What Does a Mental Health Clinician Do?

Alexis Rohlin
Alexis Rohlin
A mental health clinician may choose to specialize in helping children.
A mental health clinician may choose to specialize in helping children.

A mental health clinician is a type of therapist who works to prevent and treat emotional problems. The clinician's clients may need help with self-esteem, stress management, addiction or substance abuse problems. Other areas in which a mental health clinician may help people include interpersonal relationships, such as relationships with a spouse or child. The mental health clinician also may assess a person's risk of attempting suicide and provide appropriate treatment based on the assessment results.

Some mental health clinicians work with patients who exhibit thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Some mental health clinicians work with patients who exhibit thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

The people that mental health clinicians help are called clients rather than patients. Clinicians interview and observe the client and may administer simple tests to determine what type of problems a person has. They then encourage the client to speak about his feelings and talk about what is going on in life to help him gain an understanding of his own actions. Counseling may not be limited to just an individual. A clinician also may have to speak and work with a client's family members, because their influence may affect the person's recovery or overall mental health.

A mental health clinician may help facilitate group therapy sessions.
A mental health clinician may help facilitate group therapy sessions.

In addition to interviews, mental health clinicians create and maintain confidential client records and related paperwork. This can include records that are government-mandated forms, diagnostic records or notes about the client's progress. Records of the client's medications and his use or misuse of them also may be required.

Mental health is a continuously developing science, and a mental health clinician may have to attend courses or seminars to learn about new developments in counseling techniques. Another way to learn is to read professional literature or mental health counseling journals. Gathering information about the community's mental health needs also may be done by communicating with other social service agents.

Mental health clinicians may help victims of abuse with their recovery.
Mental health clinicians may help victims of abuse with their recovery.

Clinicians utilize mental health theories to develop treatments for individual clients. Mental health clinicians may have a mental health counseling degree or a psychology degree. Classes required to attain these degrees teach about how the brain functions, developmental psychology, how people learn, and what drives their behavior. While attending college, students learn how medications work with a person's brain to alleviate symptoms of mental illness and how to test a person for such illnesses.

Individuals suffering from mental illness may be prone to wandering away from home.
Individuals suffering from mental illness may be prone to wandering away from home.

People who become mental health clinicians generally enjoy working with people and helping them, both individually and in a group therapy setting. Skills that often help with being a counselor include being able to balance caring for others with caring for oneself. Another useful skill is the ability to listen impartially and without judgment.

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Discussion Comments

Feryll

@Laotionne - From the little experience that I have had with death in my family, I think the best thing you can do to help your grandmother get over the loss of her husband is to spend time with her. Talking to friends and family members can be just as productive and therapeutic as going to see a mental specialist.

Sometimes a person only needs another person to listen to him or her. Your grandmother may not need someone else to solve her problems. She may only need someone to listen to her problems.

Drentel

@Laotionne - You didn't say how long your grandfather has been dead, so I don't know if what I am about to say applies to your grandmother's situation. However, you need to keep in mind that people grieve in different ways and at different paces. Your grandmother's seclusion may just be her way of dealing with the lost for now. Once she has had time to grieve, she may go back to being the outgoing person you knew before.

Of course, if this goes on for a long time, and she appears to be depressed then a mental health clinician might be what she needs to help her get back to her old self.

Laotionne

Since my grandfather died, my grandmother has become withdrawn. She has always been a very active and outgoing person. She and my grandfather regularly took cross country trips where they would drive and stop along the way taking their time. Grandma has always been active in her church and in community groups.

Now, all she seems to want to do is stay home. Whenever I go to see her she is watching TV or just doing choirs around the house. She says she feels closer to Grandpa when she is in the house, but I know this can't be healthy. I think she might need to see a mental health therapist to help her deal with not having Grandpa and living alone again.

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    • A mental health clinician may choose to specialize in helping children.
      A mental health clinician may choose to specialize in helping children.
    • Some mental health clinicians work with patients who exhibit thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
      Some mental health clinicians work with patients who exhibit thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
    • A mental health clinician may help facilitate group therapy sessions.
      A mental health clinician may help facilitate group therapy sessions.
    • Mental health clinicians may help victims of abuse with their recovery.
      Mental health clinicians may help victims of abuse with their recovery.
    • Individuals suffering from mental illness may be prone to wandering away from home.
      Individuals suffering from mental illness may be prone to wandering away from home.