORS
Community mental health counselors are usually very well educated. The level of education will vary depending on state law, as well as on the actual job responsibilities. There are community service organizations that will employ people at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels, depending on the nature of the work and responsibility. Look into the job opportunities in your area to decide the right degree for you. Until recently, the CACREP agency (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) accredited mental health and community counseling programs separately. Due to recent changes, the two have been merged. The length of mental health counseling programs has increased to 60 semester hours.
LICENSING and CERTIFICATION
Some states allow counselors to work under supervision in an agency or community setting without a license. Other states require licenses for all counselors who work in mental health. It will always benefit you to hold an appropriate license, whether or not it is required. Mental health counselors who have completed Master’s degrees must work under supervision for two or three years before they attain the highest level of licensing. Often this means taking a position with a community organization or agency. Bachelor’s level counselors are often certified to work in a particular capacity; in some areas, they can be certified as Qualified Mental Health Providers and in others, they may be substance abuse counselors.
Salary and Career Expectations
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mental Health Counselors can expect to achieve a salary of between 41,000 and 43,000 per year.