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Mental health counselors have obtained a college education to be able to provide guidance and treatment to patients who come to them for help with a variety of difficulties. This can include emotional and mental issues, acrimonious relationships with others, or a desire to be create more success and goal-oriented outcomes in their lives.

Some patients may be suffering from severe disorders while others could have learning difficulties or problems getting along with others. To help their clients, mental health counselors observe, interview, and talk with them in order to design an effective treatment plan. Sometimes this can be as basic as talk therapy, but at other times could include specific strategies and techniques that patients can put into practice in their daily lives.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental Health Counselor Schools

A graduate-level degree, such as a master's program, helps students to gain theoretical knowledge and practical experience in the mental health field, but also is necessary to seeking state licensure and employment. Mental health counselor schools are available across the country, including at the following schools:

  • Portland State University: An intensive campus-based practicum training experience is part of the master's degree in mental health counseling available at this Oregon-based school. The program, which can be completed in three years, also includes an internship the final year.
  • Capella University: An online education is the benefit of this university's master's degree program in mental health counseling, but field work and residencies help to provide real-life training, and the courses are 10 weeks in length.
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas: This university's master of science in clinical mental health counseling is 60 semester hours and helps prepare students to take the National Counselor Exam (NCE) and even to seek Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in the state.
  • George Washington University: Located in the nation's capital, this university makes a master of arts in clinical mental health counseling available and has three yearly admission dates. The program incorporates both classroom and field experience, but also requires a two-semester internship of students.
  • Lewis University: This Romeoville, Ill., university features a masters of arts program in clinical mental health counseling that gives students the choice of pursuing either an adult clinical mental health or child and adolescent clinical mental health concentration. Small class sizes also are prioritized.

Mental Health Counselor Education Requirements

A master's degree in a field like counseling, social work or psychology is typically needed to enter the mental health field or to become a marriage and family therapist (MFT), according to the BLS. In degree programs, students learn about emotional and mental disorders, the challenges they may present and how they can affect families or relationships. Various strategies are taught to help therapists assist patients in coping with their challenges. A student in a mental health program at the master's level may even be able to specialize in an area such as addiction or trauma. Additionally, some mental health programs at the master's level can be found online.

Mental health counselor schools like these enable students to advance their knowledge and skills in varied areas, including:

  • Group counseling
  • Grief management
  • Diagnosis and treatment
  • Alternative therapeutic strategies
The practicum hours and internships required as part of these mental health counselor training programs help students to bring real-life context to their work and to offer targeted feedback and guidance to clients.

Mental Health Counselor Certification and Licensing

Certification is not mandatory for all mental health counselors, but it is typically recommended by the BLS. Counselors can get certified through an organization like the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). There are a number of different certifications that can be earned, depending on your specialization:

  • National Certified Counselor certification (NCC)
  • Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC)
  • Master Addictions Counselor (MAC)
  • National Certified School Counselor (NCSC)

To be able to hold a specialty certification, applicants also must earn their NCC first. A master's degree, specific coursework, and at least 3,000 hours of counseling work are needed to be able to seek certification.

State licensing is required for mental health counselors in most states, according to the BLS. To earn your state license, the BLS reports that the requirements typically include:

  • Master's degree
  • 2,000 to 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised clinical work
  • Pass a state-recognized exam

However, licensing requirements can vary by state and more information typically can be found through a state board of mental health or through a state's department of health and human services.


Resources

  • American Mental Health Counselors Association
  • American Counseling Association
  • Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  • National Board for Certified Counselors

Sources:

  1. Apply for Certification, National Board for Certified Counselors, no date. http://www.nbcc.org/Specialties
  2. Mental Health Counselors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-6
  3. Mental Health Counselors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211014.htm
  4. National Certified Counselor, National Board for Certified Counselors, no date. http://www.nbcc.org/Certification/NationalCertCounselor
  5. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Portland State University. http://www.pdx.edu/coun/clinical-mental-health-counseling
  6. Mental Health Counseling Specialization, Capella University. http://www.capella.edu/online-degrees/masters-mental-health-counseling/
  7. Master of Science Clinical Mental Health Counseling, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. https://www.unlv.edu/degree/ms-clinical-mental-health-counseling
  8. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, George Washington University. https://www.gwu.edu/graduate-programs/clinical-mental-health-counseling
  9. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, M.A., Lewis University. http://www.lewisu.edu/academics/grad-psychology/

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Mental Health Counselors

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Mental Health Counselors jobs , as of 2015

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Birmingham 280 $45,140
Hoover 280 $45,140
Montgomery 140 $48,720
Huntsville 90 $43,380
Tuscaloosa 70 $42,420
Dothan 60 $44,270
Daphne 40 $33,150
Fairhope 40 $33,150
Foley 40 $33,150
Decatur 40 $55,570
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 310 $64,730
Fairbanks 120 $49,510
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Phoenix 670 $48,490
Scottsdale 670 $48,490
Mesa 670 $48,490
Tucson 110 $44,080
Yuma 40 $32,980
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 260 $47,720
North Little Rock 260 $47,720
Little Rock 260 $47,720
Jonesboro 40 $53,400
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Los Angeles 4280 $45,770
Anaheim 4280 $45,770
Long Beach 4280 $45,770
Oakland 1840 $43,540
San Francisco 1840 $43,540
Hayward 1840 $43,540
Arcade 1060 $29,610
Arden 1060 $29,610
Roseville 1060 $29,610
Sacramento 1060 $29,610
Riverside 970 $38,060
San Bernardino 970 $38,060
Ontario 970 $38,060
Sunnyvale 710 $43,320
Santa Clara 710 $43,320
San Jose 710 $43,320
San Diego 700 $39,380
Carlsbad 700 $39,380
Bakersfield 210 $43,070
Modesto 200 $38,580
Fresno 200 $42,170
Santa Rosa 200 $44,110
Salinas 160 $36,440
San Luis Obispo 130 N/A
Arroyo Grande 130 N/A
Paso Robles 130 N/A
Lodi 130 $33,240
Stockton 130 $33,240
Santa Cruz 130 $36,570
Watsonville 130 $36,570
Visalia 130 $46,700
Porterville 130 $46,700
Fairfield 110 $39,760
Vallejo 110 $39,760
Chico 80 $52,760
Merced 70 $53,890
Santa Maria 60 $39,260
Santa Barbara 60 $39,260
Redding 60 $41,560
Napa 50 $78,280
El Centro 30 $64,820
Yuba City N/A $30,100
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Aurora 2650 $42,410
Lakewood 2650 $42,410
Denver 2650 $42,410
Colorado Springs 800 $57,030
Boulder 300 $37,920
Fort Collins 290 $53,840
Grand Junction 240 $38,180
Pueblo 180 $44,910
Greeley 70 $45,180
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
East Hartford 960 $45,290
West Hartford 960 $45,290
Hartford 960 $45,290
New Haven 320 $43,460
Norwalk 290 $41,340
Stamford 290 $41,340
Bridgeport 290 $41,340
Danbury 180 $38,290
Waterbury 160 $57,740
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Lauderdale 1460 $44,770
Miami 1460 $44,770
West Palm Beach 1460 $44,770
Tampa 550 $35,530
Clearwater 550 $35,530
St. Petersburg 550 $35,530
Jacksonville 510 $39,110
Sanford 370 $29,610
Kissimmee 370 $29,610
Orlando 370 $29,610
Sarasota 190 $46,210
Bradenton 190 $46,210
North Port 190 $46,210
Port St. Lucie 130 $39,560
Tallahassee 110 $47,750
Ocala 80 $32,400
Ferry Pass 80 $35,280
Pensacola 80 $35,280
Brent 80 $35,280
Gainesville 80 $37,240
Deltona 60 $35,090
Daytona Beach 60 $35,090
Ormond Beach 60 $35,090
Palm Bay 60 $41,510
Melbourne 60 $41,510
Titusville 60 $41,510
Immokalee 60 $48,910
Marco Island 60 $48,910
Naples 60 $48,910
Cape Coral 40 $34,310
Fort Myers 40 $34,310
Winter Haven N/A $32,310
Lakeland N/A $32,310
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Roswell 900 $50,090
Atlanta 900 $50,090
Sandy Springs 900 $50,090
Savannah 100 $37,010
Macon 80 $36,810
Warner Robins 30 $43,180
Clarke County N/A $45,320
Athens N/A $45,320
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 170 $37,060
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 280 $53,860
Pocatello 110 $40,740
Coeur d'Alene 90 $43,740
Idaho Falls 80 $57,120
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Peoria 280 $36,590
Springfield 90 $35,620
Rockford 70 $43,770
Kankakee 60 $41,240
Bloomington N/A $34,780
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 780 $39,600
Indianapolis 780 $39,600
Carmel 780 $39,600
Fort Wayne 190 $48,120
West Lafayette 80 $45,180
Lafayette 80 $45,180
Michigan City 50 $51,620
La Porte 50 $51,620
Kokomo 40 N/A
Muncie N/A $37,640
Terre Haute N/A $41,410
Bloomington N/A $43,030
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cedar Rapids 290 $26,670
West Des Moines 280 $39,430
Des Moines 280 $39,430
Waterloo 110 $37,100
Cedar Falls 110 $37,100
Iowa City 100 N/A
Dubuque 40 $43,530
Ames 30 $44,500
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 120 $43,170
Topeka 50 $42,650
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lexington 260 $38,030
Fayette 260 $38,030
Owensboro 90 $46,730
Bowling Green 80 $32,020
Fort Knox 50 $50,630
Elizabethtown 50 $50,630
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
New Orleans 610 $34,740
Metairie 610 $34,740
Baton Rouge 380 $29,960
Bossier City 280 $38,540
Shreveport 280 $38,540
Thibodaux 130 $27,170
Houma 130 $27,170
Lake Charles 120 $33,490
Monroe 110 $36,000
Lafayette 80 $35,540
Alexandria 40 $38,920
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Portland 80 $50,810
South Portland 80 $50,810
Bangor N/A $57,140
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson 950 $41,160
Columbia 950 $41,160
Baltimore 950 $41,160
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
New Bedford 120 $39,090
Pittsfield 110 $36,080
Leominster 110 $40,140
Gardner 110 $40,140
Barnstable Town 90 $47,100
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dearborn 1010 $43,230
Detroit 1010 $43,230
Warren 1010 $43,230
Wyoming 520 $47,250
Grand Rapids 520 $47,250
Kalamazoo 130 $46,440
Portage 130 $46,440
Flint 100 $47,790
East Lansing 80 $40,570
Lansing 80 $40,570
Battle Creek 80 $41,800
Muskegon 80 $47,200
Ann Arbor 50 $63,210
Saginaw 40 $43,450
Monroe 40 $47,860
Bay City N/A $46,860
     
Metro Area (Minnesota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
North Mankato 100 $52,180
Mankato 100 $52,180
St. Cloud 50 $43,200
Rochester N/A $66,960
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jackson 300 $44,960
Gulfport 100 $46,850
Pascagoula 100 $46,850
Biloxi 100 $46,850
Hattiesburg 50 $41,040
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 180 $28,840
Jefferson City N/A $33,430
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Missoula 200 $33,720
Billings 70 $39,610
Great Falls N/A $19,730
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 210 $43,670
Grand Island 70 N/A
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 350 $45,670
Henderson 350 $45,670
Las Vegas 350 $45,670
Reno 250 $46,220
     
Metro Area (New Hampshire) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Manchester 200 $45,020
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hammonton 80 $45,900
Atlantic City 80 $45,900
Ocean City 70 $47,520
Bridgeton 50 $57,080
Vineland 50 $57,080
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 620 $29,180
Las Cruces 100 N/A
Santa Fe 80 $42,830
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheektowaga 440 $35,110
Buffalo 440 $35,110
Niagara Falls 440 $35,110
Rochester 340 $41,130
Troy 310 $33,440
Albany 310 $33,440
Schenectady 310 $33,440
Syracuse 250 $38,190
Kingston 100 $57,250
Utica 90 $74,630
Rome 90 $74,630
Binghamton 60 $31,730
Fort Drum 40 $47,410
Watertown 40 $47,410
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Asheville 320 $44,010
Greensboro 280 $48,110
High Point 280 $48,110
Chapel Hill 240 $58,380
Durham 240 $58,380
Greenville 170 $49,080
Fayetteville 140 $47,290
Wilmington 120 $43,750
Winston 120 $46,540
Salem 120 $46,540
Morganton 90 $44,090
Lenoir 90 $44,090
Hickory 90 $44,090
Goldsboro 60 $38,110
Rocky Mount 50 N/A
New Bern 40 $46,520
Raleigh N/A $50,290
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cleveland 760 $40,280
Elyria 760 $40,280
Columbus 630 $42,610
Toledo 370 $46,180
Akron 320 $48,910
Massillon 290 $39,000
Canton 290 $39,000
Dayton 270 $43,800
Mansfield N/A $41,150
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 640 $40,670
Tulsa 630 $47,940
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Eugene 230 $43,020
Salem 100 $45,230
Redmond 40 $69,850
Bend 40 $69,850
Grants Pass N/A $41,800
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 2230 $40,360
Wilkes 900 $37,690
Hazleton 900 $37,690
Barre 900 $37,690
Scranton 900 $37,690
Lancaster 540 $41,750
Harrisburg 430 $41,310
Carlisle 430 $41,310
Erie 380 $36,860
Reading 290 $32,470
Hanover 260 $37,630
York 260 $37,630
State College 120 $45,260
Waynesboro 100 $38,630
Chambersburg 100 $38,630
Williamsport 90 $42,110
Altoona 80 $39,990
East Stroudsburg 70 $42,580
Berwick 60 $38,790
Bloomsburg 60 $38,790
Gettysburg 60 $40,650
Johnstown 60 $45,680
Lebanon N/A $47,000
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 150 $23,560
Carolina 150 $23,560
San Juan 150 $23,560
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbia 160 $28,840
Anderson 130 $30,380
Mauldin 130 $30,380
Greenville 130 $30,380
North Charleston 80 $42,440
Charleston 80 $42,440
Florence 40 $35,200
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sioux Falls 140 $41,730
Rapid City 50 $44,440
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Murfreesboro 1110 $36,410
Franklin 1110 $36,410
Davidson 1110 $36,410
Nashville 1110 $36,410
Knoxville 330 $26,980
Johnson City N/A $28,520
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
The Woodlands 1290 $46,850
Sugar Land 1290 $46,850
Houston 1290 $46,850
Round Rock 760 $38,610
Austin 760 $38,610
Arlington 750 $49,000
Fort Worth 750 $49,000
Dallas 750 $49,000
New Braunfels 220 $48,070
San Antonio 220 $48,070
Harlingen 160 $40,680
Brownsville 160 $40,680
Mission 150 $36,720
McAllen 150 $36,720
Edinburg 150 $36,720
Tyler 100 $27,060
Longview 100 $27,870
Amarillo 90 $36,920
El Paso 90 $47,850
Killeen 80 N/A
Temple 80 N/A
Port Arthur 70 $19,650
Beaumont 70 $19,650
Corpus Christi 60 $35,520
Abilene 50 $47,730
Waco 30 $36,800
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 410 $51,990
Clearfield 270 $37,320
Ogden 270 $37,320
Provo 180 $53,060
Orem 180 $53,060
St. George 60 $43,150
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 150 $42,720
Burlington 150 $42,720
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 1960 $41,150
Roanoke 560 $40,790
Lynchburg 540 $40,820
Blacksburg 270 $38,990
Radford 270 $38,990
Christiansburg 270 $38,990
Charlottesville 120 $54,150
Harrisonburg 60 $48,050
Waynesboro 60 $56,710
Staunton 60 $56,710
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Tacoma 1430 $42,660
Seattle 1430 $42,660
Bellevue 1430 $42,660
Spokane 300 $47,510
Spokane Valley 300 $47,510
Olympia 110 $45,640
Tumwater 110 $45,640
Kennewick 70 $45,910
Richland 70 $45,910
Yakima 60 $39,410
Bellingham 60 $40,940
Longview 40 $57,290
Walla Walla 30 $50,570
Anacortes N/A $62,960
Mount Vernon N/A $62,960
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Charleston 110 $33,490
Morgantown N/A $29,180
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Waukesha 890 $45,610
Milwaukee 890 $45,610
West Allis 890 $45,610
Green Bay 180 $31,630
Madison 130 $48,230
Neenah 120 $56,640
Oshkosh 120 $56,640
Racine 80 $26,350
Eau Claire 70 $48,660
Wausau 60 $37,300
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheyenne 90 $44,770
Casper N/A $56,860

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Mental Health Counselors

To find out more about building a career as Mental Health Counselors, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Mental Health Counselors

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 32,160 30% $38,870
Nursing And Residential Care 21,730 20% $30,200
Social Service 21,070 20% $35,800
Government 13,500 12% $44,120
Hospital 13,000 12% $39,440
Education 1,190 1% $42,410
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.
 
Results:  10
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CityTownInfo Career and College Resources

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Mental Health Counselors.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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