Mental health practitioners are professionals who provide therapy and mental health care. Practitioners may be licensed professional counsellors, social workers, pastors, alcohol and addiction counsellors or psychologists. As with other health care professions, mental health practitioners are in high demand and career outlook through 2018 is strong.
Education Needed to Become a Mental Health Practitioner
The amount of education needed to become a mental health practitioner depends on the specific job title. Pastoral counsellors may not need postsecondary education at all or may have religious-based training. Licensed social workers and professional counsellors generally need a master's degree in social work or psychology with additional certification through a state board. Psychiatrists must have a doctoral degree, equivalent to a medical degree, because they often prescribe medications in addition to talk therapy.
Skills Needed for Mental Health Practitioners
Mental health practitioners need to have excellent listening and communication skills. They should be good problem solvers. A good tolerance of stressful and even dangerous situations is sometimes necessary to deal with mentally ill patients, especially in a psychiatric hospital setting. Practitioners must also have excellent time management skills to adhere to therapy schedules. Additionally, counsellors should be able to set aside their own personal judgments about what their patients tell them.
Primary Job Duties
Counsellors assess the mental health of patients and create a treatment plan. The counsellor agrees upon goals of treatment with the patient and creates an estimated number of sessions needed, and makes progress checks along the way. Counsellors listen to patient concerns in therapy sessions, provide feedback and suggestions. Practitioners may consult with other members of the patient's family to assist in evaluation and treatment.
Secondary Duties of Mental Health Practitioners
In addition to directly treating patients, mental health practitioners must also perform administrative duties, including record keeping. They may also consult with other social agencies as appropriate. Counsellors in private practice may also have to manage their own business including maintaining financial records and dealing with insurance companies.
Goals of Mental Health Treatments
The goal of mental health treatment is to help patients feel better about their problems. Treatment should empower patients to work on their own mental health. Counsellors may teach coping skills, better communication skills and techniques to manage moods. Patients should gain a greater degree of functioning in their relationships.