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5 Biggest Challenges for Licensed Mental Health Counselors

Mental health counseling is a challenging yet rewarding career. Its practitioners enjoy strong job security and the satisfaction of helping people overcome their struggles in life. Mental health professionals are crucial members of the work force.

What Exactly is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor?

A mental health counselor that has gone through the educational requirements to become licensed is a highly skilled mental health professional. They are able to assist clients with a wide array of mental health issues. Having a mental illness or disorder sets you up to have various mental health challenges throughout your life. Mental health counselors can use their psychological services to help patients on their personal development journey. Some of the key things worked on to increase interpersonal skills may include…

  • Healing past trauma
  • Learning new and better coping skills
  • Understanding critical thinking
  • Feel more comfortable entering social situations
  • Learning stress management
  • Fighting substance abuse
  • Increasing emotional health 

They also work with patients diagnosed with a behavioral disorder to receive treatment and learn healthy behaviors for dealing with their challenges. Through their counseling services, whether it be treatment plans to monitor clients, group sessions, or occasional sessions in their private practice, these licensed professional counselors can literally change people’s lives.

Where Do Licensed Mental Health Counselors Work?

Mental health counselors, especially those that are licensed professional counselors, make up a great deal of health counselors according to labor statistics. They provide their mental health services to help patients with a long list of mental health disorders in a wide array of professional settings. Some of these include…

  • Outpatient mental health treatment centers
  • Inpatient mental health treatment centers
  • Residential mental health treatment centers
  • Hospitals
  • Correctional facilities
  • Private practice offices

However, as with any career, there are challenges as a licensed mental health counselor along the way. The following five represent some of the most common…

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1. Counseling Reluctant Patients

You might occasionally work with someone who isn’t willing to fully open up. That hesitance could stem from shyness, embarrassment, guilt, or skepticism about counseling. Also, some young people whose parents or guardians pushed them into getting professional help might be displaying rebelliousness. In any event, without enough information, it can be challenging for a licensed mental health counselor to accurately address certain issues. Plus, without enough dialogue going on, it’s hard to build a rapport.

2. Putting Personal Judgments Aside

Counselors are human beings, of course. Thus, they come from all kinds of backgrounds, and they hold a wide variety of religious values, political stances, ideas about parenting, and so on. All of those forces can shape the way you view your patients’ situations. However, it’s vital to assess people’s circumstances on their own terms. That is, you must respect your clients’ points of view, cultural norms, and religious beliefs. You can’t just thrust your beliefs on them, which can be tough at times.

3. Setting Relationship Limits

It’s important to set guidelines with patients to ensure that your association remains strictly professional. But coming up with and adhering to those regulations isn’t always easy. For example, you might have a rule against physical contact in the office. However, if a patient is crying uncontrollably, your instinct might be to hug him or her. Similarly, when ― if ever ― will you exchange text messages with patients? Should you reserve that form of communication for emergencies?

4. Dealing with a Disjointed System

Unfortunately, in the U.S. and many other countries, there’s no streamlined, consistent set of services for people who need mental health care. Schools, the criminal justice system, various substance abuse programs, and hospitals all offer different kinds of therapy with different standards. As a result, you could counsel a patient who’s had plenty of conflicting advice and many types of treatment over the years. Thus, it might be hard for him or her to trust you.

5. Needing a Counselor Yourself

Counselors sometimes neglect their own mental health needs. But they can suffer from depression, anxiety, and fatigue just like anyone else. Indeed, hearing patients tell heartwrenching stories can be truly painful. And if you often feel sad or listless, it can negatively affect the quality of your work. Therefore, never rule out the idea of joining a support group or finding someone with whom you can discuss your feelings. Doing so is often uplifting, and it could help you attend to your patients with renewed purpose and empathy.

Are You Interested in Becoming a Licensed Mental Health Counselor?

Finally, if you really want to be a licensed counselor, don’t let any of these challenges deter you. In time, you’ll find your own idiosyncratic ways of addressing them, and you can always seek advice from more experienced counselors. In the end, the joys of profession surely outweigh the challenges of licensed mental health counseling.

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