How Do I Become a Mental Health Specialist?

Cheryl Myers

If you want to become a mental health specialist, also called mental health worker, you can pursue this career through an education portal or equivalent work experience. Some jobs in this field require an education, but not all of them do. Volunteering in a mental health clinic or shelter is an excellent way of getting hands-on experience working with patients, and it might be the only requirement to become a mental health specialist in some cases.

Some mental health specialists work with couples who are undergoing serious relationship crises.
Some mental health specialists work with couples who are undergoing serious relationship crises.

Mental health specialists counsel families and individuals. They focus on emotional health, focusing on prevention in such areas as addiction, stress management, abuse and marital problems. Mental health specialists are not physiatrists, social workers or psychiatric nurses. They do, however, work closely with therapists, rehabilitation counselors, occupational therapists, nurse practitioners and social workers. They also work with psychologists, psychiatrists and other healthcare providers.

Mental health specialists might focus on helping specific groups, such as at-risk youth.
Mental health specialists might focus on helping specific groups, such as at-risk youth.

The salary of a mental health specialist varies depending on the area of specialty and his or her training or work-related experience. Typically, job applicants who have an educational background and work experience in the mental health field earn more money. This is an important if you want to become a mental health specialist, because educational requirements vary from employer to employer.

Mental health specialists often work with patients on an individual basis.
Mental health specialists often work with patients on an individual basis.

Training for a career in this field varies from each educational portal. Some two- and four-year universities offer degree programs for students who want to become mental health specialists. Community colleges often provide diploma and certificate programs as well. Diploma programs often provide the necessary education for students who want to work in an addiction rehabilitation center or domestic violence shelter. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs allow students to find work in a variety of hospital, institution and outpatient settings.

Mental health specialists may require nurse or nurse assistant training to acquire the necessary basic nursing and nursing intervention skills.
Mental health specialists may require nurse or nurse assistant training to acquire the necessary basic nursing and nursing intervention skills.

Some employers who are looking for mental health specialists might require an educational background, but other employers might seek equivalent work experience in the specialized field. Training or work-related experience involves a variety of patient care tasks, which might include collecting and recording psychosocial data and assisting patients in a clinical setting. Some of these tasks are learned or acquired with on-the-job training.

A mental health specialist may help individuals who are experiencing high levels of stress in their lives.
A mental health specialist may help individuals who are experiencing high levels of stress in their lives.

Knowledge of basic nursing skills and nursing intervention are some of the other tasks required of mental health specialists. These skills usually are not acquired from on-the-job training. At minimum, this would require training as a nurse’s aid or a certified nursing assistant. Therefore, if you want to become a mental health specialist, consider taking nursing courses or classes. It would greatly increase the chances of getting the job you want.

Many mental health specialists are required to have training as a certified nursing assistant.
Many mental health specialists are required to have training as a certified nursing assistant.

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