How to Become A Mental Health Professional to Help Those Who Need it Most

mental health professional making notes

Did you know one in five adults in just the United States deal with a mental illness in any year? From mild to severe, mental illnesses can strike anyone at any time.

Part of finding success with either managing or recovering from an illness is working with professionals trained in the field.

Do you feel inspired to work as a mental health professional, but unsure what your options are? Keep reading for a few great ideas to start your research!

Professional versus Non-Professional Options

Many people don't think about this, but you don't necessarily have to become a professional to work in the field to help people.

Education Levels of a Mental Health Professional

There are many options for a career in the mental health field. But your options will be limited based on the type of education you seek out.

Research your state's rules and regulations as they relate to licensing. Below are three examples of large categories of career options.


Under the umbrella of counseling jobs, there are two main ones: Mental Health Counselor and an Addiction Counselor. As a mental health counselor, you will work directly with clients as they work through various issues.

These mental health issues could include anxiety or depression. As a counselor, you may work with your client's family as well.

As an addiction counselor, you become an expert in helping people kick substance abuse issues. This may include learning how to abstain from alcohol or drugs like heroin.

Psychology and Psychiatry

If you are interested in the mental health career field, you may be interested to work as a clinical or neuropsychologist. As a clinical psychologist, you act in a doctoral capacity.

As a doctor, you are able to both diagnose and treat clients dealing with mental health or behavioral disorders. This is the main distinction between a counselor and a psychologist.

You may also be interested in psychiatry. As a psychiatrist, you have the ability to prescribe drugs to clients who may need them. This takes more schooling and residency than in the field of psychology.

If the amount of schooling sounds daunting, be sure to research a career as a mental health technician. Programs for this are much shorter than psychologist or psychiatrist programs.

Social Work

Being a social worker is also a valuable way to help people navigate mental illness. Social workers don't diagnose clients, rather they help them with everyday tasks.

Social workers will often be crucial advocates to navigate the healthcare system.

Volunteer for Experience as Mental Health Professional

One of the best things you can do when thinking about a possible career in this field is to volunteer for exposure and experience. Think of places like homeless shelters, career centers, and public schools.

Many of these places have lots of work and not enough staff. They likely will be eager to bring you on board. Getting experience in a few different areas will help you decide what is best for you.

Find Your Calling in Helping People

As illustrated, there are a number of ways to work as a mental health professional in order to help people.

Interested in other ways to help people struggling? Check out our guide to learning crisis intervention techniques!


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