A follow-up post on How to Choose a College Major in 10 Steps

You have a passion for helping disadvantaged populations. You are a socially aware person who sees the lack of mental health services, and the ways in which that deficit negatively impacts the most vulnerable members of society. Now, you want to do something about it. You are ready to pursue the master’s degree in mental health counseling that will prepare you to provide practical and meaningful services that will have a positive impact on your community. However, you may be wondering the practical ways in which you will be able to use the education that you receive.

Don’t worry, your skills will be both wanted and needed. In fact, here are seven ways in which you can put your degree to good use.

1. Providing Much Needed Services to Veterans

Some of the greatest needs when it comes to mental health issues are within the military and ex-military population. If you are interested in assisting members of society who have dedicated their lives to serving their country and who have made great sacrifices in doing so, there are many options available to you.

One possibility is to become a veterans’ counselor. You will provide mental health assistance to veterans as they readjust to civilian life. You may also work in a career field that offers you the opportunity to work with veterans and families who are impacted by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

2. Counseling Individuals Who Are Involved in the Corrections System

People break the law for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with criminal intent. They may suffer from substance abuse issues, mental health problems, or maladaptive personality disorders. With your degree in mental health counseling, you will be able to assess the needs of individuals who are incarcerated, on probation, parole, or are awaiting trial.

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You will have the responsibility of determining an offender’s risk to society, and the interventions that will be most beneficial. As a prison counselor, you will also assist incarcerated inmates adapt to life in prison and newly released inmates adapt to the challenges of living in free society. The issues of mental health in prison are challenging and often heartbreaking to deal with. However, if you have a strong resolve and the ability to approach both victims and offenders with compassion, you can certainly make a difference.

3. Providing In-Patient Counseling Services

Men, women, and children who are receiving in-patient treatment are in crisis. They may have stopped taking their medication, their medication may no longer be effective, or they may have been involved in a traumatic event. Whatever the case, they are not able to function on their own without significant around-the-clock help. This help may include the introduction of new medication or the adjustment of old medication, group and individual counseling, and constructing an aftercare plan.

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If you decide to work in in-patient counseling, your daily work may involve focusing on a specific aspect of caregiving, or you may be in a position of overseeing in-patient mental health cases. If you are interested in providing services to clients receiving in-patient services, it is important to learn more about the struggles of your patients and also what you might be facing.

4. Providing Counseling Services to Young People in Need

A youth in need is a child whose mental health, educational, or social needs are not being met through traditional channels. In other words, they need additional services in order to develop into functional adults. In many instances these children are impacted by issues such as:

  • Poverty and Hunger
  • Foster Care or Other Social Service Involvement
  • Truancy Issues
  • Substance Abuse in the Home
  • Undetected Learning Disorders
  • Exposure to Violence
  • Sexual and Physical Assault

If you decide to work with at-risk youth, you may receive referrals from social service agencies, juvenile courts, school counselors, domestic violence shelters, or in some cases directly from law enforcement. Your job will be to provide a sympathetic ear to youth that you work with, but also to provide practical counseling solutions that will enable them to overcome the issues that they are facing.

5. Substance Abuse Counseling

When the mentally ill are unable to receive the help that they need, they often self-medicate. This may include the practice of using illicit drugs or alcohol to combat the effects of mental illness. Sadly, the result of this is often the exacerbation of the effects of the disease, involuntary commitment, or arrest and incarceration.

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If you pursue work as a substance abuse counselor you will help individuals assess their use of drugs as a coping mechanism, and you will help them develop new ones. You will also educate your clients about the community services that are available to them.

6. Domestic Violence Counseling

Victims of domestic violence need three things:

  • They need immediate safety.
  • They need one-on-one counseling to deal with what has happened to them
  • They need someone to help navigate their way back to a whole and healthy life.

You can use your mental health counseling degree in many ways throughout this process. You can work at a domestic violence shelter to aid men and women who are just leaving a bad situation. You can counsel people in shelters or in other locations where they are coming to terms with what has happened to them.

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Finally, you can assist victims of domestic violence as they find jobs and homes, and move any children they have into a life of normalcy. You may even be able to help victims of domestic violence find counseling assistance for their children. This is an excellent way for you to assist some of the most vulnerable members of society.

7. Counseling in Alternative Courts

One very positive development in the criminal justice system is a more wide-spread acceptance of the idea that incarceration or other punitive methods are not effective in keeping citizens safe, or helping those who have been arrested move on to a productive life. When an offender is arrested, they often become entrenched in a vicious cycle of court appearances, incarceration, services that they are not allowed to access, and fines that they are unable to pay. Alternative courts are set up to stop all of this from happening.

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In these courts, non-violent youth offenders, individuals with drug problems, and people with mental health issues are able to resolve their offenses by obtaining social services, receiving mental health counseling, and by reporting their progress back to the court. If you are interested, you have the opportunity to help these people get the help that they need without being left with the burden of a criminal conviction on their record.

If you have been hesitant about pursuing a career as a mental health counselor, we hope that you can now see a few different opportunities that you can pursue. Obtaining your degree in mental health counseling will not be easy. You’ll have to find a balance in life. This means ensuring that your educational pursuits, will allow you to make great academic achievement, while maintaining close relationships with friends and family members.