Mental Health Counselors
On the Job
Mental health counselors help people manage or overcome a range of mental illnesses and emotional problems.
In the past, when the word "healthy" was used, it described a physical state of being. Nowadays, health is used to cover several aspects of wellbeing, including not just the body, but emotional, spiritual, and especially mental. Scientists and doctors have found that mental health is just as important as physical health, and in many cases, you can't have one without the other. Therefore, it is very important to take mental health problems very seriously.Mental health counselors help those who suffer from emotional disorders, mental illnesses, and those undergoing difficult life circumstances. Therefore, they treat a wide range of conditions. This may include substance abuse, depression, emotional problems after divorce, and behavioral issues. No matter what the condition, people with mental health problems often suffer emotionally, physically, and economically. It is the job of mental health counselors to help these people identify their problems and find ways to lead normal, healthy lives.
Mental health counselors help their clients and patients develop skills and strategies for dealing with their problems. They work with individuals and groups. They may help families learn how to deal with the emotional and social effects of mental illnesses. Counselors teach family members how to provide support for the patient and for themselves.
Mental health counselors review records and interview clients. They may speak with doctors, family members, police, and other counselors to determine the client's condition and situation. They may also observe the client. Together, the counselor and patient develop a therapy plan for recovery.
Counselors may refer patients to support services such as medical evaluation and treatment, social services, and employment services. They often refer family members to community programs and support groups. Counselors follow the patient's progress and may revise the therapy plan as needed. If the patient is on medication, they monitor how the medication is working. Counselors regularly document patient progress and treatment. A very important part of their job is to prepare and maintain written records and case files, making sure everything is confidential.
In addition, mental health counselors speak to groups concerned with mental health issues. They may prepare documents for presentation in court and accompany clients to legal proceedings. They often help clients and patients during times of crisis.
Mental health counselors provide treatment in a variety of settings including hospitals, private and public treatment centers, private practice, and community-based behavioral health agencies.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Counsel clients, patients, and family members, individually and in group sessions. Assist them in overcoming problems, dependencies, and illnesses.
- Develop client treatment plans based on research, clinical experience, and client histories.
- Interview clients, review records, and talk with medical personnel to evaluate individual's mental and physical condition.
- Determine client's treatment needs and which program is best.
- Review and evaluate client's progress and make changes to treatment as needed.
- Monitor the use of medications by clients and patients.
- Coordinate counseling efforts with other health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and social workers.
- Make accurate records and reports about the client's history and progress. Maintain confidentiality of all records.
- Provide information about mental health programs to clients and their families.
- Coordinate post-treatment activities, including follow-up care, court dates, community service, and probation requirements.
- May act as advocate for clients and patients during crisis situations.
- Attend training sessions in order to increase knowledge and skills.
- May supervise other counselors, staff, and assistants.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Assist and care for others.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Document and record information.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Develop goals and strategies.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Develop and build teams.
- Coach others.
- Analyze data or information.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Think creatively.
- Teach others.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high degree of social interaction. They work with patients, families, and other social workers.
- Communicate by telephone, e-mail, letters, memos, and in person on a daily basis.
- Are regularly placed in conflict situations with patients or their family members.
- Often deal with unpleasant, angry, or discourteous people.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of patients.
- Usually work as part of a treatment team.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work performed by other counselors.
- Usually work indoors, but may go outside when visiting patients.
- Work near others, usually within a few feet.
- May on occasion be exposed to sounds and noises that are distracting and uncomfortable.
- May sometimes be exposed to diseases and infections.
- Must be very exact in their work. Errors or omissions could endanger the health and safety of clients or others.
- Make decisions on a daily basis that strongly impact clients. They can make most decisions without talking to a supervisor.
- Are usually able to set their tasks and goals for the day without consulting with a supervisor.
- Must meet strict deadlines on a monthly basis.
- Repeat the same mental activities.
- Generally have a set schedule each week.
- Usually work 40 hours a week.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.