by Megan Korn, Recruiter and Human Resources Leader
Thinking about a career in the mental health field?
If you’re motivated by helping others, becoming a mental health professional could be your calling. As a mental health professional, you step in to help people overcome their life challenges. You can be a source of hope by providing guidance and strategies that enable others to clear obstacles, achieve their goals, and believe in themselves. You can change lives for the better.
In terms of career potential, the field offers many career paths, including social worker, counselor, psychiatrist and psychologist. Better yet, the job prospects are exceptionally promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job growth outlook for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors and for social workers is well above average.
However, careers in the mental health field are not for everyone. If you’re exploring what mental health career is right for you, you should first ask if this field is a good match. You can start by looking at some of the soft skills that are called into play every day.
Soft skills are the non-technical skills that are needed for success in the workplace. All careers require a mastery of some soft skills, like time management and meeting your commitments. In some fields, soft skills complement technical skills. But in the mental health field, the soft skills can be just as important as the technical skills—if not more so. They also play a major role in your career satisfaction.
Before pursuing a career in this field, ask yourself these six questions.
Do You Like Working With People?
Teamwork and relationship building are foundational to mental healthcare. Working with clients is a given. But depending on your career path, you may also coordinate with other healthcare providers—such as physicians, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers—as well as partner agencies, such as housing and employment. No matter which path you take, the ability to communicate clearly, to follow up, to take the lead and to manage complex details are all skills you’ll frequently lean on.
Do You Have Empathy and Patience?
Compassion and empathy are keystones to achieving results in this field. Even if you don’t have personal experience with what a client is going through, you need to be able to listen and offer guidance. Patience and perseverance go hand-in-hand with this. People do not change overnight. You will need to work with them over the long haul to address their needs. While the small victories are tremendously rewarding, this is not a field for those who need instant gratification or who are easily discouraged by setbacks.
Do You Enjoy Problem Solving?
] If you are interested in this field, you likely enjoy solving problems. In terms of working with clients, problem solving requires active listening, critical observation, critical thinking and coordination with others. To develop effective strategies and treatment plans, you’ll need to listen to what your clients are telling you—and pay attention to what they are leaving out.
Do You Have a Strong Work Ethic?
Helping people be their best selves is only one component to working with clients. Behind the scenes, a lot of record keeping and follow up takes place. Depending on your caseload, you could be maintaining files for dozens of clients. This requires a high degree of organization and planning, as well as the ability to be self-directed.
Can You Separate the Personal From the Professional?
Professional detachment is a must in this field. Your clients may engage in behaviors or make decisions that you do not agree with on a moral level. You may be challenged by different perspectives. However, you need to reserve judgment and meet your clients where they are to help them. Likewise, you need to set healthy emotional boundaries between your personal and professional lives—in both the physical and digital worlds.
Are You Adaptable?
No matter what career path you choose, no two days are alike. Mental health providers often need to adjust on the go. You may need to work weekends and evenings. You may need to be on call. You will always need to adapt your approach to your clients and their needs. While this is a positive for those who thrive on change, it can also be cause for stress and even burnout. Stress management is a key tool that mental health professionals need to master.
(Read: Tips for Recovering from Burnout and Finding Balance)
Finding a Good Fit for Your Career
We may be a bit biased, but we believe a career spent helping others is a virtuous undertaking. And the field is in critical need of qualified, compassionate providers.
If you think the mental health field is right for you, the next best step is to thoroughly research the career paths that most resonate with you. Questions to ask yourself include:
What kind of populations do you want to work with?
What type of setting do you want to work in?
How much time are you willing to invest in post-secondary education?
What type of schedule do you want to establish?
What is your desired salary?
What are the license requirements in your state?
Most careers in this field require at least a bachelor’s degree and a license. Your career goals may also require you to pursue a master’s degree or higher. Learning everything you can about where an academic program can take you before you apply is the best use of your time and money.
Have questions about your career or interested in joining our team? I’m always happy to talk with prospective therapists. Contact me at 888-830-0347.
Megan Korn is Compass Point’s Recruiter and Human Resources Leader. Megan has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She started her career as a nurse in medical surgery and oncology, before shifting to a career in healthcare recruiting. When she’s not recruiting and supporting specialized providers for our team, Megan enjoys the great outdoors, time with her family and taking her dog for walks.