What Does a Mental Health Counselor Do?

Mental Health Counselors

Mental health counselors are trained to provide the supportive services needed for affected clients to remain safe and functional normally. Since, mental health issues tend to encompass various aspects, these counselors are trained in all aspects of diagnosing and providing ongoing care to clients who have issues with substance abuse, depression, unstable relationships and other mental and psychological problems that may affect their ability to do routine tasks. Mental health counselors take a holistic approach to caring for their clients to cover all affected systems, including physical, psychological and emotional health.

Typical Day of a Mental Health Counselor

As a mental health counselor, expect to spend the work hours in an office or in the field for client contact and outreach. The counselor is trained to evaluate different aspects of clients’ conditions, determine the appropriate interventions and plan of treatment. Even when the client is an adult, the mental health counselor still needs to meet with the clients’ family to discuss behaviors, therapies and coping strategies.

The mental health counselor must work closely with each client to determine behavior triggers and modification options. Often, this calls for developing new habits, which is an ongoing and long-term task. The counselor will work with the clients’ health care team, including doctors and other therapists to make sure that all needs are met and all issues are covered. The counselor will provide referrals to specialists, support groups, employment services as needed.

The mental health counselor may also be involved in outreach activities that help communities identify addictive behaviors and possible causes that may be inherent in families and communities. The counselor will help the community develop preventive strategies as well as coping skills.

Work Environment

Mental health counselors may work at rehabilitation centers that exist to serve clients with diverse issues. Residential facilities provide a health care team on a 24/7 basis. The team is often led by a mental health counselor who prepares the intake evaluation, ongoing assessments and transitional care plan for clients who are ready to resume their normal life. The counselor collaborates with the health care team to deploy the most appropriate therapies given the client’s condition.

Counselors may opt to work in outpatient facilities, including clinics, adult day care facilities for clients undergoing addictive treatments or at community centers that focus on preventive and supportive services for current clients, recovering addicts and their families. In-home family counseling and support services may be part of the services provided. These facilities may be privately owned and operated, or they may be part of government-funded programs.

Employment Outlook for Mental Health Counselors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mental health counselors will benefit from a high demand for the services they provide. Job growth in this sector is expected to increase by 23 percent in the 10-year period from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the average growth rate for other sectors.

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The anticipated increase in demand is due to more people seeking help with various issues related to mental health brought about by the stresses of modern living. Additionally, the courts have been favoring counseling and treatment rather than jail time for people affected by substance abuse problems. The military is one of the sectors that will need mental health counselors for service personnel who may be affected by post-traumatic stress. As a mental health counselor, you will have varied career paths to consider.