Mental Health Professional Occupation and Career Overview
There are many ways in which one can provide Human Services to your fellow human beings. Perhaps the most challenging is also the one with the most potential to reward you, both monetarily as well as in terms of personal and professional satisfaction. That is the sphere of occupations known as the Mental Health professional. There are many different ways that one can address the issue of Mental Health in the world of Human Services. Some examples include the clusters of occupations known as Social Work, Psychologist, Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist. All of these clusters have many sub-disciplines that specialize in the art of helping a particular population. In some cases there are specializations that not only deal with a specific population but also a particular mental health disorder or fixation within that population. For example, there are Counselors who specialize in counseling women with eating disorders to name one ultra-specialized occupation within the Mental Health field.
Within the cluster of the Psychologist occupation there are several sub-specializations that you may wish to consider. If you are drawn to helping children you may wish to consider a career as a Child Psychologist. As a Child Psychologist you will have the ability to communicate effectively with children and also have greater empathy as you understand the developmental capabilities of children of different ages. There is also Clinical Psychology where you can be part of cutting edge research in clinical trials to devise and test new forms of therapy that will be used by other Psychologists thereby maximizing the number of people whose lives you can positively impact. Then you have the Forensic Psychologist who has been really brought into the public awareness through various TV crime dramas and novels. The real life Forensic Psychologist is a critical part of modern law enforcement and investigation. Of course the traditional Psychologist who is trained to help adults with their mental and emotional problems has a very important place in our society and does untold good for people, couples and groups suffering from similar Mental Health problems.
Within the sphere of Social Work you have several sub-specializations that seek to help people in various areas with the special lens that a Social Worker brings to bear on the issue of Mental Health. The School Social Worker has specialized training to help children in school settings so they can deal with emotional issues and complete their education with optimal results. The School Social Worker provides a valuable service to not only “troubled youth” in schools, but also classrooms in general as kids who are in need of special attention are helped while being prevented from disrupting the learning of other children. The Licensed Clinical Social Worker provides excellent mental health counseling for adults and has additional supervised clinical training that is required for licensure and makes them particularly skilled within the Social Work community.
The Counselor field of professions includes a variety of sub-specializations in addition to the primary role as a Mental Health counselor for adults dealing with mental and emotional health issues. There are also addiction counselors who help people who suffer from addictions including substance abuse as well as gambling and sex addiction. Counselors also can specialize and become grief counselors who help work either with the families and friends of the deceased or as a part of an inter-disciplinary team working with Hospice and Palliative care. There are also some counselors who specialize in working with children.
The Marriage and Family Therapist is a Mental Health counselor that works with the dynamics of marriages, relationships and families in a Mental Health context. This particular profession is into and of itself a specialized group of counselors who understand the delicate nature of helping couples and families resolve difficult psycho-emotional issues and patterns within the complex and subtle realm of family relationships. The subtleties involved in working with couples or entire families simultaneously involve some real challenges in terms of making sure everyone is heard and validated while also maintaining clear and healthy boundaries during sessions. Family and relationship issues can often be extremely intense and individuals have varying degrees of sensitivity and reactions when listening to others relate their point of view. The work of the Marriage and Family Therapist is to artfully thread listening, boundaries, respect and interventions into a fabric that helps to heal these deep and profound familial relationships.
There are a tremendous variety of ways in which one can enter Human Services as a Mental Health Professional. With all of the specializations available within Mental Health, there are options for virtually everyone to find a niche that is personally resonant and rewarding for every Human Services student. We cover many different career options in-depth within our section on Human Services Professionals which you can find here.