The mental health profession is a broad arena with many different career paths. In order to become a mental health worker, it is important to obtain the right education and training to qualify for a career in a specific mental health discipline. Certification and licensing may also be required to become a mental health worker in some fields. Depending on the area of interest, it may also be important to develop good business or interviewing skills in order to become a mental health worker.
Education is key to most careers in the mental health field. Many mental health professionals possess at least a bachelor's degree in human services, social work, psychology, or psychiatry. Practicing therapists, such as marriage and family therapists or clinical psychologists, may also hold master's degrees or doctorates in their particular fields. Some nursing degrees can also serve as a path to becoming a mental health professional. Required degrees can be obtained through traditional universities, online schools, or distance learning programs.
In addition to proper schooling, a mental health professional needs to spend many hours doing hands-on training. In most school programs, students will have access to internships and volunteer opportunities that allow them to increase their practical knowledge of the mental health profession. Many educational programs will also require students to spend a certain amount of time working in clinics or mental health facilities in order to graduate. Training may be gained by working at a private mental health practice, at government-run mental health facilities, or even at prisons.
To become a mental health worker, it is often important to seek proper certification. Just like physicians, some mental health professionals require certification in order to practice legally. Certification is typically granted by professional organizations, once a candidate has completed the requisite education and successfully passed written or oral examinations. Different levels of licensing may be required for different professions, and regular re-certification may be required of some mental health workers.
Finding a job or starting a private practice is another important step required to become a mental health worker. For social workers and mental health technicians, it is important to research available opportunities and be able to give an interview that demonstrates dedication, knowledge, and a positive attitude. Those looking to start a private practice, such as family therapists or drug rehabilitation counselors, will need to cultivate business skills in order to create a financially successful career. Learning about small business law, accounting procedures, and marketing techniques will help an entrepreneurial mental health professional start a practice that is both beneficial to patients and lucrative to the owner.