You know you’re interested in a career in the mental health field.

You’re a good listener, great with people one-on-one, and feel you’d excel at offering mental health support. But the mental health field is broad, with many possible career paths. Which role is right for you? What does each entail? What kind of advanced degree or licensure will you need?

If you’re uncertain which mental health career to pursue, start here. Learn about the different roles, along with responsibilities and education requirements for each.

 

1. Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

A licensed professional counselor treats emotional and behavioral disorders through therapeutic counseling with individuals, couples, families, or groups. According to the American Counseling Association, LPCs can have training in a variety of sub-specialties, such as addiction counseling and marriage and family counseling. Similar licenses exist, including the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). The license type will vary based on state.

Responsibilities:

  • Deliver culturally sensitive counseling and therapy services, including assessment, diagnosis, and treatment to clients experiencing a broad range of mental, behavioral, and emotional issues
  • Seek to improve clients’ coping skills and self-esteem
  • Apply professional counseling ethical codes and legal standards to professional behavior and practice
  • Promote wellness among diverse populations
  • Offer strategies to change thinking or behavior to improve mental health

Traits and skills needed:

  • Compassion and patience
  • Great communication and active listening skills
  • Negotiation and mediation skills
  • Critical thinking and creativity

Where you might work:

  • Community agency
  • Private practice
  • College or university clinic
  • Medical facility

Education requirements:

  • Master’s degree in counseling
  • Licensure

See all of Capella’s online counseling degree programs.

 

2. Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nursing is a specialty for registered nurses (RNs). Psych nurses care for patients hospitalized with mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression. The American Psychiatric Nurses Association offers a full description of psychiatric-mental health nursing.

Responsibilities:

  • Work with patients and their families to assess symptoms
  • Collaborate with a treatment team that includes physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other medical and mental health professionals
  • Dispense medication on a schedule
  • Aid in recovery through traditional therapies
  • Keep medical records and documentation
  • Educate patients and their families about available resources and services

Traits and skills needed:

  • Compassion and patience
  • Great communication skills
  • Ability to work on a team
  • Calmness in crisis situations

Where you might work:

  • Psychiatric ward of a hospital
  • Mental health care institution
  • School
  • Prison

Education requirements:

Gain an edge in the psych nursing field with a master’s in human behavior studies degree.

 

3. Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) who complete a year of medical internship and a three-year residency in the assessment and treatment of mental health disorders. The American Psychiatric Association (APA), the chief professional organization for psychiatrists, provides a round-up of educational and career opportunities in the field.

Responsibilities:

  • Perform diagnostic tests
  • Administer psychotherapy and prescribe medication
  • Use knowledge of biology and neurochemistry to help diagnose and treat patients

Traits and skills needed:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to lead a patient care team
  • Desire to treat patients in both mind and body, taking brain physiology into account
  • Interest in completing an extended study program

Where you might work:

  • Private practice
  • General hospital or psychiatric hospital
  • University medical center
  • In court, prison, or military settings

Education requirements:

  • MD
  • State licensure
  • Board certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

 

4. Psychologist

Psychologists hold a PhD or PsyD in psychology. They use their advanced training and knowledge to help people cope with mental health problems. The APA explains the full spectrum of psychology careers.

Responsibilities:

  • Use psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help patients deal with mental health challenges
  • Work with primary care physicians, pediatricians, psychiatrists, and other treatment to members as part of multidisciplinary teams
  • Performs psychological evaluations

Traits and skills needed:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to lead a patient care team
  • Desire to treat patients in both mind and body, taking brain physiology into account

Where you might work:

  • Private practice
  • General hospital or psychiatric hospital
  • University medical center
  • In court, prison, or military settings

Education requirements:

  • PhD or PsyD
  • Licensure

See all of Capella’s doctoral degrees in psychology.

 

5. Social Worker

Social workers help individuals and groups deal with challenges like poverty, abuse, trauma, discrimination, and disability. The National Association of Social Workers has a complete list of educational, career, and professional development tracks for social workers.

Responsibilities:

  • Advocate on behalf of a client for food stamps, childcare, health care and other resources
  • Teach coping and conflict-resolution techniques
  • Respond to crises like child abuse and mental health emergencies
  • Serve as a liaison between people and organizations
  • Do research, policy development, and advocacy for services
  • Maintain case history records and create reports

Traits and skills needed:

  • Empathy
  • Resilience
  • Strong organizational skills

Where you might work:

  • Hospitals, medical clinics, and mental health facilities
  • Schools
  • Substance abuse clinics
  • Child welfare agencies
  • Private practice

Education requirements:

  • Master’s degree in social work (MSW)
  • Licensure

Explore Capella’s master of social work degree program.

See graduation rates, median student debt, and other information at Capella Results.
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