Mental Health Counselors
Counsel and advise individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health, with an emphasis on prevention. May help individuals deal with a broad range of mental health issues, such as those associated with addictions and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; or aging.
Sample of reported job titles: Behavior Analyst, Behavior Support Specialist (BSS), Case Manager, Clinician, Counselor, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Mental Health Counselor, Mental Health Program Specialist, Mental Health Specialist, Mental Health Therapist
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Tasks | Technology Skills | Tools Used | Knowledge | Skills | Abilities | Work Activities | Detailed Work Activities | Work Context | Job Zone | Education | Credentials | Interests | Work Styles | Work Values | Related Occupations | Wages & Employment | Job Openings | Additional Information
- Maintain confidentiality of records relating to clients’ treatment.
- Encourage clients to express their feelings and discuss what is happening in their lives, helping them to develop insight into themselves or their relationships.
- Assess patients for risk of suicide attempts.
- Prepare and maintain all required treatment records and reports.
- Counsel clients or patients, individually or in group sessions, to assist in overcoming dependencies, adjusting to life, or making changes.
- Guide clients in the development of skills or strategies for dealing with their problems.
- Perform crisis interventions to help ensure the safety of the patients and others.
- Perform crisis interventions with clients.
- Fill out and maintain client-related paperwork, including federal- and state-mandated forms, client diagnostic records, and progress notes.
- Develop and implement treatment plans based on clinical experience and knowledge.
- Collect information about clients through interviews, observation, or tests.
- Discuss with individual patients their plans for life after leaving therapy.
- Modify treatment activities or approaches as needed to comply with changes in clients’ status.
- Evaluate clients’ physical or mental condition, based on review of client information.
- Monitor clients’ use of medications.
- Collaborate with mental health professionals and other staff members to perform clinical assessments or develop treatment plans.
- Act as client advocates to coordinate required services or to resolve emergency problems in crisis situations.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of counseling programs on clients’ progress in resolving identified problems and moving towards defined objectives.
- Plan, organize, or lead structured programs of counseling, work, study, recreation, or social activities for clients.
- Refer patients, clients, or family members to community resources or to specialists as necessary.
- Counsel family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, or supporting clients or patients.
- Learn about new developments in counseling by reading professional literature, attending courses and seminars, or establishing and maintaining contact with other social service agencies.
- Meet with families, probation officers, police, or other interested parties to exchange necessary information during the treatment process.
- Gather information about community mental health needs or resources that could be used in conjunction with therapy.
- Supervise other counselors, social service staff, assistants, or graduate students.
- Plan or conduct programs to prevent substance abuse or improve community health or counseling services.
- Coordinate or direct employee workshops, courses, or training about mental health issues.
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- Analytical or scientific software — Statistical software; Test interpretation software
- Calendar and scheduling software — Scheduling software
- Data base user interface and query software — Database software ; Microsoft Access
- Electronic mail software — Email software; Microsoft Outlook
- Enterprise resource planning ERP software — Management information systems MIS; Microsoft Dynamics ; Oracle PeopleSoft
- Internet browser software — Microsoft Internet Explorer; Netscape Navigator; Web browser software
- Medical software — Client information database systems; Patient electronic medical record EMR software
- Office suite software — Microsoft Office
- Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint
- Project management software — Google Classroom
- Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
- Word processing software — Microsoft Word
Hot Technology — a technology requirement frequently included in employer job postings.
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- Psychology — Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
- Therapy and Counseling — Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
- Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
- English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
- Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
- Sociology and Anthropology — Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures, and their history and origins.
- Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
- Administration and Management — Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
- Administrative — Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.
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- Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
- Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
- Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.
- Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
- Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- Persuasion — Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.
- Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions.
- Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
- Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
- Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
- Negotiation — Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
- Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
- Time Management — Managing one’s own time and the time of others.
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- Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
- Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
- Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
- Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
- Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
- Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
- Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
- Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
- Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
- Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
- Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
- Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
- Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
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- Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
- Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
- Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
- Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
- Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
- Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Working with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Performing for or Working Directly with the Public — Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
- Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
- Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
- Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
- Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Communicating with People Outside the Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
- Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
- Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
- Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
- Providing Consultation and Advice to Others — Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
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Detailed Work Activities
- Counsel clients or patients regarding personal issues.
- Complete documentation required by programs or regulations.
- Write reports or evaluations.
- Counsel clients or patients with substance abuse issues.
- Teach life skills or strategies to clients or their families.
- Intervene in crisis situations to assist clients.
- Maintain client records.
- Provide first aid or rescue assistance in emergencies.
- Respond to emergencies to provide assistance.
- Develop treatment plans for patients or clients.
- Collect information about clients.
- Interview clients to gather information about their backgrounds, needs, or progress.
- Modify treatment plans to accommodate client needs.
- Evaluate characteristics of individuals to determine needs or eligibility.
- Provide basic health care services.
- Collaborate with other professionals to assess client needs or plan treatments.
- Advocate for individual or community needs.
- Develop health assessment methods or programs.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of counseling or educational programs.
- Monitor clients to evaluate treatment progress.
- Plan programs to address community mental wellness needs.
- Counsel family members of clients or patients.
- Develop working relationships with others to facilitate program activities.
- Maintain professional social services knowledge.
- Refer clients to community or social service programs.
- Supervise workers providing client or patient services.
- Collect information about community health needs.
- Confer with family members to discuss client treatment plans or progress.
- Plan programs to address community health issues.
- Lead classes or community events.
- Train staff members in social services skills.
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- Face-to-Face Discussions — 98% responded “Every day.”
- Contact With Others — 90% responded “Constant contact with others.”
- Telephone — 72% responded “Every day.”
- Electronic Mail — 71% responded “Every day.”
- Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 80% responded “Every day.”
- Spend Time Sitting — 44% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
- Time Pressure — 56% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Letters and Memos — 38% responded “Every day.”
- Structured versus Unstructured Work — 39% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Work With Work Group or Team — 38% responded “Very important.”
- Freedom to Make Decisions — 35% responded “Some freedom.”
- Deal With External Customers — 48% responded “Extremely important.”
- Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 50% responded “Important results.”
- Frequency of Decision Making — 37% responded “Every day.”
- Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People — 31% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Frequency of Conflict Situations — 33% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Physical Proximity — 37% responded “Moderately close (at arm’s length).”
- Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 53% responded “Important.”
- Coordinate or Lead Others — 35% responded “Important.”
- Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 28% responded “Fairly important.”
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|Title||Job Zone Five: Extensive Preparation Needed|
|Education||Most of these occupations require graduate school. For example, they may require a master’s degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).|
|Related Experience||Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of college and an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to be able to do their job.|
|Job Training||Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.|
|Job Zone Examples||These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Examples include pharmacists, lawyers, astronomers, biologists, clergy, neurologists, and veterinarians.|
|SVP Range||(8.0 and above)|
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Percentage of Respondents
|Education Level Required|
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Interest code: SIA Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
- Social — Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.
- Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
- Artistic — Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.
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- Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others’ needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
- Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
- Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
- Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
- Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
- Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
- Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
- Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
- Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
- Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
- Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
- Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
- Independence — Job requires developing one’s own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
- Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
- Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
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- Relationships — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
- Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
- Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
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Wages & Employment Trends
Median wage data for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors.
Employment data for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors.
Industry data for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors.
|Median wages (2020)||$22.91 hourly, $47,660 annual|
|Employment (2020)||327,500 employees|
|Projected growth (2020-2030)||Much faster than average (15% or higher)|
|Projected job openings (2020-2030)||41,000|
|Top industries (2020)||
Health Care and Social Assistance
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 wage data and 2020-2030 employment projections . “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2020-2030). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.
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Job Openings on the Web
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Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
- Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
- American College Counseling Association
- American Counseling Association
- American Mental Health Counselors Association
- American Psychological Association
- American School Counselor Association
- Association for Addiction Professionals
- Association of Faith Churches and Ministers
- Brain Injury Association of America
- NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists
- National Association of Social Workers
- National Board for Certified Counselors
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors
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