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Choosing a Career in The Mental Health Profession

Updated on June 19, 2013

A Career in Psychology

Psychology is a varied and versatile field of study.
Psychology is a varied and versatile field of study. | Source

The Study of Psychology

People are very interesting. The world goes round spun by the intracacies of individual personalities and interpretations of the world we share together, yet view very differently. It brings up questions pertaining to what is reality, what is truth, and what makes us do the things we do.

The study of psychology is one aspect of science that tries to answer why we behave and react the way we do. The field of psychology came about in the 1870’s. Psychology studies the behavior of all animals, incorporating biology, sociology, and philosophy.

Today, psychologists have a doctoral degree and combine the relationship between how our brain functions and our behavior with our environment and our behavior. Scientific methods are employed to make observations and analysis from specifically conducted experiments. But psychology also involves innovation and creativity to think out of the box, in a way, to manufacture new approaches to re-evaluate established knowledge.

Time, society, and culture can have different meanings based on the studies done. As research brings new discoveries, mental health professionals rely on this information to learn more about the work they do with individuals, companies, further research, and in the medical field.

The Field of Psychology Has a Lot to Teach Us

Psychology is an important field, and the exploration and information uncovered impacts our society today and in the future. There is much we need to understand about ourselves.

Psychology is a very young field and the research that we learn from will help us greatly,teach us more, and contribute significantly to society. From intelligence and personality to the study of behavior and mental functioning, psychology is concerned with our well being and our ability to relate to each other.

Some people in the mental health field work independently in their own practice, seeing individuals, couples, families, with groups, or as consultants.
Some in the field work in hospitals and institutions, in labs, in courtrooms, in schools, at community centers, and organizations. Mental health professionals study normal and abnormal behavior and functioning.

The future for opportunities in the mental health profession offers varied and open opportunities, no matter what the economic conditions.
Now more than ever, there is a greater move toward preventative mental care, rather than diagnosis and treatment. The field of psychology is interested in helping people become aware of their behavior that may be affecting poor choices and interfere with overall happiness.

The more people understand themselves, the more people can learn how to solve issues that arise and promote improved their individual growth and personal development.

A Career in Psychology

There are over a half-dozen different professions that provide services that focus on helping a person overcome a mental health concern or some significant life issue. There are dozens more variations on these, which can lead to a great deal of confusion in the marketplace. The largest difference between the types of professionals is usually what they focus or specialize in, and their educational background. A brief run-down of some of the major professions:

There are different counselors that work in the field of psychology:

  • psychiatrists
  • psychologist
  • licensed mental health counselor
  • social worker
  • clergy

Therapist use different types of approaches to help their client. The theories employed and the type of treatment they use will depend on many factors including:

  • the theoretical orientation of the counselor
  • the current psychological research
  • what you personally need for your particular situation
  • their experience and expertise

Some therapists use cognitive-behavioral therapy. Some use psychoanalytic and humanistic, positive psychology and other theories and many other types of therapy that they apply in the sessions. Some apply a combination of theories. Different approaches allow a skilled clinician to tailor their sessions to your individual and special needs.

The Different Fields of Psychology

There are different professionals within the mental health field. They each have their own areas of expertise, education, degrees, and specialized training. Who you pick for yourself or a loved one is a very important factor in the treatment and recovery.

Different Professions in Psychology

education required
medical school and residency in psychiatry
M.D. plus state licensed and board certified by American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
.diagnose, treat and prescribe medications
doctorate in psychology
Ph.D, Psy.D or Ed.D
Do evaluations, and treat emotional, mental, and behavioral problems.
social workers
masters degree
licensed to practice social work (LCSW or LICSW).
Provide assessments and treatment, case management, and psychotherapy
psychiatric nurse
r.n degree plusadvanced nursing degree
Family Psychiatric & Mental Health NP or Adult Psychiatric & Mental Health NP national certification and state licensure
asessment and ability to write prescriptions in some states
licensed professional mental health counselors
masters degree in counseling
LMHC - licensed mental health counseling
provide counseling in different settings
marriage and family therapist
masters degree in marriage and family therapy
MFT - marriage and family therapist
work with couples and families
pastoral counseling
trained in theology and psychology
most are exempted because of clergy license
work in many non profit settings
There are a variety of professions within the mental health field

Choose Your Field of Psychology

Psychiatrist A medical doctor with a residency in psychiatry can specialize in mental

health care. Psychiatrists can diagnose, treat and prescribe medication. Family doctors

can also prescribe psychiatric medication but they do not have the expertise in

psychological and psychiatric conditions to treat all mental health needs. Some may

also use psychotherapy with their patients.

Psychologist - A professional who holds a doctorate in psychology. They may have a

Ph.D, Psy.D., or E.D. Ph.D degrees focus on research or clinical training. Psychologists

concentrate in diagnosing, assessment, psychotherapy, research, and teaching in

addition to other aspects within the field.

Clinical Social WorkersTrained in social work with a master degree (M.S.W.) Typically

a clinical social worker will have completed a Master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.)

L.C.S.W. are licensed social workers who practice psychotherapy. and carry the LCSW

designation if they are doing psychotherapy.

Psychiatric Nurses or Psychiatric Nurse Practioner -
First educated as a registered

nurse (R.N), and get additional schooling to specialize in psychiatry and psychotherapy. In

many states, Psychiatric Nurses are licensed to write prescriptions.

Licensed Mental Heath Counselor Master Degree with several thousand hours of clinical

experience. Requirements to get the degree may vary by state, but once license is

attained, it is valid nationwide.

Marriage & Family Therapist Most have a Master's Degree. Requirements vary by state.

License is valid only for the state they got licensed in. Specialize in couple's counseling and

family therapy.

Is the Mental Health Profession for You?

The mental health profession has a variety of fields that you can enter based on your interests, the amount of schooling you want to dedicate yourself to, and the population and environment you want to work in.

Professionals in the field of psychology work in many different settings from hospitals and institutions and clinics, to corporate, to individual practices. Some work as expert consultants, some in research and some in universities.

There are many types of therapy with the many different and unique problems people have. As in any profession, not all therapists are good at what they do, or can help in every situation. And there are many good and qualified therapists, who with a willing client can help a person make great strides in their personal development.

Mental health professionals work with many different populations and some choose to specialize with certain issues. Children, adolescents, the elderly, people with disabilities, war veterans, and an array of individuals, couples, families, and group situations are just some of the people who benefit from psychological counseling. Some therapists specialize in certain conditions such as attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, psychosis, personality disorders, marital discourse, and many other issues that interfere with the emotional well being of their clients.

There have been numerous studies comparing the effectiveness of drugs as opposed to talk therapy. People who seek help from talk therapy have shown to do as well as people who take medication. Mental health professionals can do a lot of good in helping people cope and function better for a much improved quality of life and greater overall happiness.

Psychology is an ever changing and versatile field that can be a very rewarding profession.


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    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi Bill, I think psychology is a very interesting field too. I hope you are fine too. I am still dealing with a lot of home repair from Hurricane Sandy and it is difficult financially, emotionally, and time wise. But little by little is all I can do.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nice job of summarizing this field. This is one field I was never interested in when I was younger; now it fascinates me. Go figure! :)

      I hope you are well my friend; thanks for the education.


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