According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 90% of people who die by suicide show symptoms of mental health conditions. Consider how better these people’s lives might have been if they had received mental health therapy and treatment. Mental health counseling careers are the right fit for anyone who craves to make a noticeable difference in people’s lives. Working as a counselor, you can either work with an agency or a hospital or start your private practice. While there are some differences between therapists and counselors, most mental professionals prefer setting up their private practices to earn more money and enjoy more freedom of conduct.
Regardless of what path you choose, advancing your career from a beginner to a professional counselor can be very hard. Once you’ve completed your education degree in counseling, you enter an exciting and transformative professional career. This transition can be nerve-wracking for many as counselors may struggle initially to find their footing in the field.
Going from a student to a certified practitioner may take some time, patience, and dedication, but it isn’t impossible. If you’re committed to contributing to this field and helping various patients manage their mental health problems, you have already taken the first step. Here are twelve more tips future counselors can use to advance their careers better in their preferred specialization:
1. Educate Yourself
The key to becoming a successful mental health practitioner or counselor is enrolling in the right LMHC degree program. A prestigious mental health degree program can introduce you to all the knowledge and training you require to jump-start your career in the field. It’s best to opt for an online higher-level degree program that provides you with the flexibility to work alongside studying to learn the optimal practical application of your theoretical skills.
2. Find Your Niche
The field of counseling offers you a wide variety of professional career pathways that can satisfy the varying needs of the mental health community. Popular specialties you can study and operate in include marriage and family counseling, family business, disabled children care and development, sports psychology, etc. Examine all of these alternatives to pursue a profession you are truly interested in.
3. Market Yourself
To build a successful career in counseling, you need to attract many patients to your business. There may be several other practitioners offering services in your area. As a beginning counselor, you need to do your best to stand out from the crowd, so more individuals come to you for help. The best way to do this is to market yourself using social media. Create professional accounts on several social media platforms to target potential audiences and spread relevant awareness.
4. Network Endlessly
After completing your mental health counseling degree program, you need to start networking. Why is networking important for your career? Networking helps you connect with potential recruiters to secure a job at a prestigious institute. Suppose you’re planning on starting your private practice. In that case, networking helps you generate positive word of mouth, so more people refer patients to your business. Attend conferences, participate in professional events, and form healthy colleague relationships to ensure a steady inflow of new clients and profitable opportunities.
5. Exhibit Professional Behavior
How you conduct yourself as a counselor can make or break your reputation. Make sure you put forward your best behavior in your first job or your first private practice to minimize the risk of failure. Being rude, unkind, or unethical towards colleagues, supervisors, patients, staff members, or other relevant personnel. However, it doesn’t mean you don’t stand up for your rights when somebody takes advantage of you.
8. Respect Your Staff
Treating your administrative and support staff with compassion and kindness is the key to developing nurturing relationships in your career. If you treat others with kindness, they will return the same courtesy when you need help. This collaboration can also help you work with your staff to create valuable programs and intervention plans for your patients. So you experience a more favorable success ratio.
9. Choose Patients Wisely
As per the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, 46.4% of adults in the US are likely to experience a mental illness. These stats emphasize a wide variety of mental health patients looking forward to treatment. However, you do not want to start seeing clients comparatively difficult to counsel at the beginning of your counseling career. Expand your horizons in mental health slowly and gradually by working with different difficulty level clients, in ascending order. Every new patient is another opportunity to learn and grow, so choose who to counsel at the beginning of your career to maximize productivity standards and brush your skills wisely.
11. Stay Updated
Ever since the field of mental health counseling has garnered attention, it has been developing rapidly. New cases, theories, and research in a particular area every day. It will help you stay updated with the latest trends and knowledge in mental health counseling to provide your patients with the best service. Attend conferences, register for workshops, read online and offline resources, consult with a team, etc., to advance your skills and knowledge. Strive to keep learning and become better at your work to maximize your success ratio in the field.
12. Value Your Health
Being a mental health counselor or practitioner is not easy. Some client cases can trigger your worst fears and disrupt your emotions. Dealing with several mental health issues every day can take a serious toll on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Make sure you take some time off to enjoy relaxing recreational activities with friends and family to ground yourself. Remember to take a breather and focus on your health because if you are struggling, how can you be successful in putting another individual’s troubles to rest.
Remember that every beginning mental health counselor goes through a different learning curve as they transition from a student to a professional. The tips mentioned above will help you settle into your profession well but how successfully you manage the changes depends on you. Do not compare your progress with other future counselors; it will only make you feel anxious. However, always be steadfast in sharing your experiences with other beginners who come after you to guide them in the process so they can navigate their prospects better.