Mental Health Counselors


Training and Education

What's Needed:

  • Most mental health counselor positions require a master's degree in counseling psychology or a related mental health fields.
  • Students can typically enroll in a master's degree program with a bachelor's degree from a wide range of fields.
  • Online counseling education training is also available.

Most education programs include an internship which allows students to work with a licensed or certified mental health counselor. During an internship participants gain vital knowledge and skills to help patients.

What you study:

  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Cultural awareness
  • Counseling theory
  • Group counseling
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Counseling psychology

What courses you'll take

Below are examples of courses that you might take as a mental health counseling student.

Counseling Theory and PracticeLooks broadly at counseling as a profession including its philosophical underpinnings various theories scope and organization. Reviews techniques common to the field such as those for listening and responding.Introduce the counseling profession as a whole to provide students a starting point for their more specific training in mental health counseling. Also a goal is to help students evolve their own personal approach to counseling.
Clinical Mental Health Counseling OverviewGives historical current clinical and training perspectives on issues in mental health counseling. Introduces a practitioner's professional roles associations credentialing and self care. Gives in-depth review of related counseling ethics and regulations.Core introduction to the mental health counseling field that provides foundation for more advanced studies and clinical training.
Human DevelopmentOverviews the development of humans throughout their lifespan from infant to childhood to adult as related to physical growth intellectual and emotional growth and sexuality. Development is also considered in the context of psychological and social theories. Implications for counselors at each stage or considered.Give students a model based on human life cycles to apply to their counseling practice.
PsychopathologyExamines psychopathology or the study of the origins and behaviors for mental disorders in the context of psychology and psychiatry. Reviews major psychiatric disorders and related techniques for their diagnosis and assessment. Treatment issues for these disorders are covered.Prepare students to take on counseling for patients suffering any of a number of mental disorders.
Counseling AssessmentsGives an understanding of applying individual and group techniques for assessment patients. Covers basic assessment concepts construction of assessment tests and how to interpret tests. Looks at factors in testing for areas such as intelligence aptitude achievement and personality.Teach students the basics of how to assess patients so that treatment strategies can be created.
Field Experience in Mental Health CounselingSupervised clinical experience in a facility such as a hospital college or agency. Experience might include for example one-to-one or group counseling assessment of patients case presentations and participation in conferences or staff meetings.Reinforce all earlier classroom training through actual counseling experience. Set the final stage for students to take on mental health counseling roles.

Video Overview

Briefly introduces the mental health counseling career. Produced for the US Department of Labor.

Certifications and Licensing

The licensing requirements for mental health counselors vary by state and by the area of specialization however in most states mental health counselors are required to have a master's degree in counseling and 2 years or 3000 hours of supervised clinical experience outside of the master's degree program. Candidates are usually required to pass a state-recognized exam. Also mental health counselors are usually required to complete yearly continuing education requirements.

Mental health counselors take the National Board for Certified Counselors exam to become a nationally recognized certified counselor. Candidates must have a master's degree to take the exam. After receiving a nationally certified counselor certification and completing the required hours working with patients mental health counselors can take an additional exam to become a certified clinical mental health counselor.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time: Most mental health counselors work 40 hours a week. Some counselors work in the evenings and during the weekends to accommodate their clients' schedules or to help people and families dealing with a crisis.

Work location: Schools community centers hospitals government agencies mental health facilities and private practice settings.

Recommended Websites

  • The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) provides facts about mental health counselors. Students who join the American Mental Health Counselors Association have the opportunity to supplement their education program with real-world applied learning opportunities. The AMHCA provides continuing education choices online in print and in person. The AMHCA also has a job board. Individuals can also connect with peers nationwide via the Graduate Student Committee. Students can build a network of peers and practicing professionals.
  • The American Counseling Association (ACA) provides students an array of resources. The ACA helps students with their personal and professional growth. The American Counseling Association also provides networking opportunities. The ACA Conference & Expo offers an array of networking and educational offerings. Students attending the ACA Conference & Expo have opportunities to meet peers counselor educators scholars and authors.
  • The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers a state board directory as well as exam registration and state licensure information. The NBCC administers four national examinations. Three of the exams are used for national certification and state counselor licensure.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook — Created by the US Department of Labor this article on mental health counseling (with coverage of marriage and family therapy careers) gives a snapshot of this career through various statistics and descriptions.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$60980$41K – $88K3000.18%
AKFairbanks$54600$41K – $82K400.12%
ALBirmingham – Hoover$37120$27K – $53KN/AN/A
ALDecatur$36580$27K – $58K500.10%
ALHuntsville$29770$16K – $48K400.02%
ALMobile$41620$33K – $65K400.02%
ALMontgomery$38710$31K – $72K1200.08%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$47170$39K – $59K900.04%
ARFort Smith$46190$35K – $86K900.08%
ARJonesboro$53840$18K – $84K1100.23%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$49350$29K – $62K1800.05%
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$42470$28K – $63K11500.07%
AZTucson$37640$27K – $65K4700.13%
CABakersfield – Delano$65530$26K – $117K1400.05%
CAChico$50050$33K – $65K1700.25%
CAFresno$28610$19K – $69K2500.08%
CALos Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)$41120$31K – $91K23700.06%
CAModesto$42990$35K – $64KN/AN/A
CANapa$36070$32K – $71KN/AN/A
CAOakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)$34820$26K – $61K7500.08%
CAOxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura$28750$23K – $70K1300.04%
CARedding$44650$31K – $69K900.15%
CARiverside – San Bernardino – Ontario$37130$22K – $104K13000.11%
CASacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville$42260$23K – $71K7600.09%
CASalinas$47820$34K – $110K500.03%
CASan Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos$39710$23K – $69K6400.05%
CASan Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)$42580$28K – $63K8900.09%
CASan Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara$46870$29K – $91K5800.06%
CASan Luis Obispo – Paso Robles$63930$27K – $117K600.06%
CASanta Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)$40530$31K – $55K3400.02%
CASanta Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta$54610$40K – $75K800.05%
CASanta Cruz – Watsonville$33410$22K – $55K1500.18%
CASanta Rosa – Petaluma$38750$19K – $63K2300.13%
CAStockton$36740$22K – $70K1200.06%
CAVallejo – Fairfield$39240$32K – $80K1900.16%
CAVisalia – Porterville$41620$22K – $59KN/AN/A
COBoulder$43490$27K – $71K3500.22%
COColorado Springs$40480$29K – $70K3600.15%
CODenver – Aurora – Broomfield$$25K – $70K15300.12%
COFort Collins – Loveland$39990$24K – $64K2600.20%
COGrand Junction$33750$25K – $53K1000.17%
COGreeley$29880$25K – $58K600.08%
COPueblo$35590$18K – $56K2100.38%
CTBridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk$39560$27K – $60K3600.09%
CTDanbury$37910$31K – $59K1600.24%
CTHartford – West Hartford – East Hartford$36590$28K – $60K3300.06%
CTNew Haven$29670$21K – $54K2600.10%
CTNorwich – New London$42950$24K – $62K1700.14%
CTWaterbury$40420$22K – $72K1900.29%
DCWashington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)$49070$29K – $78K26500.11%
DEDover$37770$28K – $47K600.10%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$36470$26K – $56K3500.11%
FLCape Coral – Fort Myers$35330$26K – $62K300.02%
FLDeltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach$38110$26K – $60K1400.09%
FLFort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$40670$22K – $61K6000.08%
FLGainesville$46960$36K – $65K1000.09%
FLJacksonville$38450$27K – $62K4600.08%
FLLakeland – Winter Haven$40930$28K – $64K600.03%
FLMiami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)$37340$26K – $71K5800.06%
FLNaples – Marco Island$43940$28K – $60K900.08%
FLNorth Port – Bradenton – Sarasota$42920$32K – $64K3100.13%
FLOcala$39420$25K – $55K500.05%
FLOrlando – Kissimmee – Sanford$36640$19K – $71K8600.09%
FLPalm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville$$26K – $85K1400.08%
FLPanama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach$35750$32K – $58K1100.16%
FLPensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent$39490$28K – $83K900.06%
FLPort St. Lucie$41230$27K – $68K1600.13%
FLTallahassee$41240$30K – $61K1400.09%
FLTampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater$35270$21K – $48K7100.06%
FLWest Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$38060$28K – $60K2000.04%
GAAtlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta$42770$26K – $59K10500.05%
GAColumbus$44880$32K – $66K500.04%
GAMacon$45590$32K – $71K600.06%
GASavannah$39410$33K – $61K500.03%
HIHonolulu$48600$26K – $62K3000.07%
IAAmes$37340$18K – $58K400.10%
IACedar Rapids$53380$40K – $78K1500.11%
IADavenport – Moline – Rock Island$39920$29K – $49K400.02%
IADes Moines – West Des Moines$45010$31K – $69K1800.06%
IAIowa City$29330$24K – $58K900.11%
IASioux City$22690$18K – $48KN/AN/A
IAWaterloo – Cedar Falls$27650$21K – $64K1900.21%
IDBoise City – Nampa$35650$20K – $66K2400.09%
IDCoeur d'Alene ID$36850$31K – $64K900.18%
IDIdaho Falls$57130$36K – $76K1200.24%
IDPocatello$47380$34K – $63K500.14%
ILBloomington – Normal$41170$26K – $78K1600.18%
ILChampaign – Urbana$44370$23K – $80K300.04%
ILChicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)$39280$25K – $77K36200.10%
ILKankakee – Bradley$33600$23K – $58K400.10%
ILLake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)$37540$22K – $57K2400.06%
ILPeoria$34150$26K – $69K2400.13%
ILRockford$34770$26K – $57KN/AN/A
ILSpringfield$56470$34K – $78K800.07%
INAnderson$38100$30K – $55K400.10%
INBloomington$62530$41K – $74KN/AN/A
INEvansville$40090$30K – $57K600.04%
INGary (Metro Area)$38750$28K – $51K900.03%
INIndianapolis – Carmel$42440$32K – $59K3000.03%
INLafayette$39970$29K – $59K300.04%
INMuncie$30300$25K – $46K$26K – $38K400.03%
KSLawrence$29810$26K – $48KN/AN/A
KSWichita$42300$32K – $67KN/AN/A
KYLexington – Fayette$36370$26K – $46K700.03%
KYLouisville – Jefferson County$27720$21K – $46K3500.06%
LAAlexandria$30700$24K – $41K1200.19%
LABaton Rouge$35270$26K – $48K1700.05%
LAHouma – Bayou Cane – Thibodaux$36520$21K – $52K3200.35%
LALafayette$35110$26K – $49K400.03%
LALake Charles$33380$25K – $45K400.05%
LAMonroe$45100$28K – $59K400.05%
LANew Orleans – Metairie – Kenner$29100$17K – $49K2700.05%
LAShreveport – Bossier City$35530$24K – $53K900.05%
MABarnstable Town$51660$35K – $84K1500.16%
MABoston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area)$36920$27K – $62K31300.18%
MABrockton – Bridgewater – Easton (Metro Area)$26230$20K – $40K

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