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Mental Health Degrees

Mental health counseling is a relatively new field of mental health services. During the 18th and 19th centuries, this field gained much attention and is now recognized as a distinct healthcare profession. Frank Parsons and Clifford Beers are among the few pioneers of mental health counseling who paved way for its development in the United States.

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Mental health counseling and the employment prospects

Mental health can be described as emotional, psychological, and social well-being of a person. The importance of mental health can’t be denied, since it affects every stage of our life and the choices we make. Oppressive societal demands, unemployment, and the overall increasing complexity of our lives have enhanced the importance of mental health counselors.  

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), problems such as depression and stress have pushed the demand for mental health counselors and other mental health professionals. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for mental health counselors is expected to grow by 29% from 2012-2022, with over 40,000 expected job openings.

Is this career for you?

Mental health counseling can be challenging in more ways than one. The positive employment prospects of this field may make it a suitable career choice. But you should also answer whether this occupation fits your interest by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to help individuals and families with mental health issues, on daily basis?
  • Are you looking for a career that is rewarding?
  • Are you a good listener and find it easy to talk to people?

Mental health programs

To prepare for a career in mental health counseling, you must have the right education and skill set. There are a number of accredited schools offering mental health programs at undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels. A mental health degree will provide you with knowledge of the field and help you develop counseling skills.

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Master’s degree in mental health

This is a graduate-level program that aims to equip students with advanced skills and knowledge. The program will prepare students for counseling careers and professional certifications in this field. Students will be required to cover a range of courses that integrate therapeutic and academic knowledge. Throughout the program, students will learn about the various facets of the field and how different counseling techniques can be used to help clients overcome mental challenges. The curriculum may vary, but generally cover important courses such as the following:


  • Introduction to clinical mental health counseling

In this course, students will learn about the fundamental concepts of clinical mental health counseling, its history and development over time, philosophical and empirical foundations, and current applications.

  • Counseling techniques

This course is designed to provide students with an overview of the mental health counseling profession, its roles and functions, and limitations. Students will explore the role played by various counseling organizations and industry standards.

  • Human development and counseling

In this course, students will acquire in-depth knowledge of the developmental stages of human beings with regard to counseling and therapy. Topics such as developmental theories and practical strategies are covered.

  • Research and evaluation for counselors

This course is designed to help students’ gain thorough understanding of research concepts and theories. Students will learn how to apply different qualitative and quantitative methods for research, design, and analysis.

  • Practicum in clinical mental health counseling

This course is covered in clinical settings where students work under the supervision of a professional. The purpose of the practicum is to provide students with hands-on experience and clinical exposure. Students will learn how to apply counseling techniques through supervised exercises.

Specialization and residency requirements

A few graduate schools offering this program also require students to complete a residency requirement. This will provide students with the opportunity to apply skills learned during the coursework. Students can also learn and apply skills in the chosen specialization area.

Here are some commonly pursued specializations:

  • Addiction counseling
  • Career counseling
  • Trauma and crisis counseling
  • Forensic counseling

How long does it take to complete a master’s degree?

It typically takes two years to complete a master’s degree in mental health counseling. However, the duration may vary. Some schools are offering accelerated programs that can be completed in lesser time. To successfully earn this qualification, students must cover all the course components and accumulate a minimum number of credits.

PhD in mental health counseling

A PhD in mental health counseling is a post-graduate program that is designed for students seeking leadership and research-oriented roles in the industry. The program combines theoretical coursework, practical research, and clinical training.

During the first few years of the program, students will undergo a thorough study of fundamental courses such as the following:

  • Statistics and research design

This course will introduce students to statistics used in the field. Topics such as the following may be covered: basic inferential statistics, descriptive statistics, and analysis techniques.

  • Theories and methods of counselor education

In this course, students will learn about the history of this profession, theory and methods used in counseling, ethical considerations, and instructional theory.

  • Applied social psychology

In this course, students will explore different interdisciplinary applications of social psychology. Topics such as the following are covered: prejudices, mental health, relationships, and counseling.

Research and dissertation

Once the coursework is complete, students will spend the next few years conducting an independent research study and dissertation. The objective is to enable students to bring new knowledge to the field through research.

Certificate in mental health counseling

You can improve career prospects and add to your skills by earning a certificate in mental health. This is a short course that is usually pursued by practicing counselors. The program will cover courses that highlight fundamental and advanced areas of the field. It can take anywhere from six to twelve months to complete the program, depending on the school you choose. Here are some of the courses typically covered in a certificate in mental health counseling:

  • Family counseling
  • Foundations of clinical mental health
  • Assessment and intervention strategies

Online programs

You can pursue mental health counseling education online. Many students are opting for this mode as it is more flexible, cost-friendly, and convenient. Online education is particularly suitable for working individuals who do not have the time or the resources to study on-campus. The coursework of online mental health counseling degrees is covered through online videos, lectures, tutorials, and classroom conferences.

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Career prospects

Did you know that according to US News & World Report, mental health counselor jobs have been ranked among the best jobs in healthcare? With a degree in mental health counseling, you can work as a mental health counselor. Your income level will depend on you specialization, work experience, and employer organization. In 2012, mental health counselors made a median annual income of $41,500 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:How to become a mental health therapist?

A:To become a mental health therapist, there are certain requirements you are required to meet. You will need a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in counseling. In addition to educational requirements, you will also need a license (a requirement for most states). You might also need to get a certification in some states. Certifications are available through the National Board for Certified Counselors. (NBCC)

Q:What is a mental health psychologist?

A:A mental health psychologist pulls people out of their mental din. They offer counseling, support and guidance to individuals who are having trouble coping with matters of life on mental and emotional levels. Health psychologists deal with numerous problems such as depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, addiction and chronic pain.

Q:What are the various types of mental health professions?

A:There are many types of mental health professions. Finding the right one for you will require some amount of research and effort. You could end up becoming a clinical psychologist or a school psychologist, where you will need advance degrees to enter. You could also become a clinical social worker, a licensed professional counselor, a mental health counselor, a certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor, a marital and family therapist and so on.

Q:What is a mental health certification program?

A:Certification may not be required in certain states. However, earning a voluntary certification proves skills and development in counseling and may even assist in improving employment prospects. Certification might also be the requirement for licensure in some states according to the NBCC. Licensure requirements also vary from state to state but typically require earning a graduate-level degree.

Q:Can you tell me a little about health masters programs?

A:A masters degree in health counseling is required to sit for the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) certification exam. The coursework involved in this degree may include topics such as human development, group counseling, research methods, life planning, psycho-diagnostics, family counseling, career development, marriage counseling, addiction disorders and so on. The curriculum might also have clinical experience incorporated within it.

Q:What are the required courses in mental health certificate programs online?

A:There are certain courses and topics that would form a part of a mental health certification online. You could complete a certification program with a Childhood through Adult Psychotherapy' course, a 'Psychopharmacology for the Non-Medical Mental Health Professional' course, a 'Clinical Supervision: Ethical and Professional Guidelines' course or a 'Foundations of Crisis Intervention in Counseling' course.

Q:What are the degrees in mental health?

A:If you are looking to gain some knowledge in the field of mental health, there are various degree levels and certifications available for you. You can get a 2-year associate in mental health, a four year long bachelors and a 1-2 year long masters in mental health. If you wish to pursue an advance education, you could go for a doctor of mental health, which would typically take 4-7 years. Other smaller scale options include getting mental health counseling diplomas or a mental health counselor certification.

Q:what is a mental health professional

A:A mental health professional is a community services provider or a health care practitioner, who offers services aimed at improving mental health in individuals and treating mental illnesses of various kinds. These individuals work as psychiatrists, counseling psychologists and clinical psychologists. They might even find work as psychotherapists, behavior analysts, school psychologists and social workers.

Q:Can I find a mental health program in NYC?

A:Yes, you can. New York has several universities, colleges and institutions that offer different types of mental health programs. Depending on your prior qualifications and your future career plans, you can go for an associate degree, a bachelors degree or a masters degree. If you want to pursue advance subjects in this field, you can also find a few good doctoral programs.

Q:What are the mental health therapist education requirements?

A:To become a mental health therapist, there are certain educational requirements that you need to fulfill. You will most likely begin by earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, although a few other fields are also acceptable. To be able to sit for the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) certification exam however, you need to have at least a master's degree.

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