Before choosing mental health continuing education courses, it is important to ensure that the courses meet your professional needs, including your ability to retain your licensure or certification. Once you know that the courses you take will help you keep your professional credentials, then you can consider your own areas of interest as well as the logistical aspects of the courses available to you. Ideally, continuing education courses should be convenient to attend and cost-effective as well as educational.
Mental health continuing education is often an important part of ongoing professional development for mental health workers. In many places, mental health professionals must regularly complete continuing education hours in order to keep their professional licenses or certifications. Even if continuing education is not required for credentialing purposes, some employers require continuing education and many mental health professionals believe that continuing education is important for gaining new knowledge and maintaining and developing skills.
If you hold a professional license or certification, ask the organization or agency that issued your credentials for their mental health continuing education policy. This policy may require you to take specific courses from specific schools and continuing education providers, or it may simply allow you to select whatever continuing education courses you feel are best suited to your needs. In some cases, you may be at liberty to select the courses that you wish but may have to repeat a certain course every few years. For example, you may have to complete a legal liability or law course every few years so you are aware of the current laws governing mental health issues in the area where you live.
Once you know whether your credentialing service or employer recognizes the courses that you want to take, then you can consider other aspects of the course. If you practice in a very specialized area of mental health, you may want to seek out courses in that area that can help you refine your skills. On the other hand, if you wish to branch out into new areas of practice, mental health continuing education courses can be a great way to learn about a new topic or practice area. If you take a continuing education course and enjoy it, you may decide that it is an area worthy of further exploration, training, and study.
Time and cost are also factors in choosing a mental health continuing education course. You may be able to take continuing education courses at professional meetings and conventions, or they may be offered at nearby hospitals, schools, or even online. Cost is also a concern, as some continuing education classes can be expensive, though not as expensive as courses offered for academic credit. Ask your employer about reimbursement for the cost of continuing education or talk to your accountant about deducting the cost of ongoing professional education from your taxes.