Whether in medical journals or TikTok posts, “mental health” has become a hot topic in recent years. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need to talk about it, there was already a process of de-stigmatization of mental health treatments in motion. As a result, Clinical Mental Health Counselors (CMHC) have become important figures in the field.
According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association, “Clinical mental health counselors are highly-skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy. They combine traditional psychotherapy with a practical, problem-solving approach that creates a dynamic and efficient path for change and problem resolution.”
Called by various other titles including “Licensed Professional Counselors,” “Licensed Mental Health Counselor,” and “National Certified Counselor,” these professionals can work in several areas of concentration and specific environments. Here’s an overview of five of those environments:
- Private PracticePerhaps the most commonly associated workplace of mental health counselors, private practice usually involves being self-employed. According to Best Counseling Degrees, “[y]ou have the opportunity to set your own schedule. You can choose the location of your practice or even establish multiple offices in different locations, if you want to do so. You can decide on the office dress code and choose your employees, if you need to hire any. You may even be able to complete some work from home.”This option works well for those who can balance the autonomy it offers with the administrative responsibilities that come with the territory.
- Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment FacilitiesA significant advantage of working in hospitals or treatment facilities is the wealth of collective knowledge and experience they offer. Residential facilities for inpatient treatment can be demanding, as staff can be on call 24/7. However, this is a good route for those who thrive on change and variety, as each day and each patient will be different.Outpatient treatment, although less time-consuming, is similarly demanding. Clinical professional counselors choosing this environment typically give significant amounts of time to their patients, both during and outside of normal office hours.
- Nursing and Residential Care FacilitiesNursing homes are similar to treatment facilities for the types of challenges a clinical mental health counselor might face. A major distinction involves the specific challenges that come with aging.Sherie L. Friedrich, PsyD, notes that almost half of all patients in long-term-care facilities (LTCs) “meet the criteria for clinical depression.” Unsurprisingly, CMHCs play an essential role in attending to this demographic. Friedrich points out that some of the issues faced by this population are “bereavement, adjustment difficulties, health-related concerns, and functioning and independence changes.” Becoming familiar with the issues unique to this population holds the key to helping them effectively.
- Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment CentersLess “permanent” than nursing homes, these centers usually treat patients for a specific amount of time. Addiction and substance abuse are best dealt with by professionals trained to look at the whole picture, including family life, traumas and work, while still offering practical solutions.In these settings, mental health workers help incarcerated populations deal with their past and reintegrate into society. A considerable change is often observed in patients since most of them desire to leave the correctional facilities. Being able to witness such transformations is fulfilling for those who choose to work in legal and correctional systems.
Clinical mental health counselors must be prepared to tackle challenges arising in any work environment. At UW-Superior, master’s students of the Counseling, Clinical Mental Health track possess the tools that will aid them in a variety of environments.