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5 Popular Career Paths for Mental Health Counselors

Explore job titles licensed mental health counselors often hold, and what you can expect to do in these roles.

So, you’re thinking about becoming a mental health counselor, but one big, hard-to-ignore question is looming on your mind: What are the career prospects?

After all, preparing to earn your counseling license requires significant time and training. You want to know it will be worth it in the end, and that you’ll be able to launch a career you love.

Luckily, the job market is working in your favor. Mental health counseling is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow 20 percent between 2014 and 2024, adding up to a whopping 160,900 available jobs. To put those numbers in context, that rate of growth is 13 percent higher than the national average.

Now, let’s focus on the current landscape. Today, mental health counselors are finding employment in an ever-widening range of settings. Private practice, while a desirable option, is just one of many possibilities. Depending on your passions and areas of expertise, you could work in community agencies, hospitals and other healthcare organizations, public or private schools and universities, assisted living facilities, and the list goes on.

We’ve listed popular job titles licensed mental health counselors hold, and what you might expect to do in these roles.

In-Home Therapist

You’re passionate about helping children and families to break out of negative patterns and build stronger, healthier relationships. As an in-home therapist, you’ll work one-on-one with young people and their families in their home environments. You’ll assess and treat children’s social, emotional, and behavioral issues while also educating families and caregivers on how they can improve communication and support.

"There are many community agencies that offer in-home therapist positions. The work with kids and families is often a transition for many professionals to shift into more school-based environments or to a more outpatient setting down the road."
Ryan Brown, In-Home Therapist/Outpatient Therapist

Residential Counselor

You want to immerse fully in the lives of those you treat. Whether you’re driven to counsel youth or the elderly, homeless veterans or substance abusers, as a residential counselor you may work in a residential facility, recovery center, or group home with one population on a day-to-day basis. In addition to individual counseling, you may also run group therapy sessions as well as design and facilitate residential programming with a focus on social rehabilitation.

Outpatient Clinician (or Outpatient Therapist)

You want the flexibility to serve a range of age groups in a variety of settings. As an outpatient clinician, you’ll work outside of a hospital environment counseling children, adolescents, and adults who have emotional, developmental, or behavioral challenges. Working alone or in consultation with community agencies or groups, you may be called upon use individual, family, or group treatment methods in community agencies, private clinics, prisons, schools, or just about anywhere.

"I oversee a caseload of about 50 individuals living in group homes or in the community. I provide supervision to bachelor's-level caseworkers, complete assessments and treatment plans, and coordinate care with other organizations. I absolutely love it because it is never, ever a dull moment."
Rebecca Maguire, Outpatient Therapist
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Substance Abuse Counselor (or Addiction Counselor)

You know firsthand the ways that substance abuse can impact not only individuals, but also families and entire communities. You want to provide those on the path to recovery with the support and strategies they need to get and stay clean. As a substance abuse counselor, you’ll work one-on-one and with groups to treat the emotional, mental, and behavioral conditions that lead to addiction, while also offering coping strategies. You may also play a significant role in connecting substance abusers and their loved ones to the right community resources, support groups, and services.

School Adjustment Counselor

You want to help young people overcome social, emotional, and cognitive challenges so that they can achieve a life filled with possibility. As a school adjustment counselor, you’ll work within a school setting to address the mental health needs of children, adolescents, and young adults. Through prevention and treatment of issues such as substance abuse, physical abuse, and violence, you’ll help students break down barriers to wellness and growth.

To become an adjustment counselor, you need a Licensed Mental Health Counselor license. You'll also need to check for additional licensure requirements through your state's department of education.

Graduate Programs
Get your career started.
Interested in launching your career in counseling? The first step is finding the right graduate program for you. Explore graduate programs in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Counseling Psychology at Lesley University.

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