USA Career Guide - Mental Health Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist

Mental health counselor and marriage and family therapists is a rewarding career in USA. They are uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of providing good quality care in a cost-effective manner. These counselors and therapists have the  opportunity to help people develop the emotional flexibility to sail through life's challenges with confidence and optimism.

Education and Training

Graduate programs in counseling generally accept students from any academic backgrounds. Undergraduate coursework in human development, social work and psychology is desirable. But for some specific position or as desired by some employers, having a master's degree is a must.

Licensing and Certification

Having a license by the  mental health counselors is mandatory in most of the states. This usually requires a master’s degree along with 2,000-4,000 hours of clinical experience. Whereas in some areas, counselors must pass a knowledge exam prior to they start practicing.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) awards two levels of certification for mental health professionals.

The entry-level National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential : Requires completion of coursework and 3,000 hours of work experience (waived for graduates of CACREP-accredited training programs). Candidates must also pass the National Counselor Exam.

To continue having license and certification, all counselors must engage in continuing education throughout their careers. Credits may be earned by taking the courses in person or completing the trainings online. Counselors who hold NBCC credentials are subject to additional continuing education requirements.

Marriage and family therapists must be licensed. Licensure requires a master’s degree besides two years of supervised clinical experience. To continue having license and certification,  therapists must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes.

Training: Certified counselor training programs in the form of internship and of practicum.

Industrial Overview

Employment of mental health counselors is expected to improve by 36% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. Employment of mental health counselors is expected to grow by 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Mainly due  to the fact that insurance companies are offering reimbursement for mental health counseling services which makes it cheaper than psychiatrist treatment.

Employment of marriage and family therapists is expected to grow by 41 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. The growth would be as a result of the insurance companies offering reimbursement of counselors and marriage and family therapists as an alternative to expensive options such as psychologist and psychiatrists.

Pay

The median annual wage of mental health counselors was $38,150 in May 2010. In May 2010, wages for mental health counselors in the industries employing the most mental health counselors were as follows:

 Local government                                                          $46,590
Hospitals                                                                        $41,930
Outpatient mental health and
substance abuse centers                                                 $38,840
Individual and family services                                         $37,700    Residential mental health and
substance abuse facilities                                               $30,260
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics


The median annual wage of marriage and family therapists was $45,720 in May 2010.

 State government                                                            $56,320
Local government                                                            $54,340
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers       $47,480
Offices of mental health practitioners (except physicians)   $46,800
Individual and family services                                            $42,150
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics

Related Areas for working in the USA

The counselors can work in different areas as mentioned below:
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers
  • Rehabilitation Counselors
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • School and Career Counselors
  • Substance and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
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