What are the Different Mental Health Worker Jobs?

Ron Marr

A person who wishes to pursue a career in the mental health field has numerous options. Mental health worker jobs cover the gamut from school counselors to psychiatrists. One can choose to work with the old, the young, individuals, or groups. Mental health worker jobs include the general goal of care and prevention.

Some mental health workers may specialize in working with children or adolescents.
Some mental health workers may specialize in working with children or adolescents.

Many careers in mental health begin with obtaining a degree in social work. Social work graduates with a bachelor’s degree might work as a caseworker or residential counselor. More advanced mental health worker jobs require a master’s degree in social work. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) qualification, Master of Social Work (MSW), or Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree opens up numerous clinical and research opportunities.

Most mental health worker jobs require a degree in social work.
Most mental health worker jobs require a degree in social work.

The most well known mental health worker jobs often fall under the broad categories of counseling and therapy. Many specialties and sub-specialties exist in the therapy field. A person might work as an adolescent therapist, family therapist, school counselor, or relationship therapist. Therapists are also found in most hospitals, group homes, and mental health outpatient clinics.

A psychiatrist must complete an accredited medical school program.
A psychiatrist must complete an accredited medical school program.

A psychologist typically earns a doctorate; a psychiatrist is always a medical doctor. Both professions deal heavily with mental illness and dysfunctions of the mind. Clinical psychologists frequently work in a hospital setting or within a private practice. A psychologist is not usually allowed to prescribe medications, although many times psychiatrists and psychologists refer patients to one another, working in conjunction to cure or alleviate the patient’s issues.

Unlike a psychologist, a board certified psychiatrist holds a medical degree and can prescribe medication.
Unlike a psychologist, a board certified psychiatrist holds a medical degree and can prescribe medication.

A psychiatrist typically holds the most advanced degrees of all mental health worker jobs. Because of his years of training in general and mental health, a psychiatrist concentrates on understanding the interplay between physical and mental dysfunction. Some phobias, fears, or debilitating compulsions might arise from genetic brain disorders or a chemical imbalance. Other might be triggered by injuries or trauma.

Psychiatric nurses traditionally work in a hospital or clinical setting, and usually have a master’s degree in nursing. The psychiatric nurse works closely with a psychiatrist in providing care for those who deal with diseases such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, or dementia. Some psychiatric nurses pursue advanced accreditations and become psychiatric nurse practitioners. This allows the psychiatric nurse to prescribe medications and perform a limited amount of diagnostic duties.

Mental health worker jobs are fulfilling for people who desire to assist a patient in overcoming a disease and reach his full potential. One of the drawbacks of the field is that the counselor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must develop a personal detachment from the individual patient. Compassion is a key element in all these fields, but becoming too involved with a patient can cause anxiety and stress in the practitioner, leading to career burn-out.

Psychiatric nurses typically work in a hospital or clinical setting.
Psychiatric nurses typically work in a hospital or clinical setting.

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