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How Do I Become a Mental Health Professional?

Article Details
  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The process to become a mental health professional depends a great deal on the exact position within the mental health field you wish to attain. To become a psychiatrist, for example, you typically need to have a medical degree and about a year of training in psychology. Psychologists, on the other hand, usually have a doctoral degree in psychology, though a master’s degree may be sufficient for some levels of psychological work. If you want to become a mental health professional in a related field, such as counseling or social services, then you typically need a degree in a field such as psychology or social work.

A mental health professional is someone who works within the field of mental health, and there are many different positions within this field. One of the most prestigious, and time consuming, positions to attain is that of psychiatrist. To become a psychiatrist, you typically need to complete a doctoral degree in medicine, much like a medical doctor, and gain training in psychology as well.

If you want to become a mental health professional without going through medical training, then you might consider becoming a psychologist. This usually requires a doctoral degree in psychology, which still takes about eight years of total college education to attain. You might also consider becoming a counselor or psychotherapist, which you can do with a doctoral or master’s degree in psychology.

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To become a mental health professional without receiving a doctoral degree, you might consider becoming a social worker or alternative therapist. Social workers typically have either a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in a field such as psychology, social work, or social services. There are also alternative therapies you can enter with a bachelor’s or master’s degree such as art therapy, music therapy, and other types of expressive therapies.

It is important to keep in mind that you may also need certification or licensure in your area to become a mental health professional of any kind. This is usually regulated at a federal or regional level in many countries, and you should ensure you meet the requirements of such licensure in your area. These requirements typically include completion of an appropriate degree from an accredited college or university, which means you should choose your school carefully. Once you are properly licensed or certified for your field and position, you can begin looking for opportunities to work in hospitals, mental health clinics, and government agencies. You may also be able to start your own private practice, though this can require a great deal of planning and initial expenses.

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