As a Mental Health Counselor, you will provide services to individuals, systems, groups, and/or families. You will apply theories, principles, and methods of counseling and psychotherapy to define goals and develop plans of action aimed at the prevention or resolution of mental and emotional dysfunction. The practice of mental health counseling includes, but is not limited to, the assessment and treatment of mental disorders, the application of psychoeducational and other techniques and measures aimed at prevention, and consultation to individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Mental Health Counselors work in a wide range of settings. You could work in community mental health centers, hospitals, residential treatment centers, substance abuse treatment facilities, college and university counseling centers, government agencies, elder care facilities, and faith communities. Once you have earned licensure, you can also pursue independent practice. In Massachusetts, licensed mental health counselors are known as LMHCs.
The professional mental health field draws people from many different backgrounds and walks of life. Because the range of human needs is so diverse, the field employs people at different levels of education and training, from the bachelor’s degree to the doctorate, with the master’s in between.
Accordingly, master’s level training appeals to a variety of individuals for many reasons. Some people who pursue a master’s degree are recent college graduates with an undergraduate major in psychology. They are interested in graduate school but are not quite sure if they want to pursue a doctorate. Others are interested in doctoral study in psychology and are hoping to make themselves stronger candidates for that eventual career path by earning a master’s along the way. Still others pursue a master’s degree later in life as part of a career change. Finally, some seek a master’s degree because they either already know that they wish to practice independently and want the shortest but most thorough path to that goal, or because they already work in a mental health or related field and believe that master’s level preparation and licensure will better equip them to function in their roles as helpers.
The program is currently designed to be completed in a full-time or a part-time basis. The full time option encompasses two years of full-time study, including a summer semester at the end of the first year. Each of the two years integrates classroom study with two consecutive semesters of fieldwork. The part-time option is designed to be completed in three years. The first year and the summer session have coursework. The second year includes the practicum and more coursework (including a summer session), and the third year includes the internship and the final coursework. Some people prefer the part-time option because it spreads the requirements over a longer period of time.