How Do I Become a Mental Health Clinician?

Jennifer Leigh

There are different paths to become a mental health clinician, though many of them require similar steps: attend a post-secondary institution, obtain a graduate degree or experience in the field, and apply for jobs. A bachelor's degree in psychology, social work, rehabilitation, or counseling will generally prepare you for the role. Not all mental health clinicians have master's or doctoral degrees, but in certain countries, it is a requirement for licensure. Jobs can be found in mental health clinics, hospitals, and through government agencies.

A mental health clinician may offer various therapy and counseling services.
A mental health clinician may offer various therapy and counseling services.

A four-year bachelor's degree is needed to become a mental health clinician. The specific major should be related to psychology or social work if you do not want to continue your education to receive a master's or doctoral degree. Many facilities and organizations require that their mental health clinicians are licensed by a regulatory agency, which requires a master's or doctoral degree. Check with your local professional licensing regulatory board to find out the specific details for licensure where you live in order to become a mental health clinician.

Mental health clinicians may offer services to aid couples in crisis.
Mental health clinicians may offer services to aid couples in crisis.

If you decide to pursue a graduate education, you should apply to programs in fields including psychology, social work, and counseling. Certain professions in clinical mental health, such as psychology, usually lead to a doctoral degree in the subject. If you wish to eventually become a clinical supervisor, you should consider an educational path that eventually leads to receiving a doctoral degree. Individuals who do not obtain a graduate education will need to begin work in entry-level positions working with clients in a training capacity. Some positions will allow unlicensed individuals to practice counseling, but others will not.

Mental health clinicians might specialize in disorders that affect the elderly.
Mental health clinicians might specialize in disorders that affect the elderly.

Experience is built into many programs for clinical mental health through internships and other types of field experience. In some cases, it is possible to get a job in a mental health facility during school, which can lead to further opportunities to become a mental health clinician in the future. Attempt to gain as much experience working with clients as possible while in school so that it is easier to find employment when you are finished with the program.

The next step to become a mental health clinician is to look for jobs in the field. Jobs can be found at many public and private facilities, rehabilitation centers, and clinics. An application usually requires an updated resume that details your education and work experience, a background check, and references from past employers or professors.

Mental health clinicians can help people strengthen their relationships with friends.
Mental health clinicians can help people strengthen their relationships with friends.

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