I am delighted to be back with you, my friends, after our summer break!
Our brief hiatus during the summer months was time well spent, as I devoted my energies to nurturing the Women of Wonder community.
Today’s episode holds a special place in my heart! It stems from a question I posed on Instagram a few months ago about career guidance. Even though my post was intended for general advice, the very first query I received was related to mental health. Given my expertise in that area I decided to tackle this topic personally. I did some extra research to deepen my understanding and extend my knowledge beyond my home state for a broader perspective.
For those on the path or considering a career in mental health, I am thrilled to engage in this discussion with you and share a glimpse into my personal journey with its twists and turns in the hope of inspiring you to believe that it is never too late to pursue your dream career. I provide practical guidance, especially for those interested in private practice, and discuss the steps to reach that stage. Beyond the specifics, I also explore the broader aspects of choosing a career in mental health.
If mental health is not your career interest, this episode may not be for you, but please share it with those who might benefit.
What Do You Want to Do After Graduation?
Before pursuing a career in mental health, it’s crucial to ask yourself what you envision doing once you complete your education. Your career goals will significantly influence the path you choose. Whether you aim to work in private practice, schools, social programs, or community centers, your desired outcome will guide your decisions.
What Do You Want to Learn in Your Program?
The second vital consideration is the content of your educational program. The courses and curriculum should align with your interests and career goals. For example, if you are interested in clinical work, you will want a program focusing on psychology, counseling, and developing essential therapeutic skills. Ensure the program you choose matches what you want to learn.
What License Do You Need?
Licensing requirements can vary widely depending on your location and career aspirations. To work independently in a clinical setting or private practice, you will typically need a Master’s degree in counseling or social work. The type of license you pursue- whether it is in counseling, social work, marriage and family therapy, or another related field- must align with your career goals.
Understanding the specific licensing process for your chosen field is crucial. The process often includes passing exams, completing supervised hours, and obtaining provisional licenses before achieving full licensure.
3 Key Factors
Before embarking on a career in mental health, consider your ultimate career goals, the content of your educational program, and the specific licensing requirements for your chosen field. These three key factors will help you make informed decisions and navigate your path to a fulfilling career in mental health.
Education and Early Career Steps
Upon completing a Master’s degree in a mental health-related field, the next step is to pursue licensure. This journey often begins with entry-level positions. I worked at a domestic violence agency and served as an advocate in court for survivors of sexual and domestic violence to get social work experience. Engaging in one-on-one counseling with supervision can also be instrumental in building your expertise. Some positions may offer supervision as part of the compensation, which can be advantageous.
Accumulating Supervised Hours
Gaining clinical experience and supervised hours is essential for licensure. I worked simultaneously at a domestic violence agency and a group practice to accumulate hours. My goal was to maximize clinical hours and work toward licensure efficiently. Seeking employment with supervision included can be financially advantageous and help you achieve licensure sooner.
Pursuing Doctoral Education
While pursuing licensure, some individuals opt for doctoral education. I initially enrolled in a Ph.D. program focused on human behavior but switched to a Psy.D. program focusing on clinical courses over research and statistics. Doctoral programs offer specialized knowledge, and choosing one aligned with your career goals is crucial.
Licensure Path Choices
After completing a doctoral degree, you may have the option to pursue additional supervised clinical work to obtain a psychology license. However, this route may be time-consuming and require working for free or paying for supervision. Choosing to pursue licensure should align with your career goals and financial considerations. Some mental health professionals decide not to pursue licensure and their degrees are still valuable in their practices.
Transitioning to Private Practice
Many mental health professionals aspire to open a private practice. However, graduate programs often lack comprehensive business training. Therefore, you may need additional education or mentorship in entrepreneurship and business management to establish and manage a successful private practice.
Self-Assessment and Decision-Making
Throughout your career journey, it is essential to reflect continually on your goals and desires. Ask yourself what you want to achieve, what you want to learn, and which license or credentials align with your career aspirations. Researching state licensure requirements and staying informed about evolving regulations is essential.
Resources and Reading Recommendations
For those pursuing careers in mental health or anyone interested in gaining insights into the field, several books provide valuable knowledge and perspectives:
- The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom: Essays offering insights into the therapist’s experience and boosting confidence.
- Letters to a Young Therapist by Mary Pipher: A must-read for therapists, offering guidance and reassurance.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl: Explores human resilience and the search for meaning in life.
- An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison: A personal story of living with mental illness and pursuing a career in mental health.
- Emotional Inheritance: A Therapist, Her Patients, and the Legacy of Trauma by Galit Atlas: Explores trauma and its intergenerational impact.
- The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry: Chronicles stories of resilience and survival in the face of unimaginable trauma.
- My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem: Explores trauma, racial trauma, and resilience.
- The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris: Discusses childhood adversity and its lifelong impact on health.
These books offer valuable insights, whether you are pursuing a career in mental health or simply interested in human behavior and resilience.
A Dynamic Process
The journey from education to practice in the mental health field is a dynamic process that requires ongoing self-assessment, reflection, and alignment with personal and professional goals. It is a rewarding path that offers opportunities for growth and the chance to have a meaningful impact on the lives of others.