Career in Mental Health Counseling

A Career in Mental Health Counseling: Which Direction Should You Take?

Everyone has that thing they are passionate about and excel at. Some people are great at cooking, and others are great with numbers, but if you love to help other people, you should consider looking into careers in mental health and counseling.

One of the most incredible things about pursuing a career in mental health is that it is so diverse, and there are endless paths that you can take to find the perfect job for you. Today we will be discussing everything you should know about getting into a career in counseling, including the types of categories in the mental health field, different counseling approaches, and different counseling niches you can branch out to.

Additionally, we will talk about how to start your counseling career, what education and licenses you need, and places you could work once you become certified.

Categories Of Mental Health Careers          

While there are many different fields and niches you can get into regarding counseling and mental health careers, there are three main categories:


Psychodynamics is the study of psychological forces that cause emotions, behaviors, or feelings in an individual. In this field, the focus is using different techniques and strategies to uncover childhood trauma that causes the person to have certain habits or behaviors in their adult life and find a way to get to the real root of the problem and find a solution that works for the individual.

For example, a person may bite their nails or compulsively clean due to anxiety caused by a traumatic experience in their past. The therapist will work with their patient to do self-reflection and self-examinations to figure out why the problem has started and how to fix it in a way that is ideal for them. Get a deeper understanding of Psychodynamics here.


Behaviorism is a structured approach to understanding why people behave in specific ways and how the environment they have been exposed to can contribute to different behaviors. The focus of behavioral therapy is to help patients eliminate negative behaviors and habits by replacing them with positive ones.

For example, if a patient comes to a therapist struggling with an addiction or mental health disorder, the expert may decide to use cognitive behavioral therapy. They will help them to identify negative thoughts, discuss them, and figure out why their patient feels that way, then replace them with positive thoughts until the negative thoughts are no longer relevant and don’t affect the patient anymore. Explore more about Behaviorism here.


Humanistic psychology and therapy focus on helping patients become the best version of themselves. Therapists in this field will help their patients focus on the following categories: self-actualization, esteem, love and belonging, safety, and psychological needs. The therapist will help their patient find meaning in their life, teach them how to cope with past trauma that may be negatively impacting their full potential, and give them strategies to achieve everything they want to in their life. Check out the Humanistic Approach in Psychology for more information about this type of psychology and therapy.

Types Of Counseling Approaches

There are various counseling approaches and practices that you can learn about, and each has its benefits and purposes. Here are a few of the most practiced counseling approaches today:

  • Hypnotherapy: A hypnotherapist gets patients into a highly heightened state of focus and concentration to help them alter specific aspects they want to change.
  • Gestalt Therapy: Helping people analyze their current life and look at past experiences with your opinion of them currently by using various techniques like role-playing, guided fantasies, and reenactments.
  • Constructivist Counseling: Helping patients use their past experiences as learning tools to help them overcome and get through current problems.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: Combining cognitive behavioral therapy with psychotherapy to help people identify their emotions and feelings and have healthy reactions and responses.
  • Integrative Multimodal Approach Counseling: Using multiple techniques to help a person as a whole instead of targeting individual problems.

Where Does Counseling Fit into The Mental Health Career Spectrum?

For many reasons, counseling is one of the most critical jobs in mental health. Anyone can have mental health issues, and today it is becoming more normal to talk about it and get the help they need openly. Counselors are one of the most effective tools for people struggling with mental health problems or other underlying issues. It can be constructive to talk with a qualified outsider with empathy and willingness to help them evaluate their life, past traumas, or problems and find productive ways to reach their end goal. Counseling is an essential career in the mental health field.

What Education/Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Mental Health Counselor?

A mental health counselor is a serious job requiring proper education so individuals will be prepared to help their patients get through the most challenging situations. Each state has different requirements, although you will need to start by getting a bachelor’s degree in something related to counseling, such as psychology or sociology. After you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you will then be able to get a master’s degree in counseling. The specific kind of counseling master’s degree will vary depending on what field or niche of counseling you want to get into.

What License Is Required to Become a Mental Health Counselor?

In addition to getting a bachelor’s and master’s degree, you will also need a license. Again, this can vary from state to state and may be different depending on the field you are getting into. Still, you will typically need to take the National Counselors Examination (NCE) to begin your career.

Types Of Counseling Niches

There are numerous different niches in the counseling world that you can explore. Here are a couple of the most common niches:

  • Marriage And Family Counseling: Helping families and married couples overcome their issues to communicate effectively and live a happy and healthy life.
  • School Guidance Counseling: Helping students find a career path best suited for them and giving them tools to achieve their goals.
  • Child And Teen Counseling: Helping children and teenagers get through mental health problems and navigate, cope, and solve other issues they are going through as they grow up.
  • Behavioral Disorder Counseling: Teaching people strategies to find new ways to behave to eliminate unwanted behaviors and getting down to the root cause of how the unwanted behavior became.
  • Rehabilitation Counseling: Helping people with emotional and physical disabilities live everyday life, maintain a career, and be independent.
  • Substance-Abuse Counseling: Helping people overcome their addictions by digging deeper into the root of the addiction and giving them better coping strategies to avoid future relapses.
  • Faith-Based Counseling: Using professional counseling techniques to help people solve their problems through Bible teachings and helping them find healing through God.

Where Can You Work as a Counselor?

Up-and-coming counselors have lots of options for employment once they complete all of their education and licensing. Some of the places you could potentially work as a counselor include but are not limited to:

  • Residential Care Centers
  • Hospitals
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Community Health Clinics
  • Telehealth Providers
  • Mental Health Clinics
  • Human Services Agencies
  • Schools And Other Educational Institutes
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Government Agencies
  • Private Practices
  • Prisons Or Juvenile Detention Centers

Final Thoughts

Finding a career you are passionate about over the highest-paying career is essential to a happy and fulfilling life. When you decide to do what makes you happy, you are much more likely to thrive and positively impact other people. The mental health field is an excellent choice for those who genuinely want to help many people in ways they may not even know they need. With all the different areas, niches, and approaches of counseling and mental health work, there is a career well suited for what you are zealous about.

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