Community mental health counselors are an integral part of any municipality’s medical community. Although they are not psychiatrists, they provide essential counseling and other mental health services to people who are, for whatever reason, unable to get the help they need any other way. These individuals receiving the help might be poor, lack transportation to a medical facility, or have an inability to travel outside of their home. Community mental health counselors offer the help these people need, often for free or on a sliding fee scale.
How Are Community Mental Health Counselors Trained?
Training for community mental health counselors depends on the state in which the counselor works. Certain states do not require any licensing as long as the counselors operate under auspices of trained supervisors, while other states require full licensure and a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Anyone looking to become such a community mental health counselor should check the requirements before embarking on the career.
Counselors in this field will also have supervised practicums, in-the-field observations, and written and oral tests to be certified. The number of hours can vary from state to state, so prospective counselors should familiarize themselves with the requirements. It should be noted, however, that full mental health counselors require much more extensive training, amounting to several thousand hours of practical experience, before being granted a license. When searching for qualifications in the applicable state, prospective counselors should ensure they’re looking at the correct guidelines.
Mental health counselors operate in private practice whereas community mental health counselors do not. Community mental health counselors also help clients with mundane activities, such as completing necessary paperwork properly, how to schedule appointments, use public transportation, and more, according to Counselor-License. Based on the counselor’s level of experience and education, he or she would be assigned to commensurate duties. A full mental health counselor would not usually perform these tasks.
Salary expectations are based upon a person’s experience and level of education. Full counselors earn a median income of roughly $42,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, community mental health counselors earn a median that is slightly less than that of full counselors. The low-end salaries for community counselors is lower than that of full counselors even if the median is roughly the same.
The career of a community mental health counselor can be rewarding and fulfilling for empathetic and compassionate people. Many times, they are able to help those who are incapable of helping themselves whether because of lack of income, transportation, or even knowledge of the system.
The training is demanding, and the job sometimes yields to burnout. Yet, career satisfaction remains normal among the ranks of community mental health counselors. In fact, the career satisfaction numbers are higher than for what might seem to be less-stressful jobs, such as baker and bartender.
Prospective candidates for the job of a community mental health counselor should research all of the requirements and job expectations. If you feel you can handle the highs and lows and genuinely want to help people, then this career might be right for you.