Some people who undergo their own mental health struggles decide that they want to pursue a career in mental health. Their experiences can give them an insight into and empathy for the people they are treating. However, this can be a challenging career as well as a rewarding one, so it is good to think carefully about whether this is the right choice. Below are a few things to keep in mind.
Working in mental health can mean anything from being a substance abuse counselor to becoming a psychiatrist. Other potential roles in this field are therapist, social worker and psychiatric nurse. You might work with children in a school, with inmates in a prison, in private practice or with older adults. Talking to people who work in mental health, reading accounts online and in books, and following people on social media can all give you an idea of what these different positions entail.
The level of education required varies a great deal. Most counselor positions will require you to have a bachelor’s degree at minimum, but if you want to become a psychologist, you will need a doctorate, and a psychiatrist must go to medical school. A common path for professionals who are not in these particular positions might be to get an undergraduate degree in a field such as social science or psychology and a master’s degree in an area such as clinical social work or mental health counseling.
To pay for your education, there are a number of different options, such as grants and federal loans. In addition, you could apply for student loans from a private lender to get financing you need. In addition to a degree, you may also need licenses or certification for some jobs. This usually varies from state to state, and you can find out what the requirements are in your jurisdiction.
Your Soft Skills
In addition to your professional qualifications, you will need certain soft skills in order to be as effective as possible. These include patience and compassion, strong communication habits, and the ability to problem-solve. You also need to be a good listener, detail-oriented and a team player. You can work on developing your soft skills through volunteer work, working with mentors and taking on leadership roles in other areas of your life.
You can develop soft skills and make connections through part-time work in mental health settings, internships, and volunteering. These may not be positions in which you have direct or prolonged contact with people seeking help, but it can be a good way to get your foot in the door and to see how certain workplaces function. This might also help you decide what populations you want to work with in what kinds of settings.
The shocking truth about stress is that it does not discriminate. There is no doubt that this can be a stressful career. People who have mental health issues themselves might feel as though they need to be completely cured in order to work in the field. While this is not necessarily the case and may not be possible in some situations, talking to your own mental health team and making sure that you are able to balance taking care of yourself with taking care of others is important.