How to Become a Mental Health Therapist


Simply put, a mental health therapist provides psychological care and treatment to those who are suffering from mental, emotional and psychological issues. Mental issues may be ranging from stress to dealing with the loss of a loved one. Other forms of mental issues include dealing with aging, marital problems, low self-esteem, substance abuse, addiction and many others.

If you wish to bring about a positive change in the lives of people who are suffering from mental health issues, then you should consider becoming a mental health therapist for a fulfilling and rewarding career. Using the sciences, you will have to deal with patients and diagnose their mental issues, treat them and prevent them from surfacing again.

Job Duties

The job duties of mental health therapists are largely dependent on their work environment. A mental health therapist may work in a number of settings such as hospitals, retirement homes, educational institutes, mental research facilities, clinics and so on. Job duties also depend on the specialty such as school therapy, substance abuse therapy, domestic disturbance therapy, and so on. However, listed below you will find generic job duties that are common to most mental health therapists.

  1. Take the patients history by interviewing them and collecting all relevant information pertaining to their mental condition
  2. Make patients comfortable so that they can freely share their emotions and problems
  3. Perform diagnostic tests on patients and determine accurately what their mental issue is
  4. Conduct a risk assessment to determine the level of risk and gauge the priority of treatment
  5. Consult with psychiatrists, psychologists and other physicians on certain cases to gather their insight
  6. Develop and formulate a treatment plan for patients that suggests a course of action and activities to help them
  7. Keep detailed notes, be they written or verbal to keep a track on the progress made by the patient. All notes and findings must be documented
  8. Closely monitor progress of patients and make changes in treatment and therapy if needed
  9. Provide counseling and advice to the patient’s families to help them understand, deal with and support recovery at home
  10. Ensure proper documentation and filing of all documents as per industry regulations and compliance

Career Outlook

The future career outlook for mental health therapists seems quite favorable. As a matter of fact, according to reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, employment growth is expected to be around 37% which is roughly translated into the creation of 58,500 new jobs during the period of 2010 to 2020.

A number of reasons contribute to this favorable forecast. For instance, individuals and societies are now more open to seeking help from mental health therapists as the results are positive. Furthermore, multinationals and large companies are realizing the importance of having a psychologically strong and mentally sound workforce therefore providing them with insurance options to seek mental health therapy.

Salary Prospects

The average annual salary for mental health therapists is $63,000 ( In this field, experience and industry niche play an important role in shaping one’s earning potential. For instance, as you gain more market experience by working on a number of cases, your market value may increase. Furthermore, if you pick a niche in the mental health therapist industry such as professional sports, then you may earn a higher income.

Education Requirements

Education qualifications and standards are given great priority when it comes to careers related to healthcare and medicine. This is because an adequate standard of education potentially guarantees the candidate’s intellect, work ethic and knowledge.

The knowledge and learning that a candidate receives from school and college set the foundation that determines their career growth. The basics of mental health therapy can be learned from various undergraduate level courses such as psychology, physiology, human development, sociology, biology, chemistry, communication skills, behavioral studies, and so on.

With a bachelor’s degree, a candidate can star work as an aide, a social health worker or an assistant in the field of mental health therapy. Here the candidate may primarily play the role of an assistant or a trainee by working alongside a senior mental health therapist. At the minimum, a candidate must possess a master’s degree in mental health therapy or counseling. This will allow the candidate to play a larger role in the mental health industry which will put them on the fast track to their expanding career.

In most states, licensing and certification are necessary for becoming a full-fledged mental health therapist. Licensing usually requires holding a master’s degree and completing roughly 3000 hours of supervised clinical experience. The National Board for Certified Counselors can provide you with the information and certification you need to boost your career. There are various credentials available which may help you progress throughout your career.

Further Reading

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