What Qualifications Do Counseling Mental Health Therapists Have?

If you’re thinking about starting a career as a mental health therapist, you’re in good company. According to a 2016 study published in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, more than 160,000 Americans reported their occupation as mental health therapists. Many of these individuals are working in fields aimed at helping individuals overcome a variety of mental health problems, such as behavioral, cognitive, and emotional issues.

And the need for licensed therapists is expected to climb as more and more Americans are finding themselves confronted with various mental health problems. To that point, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the need for licensed therapists will grow by as much as 20 percent by the year 2026. In this article, we will explore the type of education and training required to become a mental health counselor and also what makes this career field so rewarding.


Those who are interested in this career field will also need to earn a master’s degree in counseling and then follow that up with a 2-to 3-year internship. As far as licensing, would-be mental health therapists will need to complete anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 hours of hands-on practice with an already licensed mental health therapist before they can take a licensing exam. That said, the specific licensing requirements can vary from state to state. Therefore, it would be a good idea to go over the guidelines specific to the state that you live in or where you will be practicing. For example, some states will require individuals to pass a test issued by the National Board of Certified Counselors before going on to take a licensing exam for their respective state.


Unlike other careers, mental health therapists will need to undergo continuing education to stay current on new mental health disorders and treatment modalities. In short, even after earning a master’s degree and passing their licensing exam, mental health therapist will need to complete ongoing education requirements for their entire career cycle. While this may sound extreme, we have to keep in mind that the mental health landscape is constantly evolving when it comes to disorders and treatments.


While formal education will provide aspiring counselors with training in psychology, therapy, and counseling to help those with mental health problems, some of the most critical skills needed are not always part of the curriculum. Those who tend to excel in this profession typically already have the soft skills needed to be a great mental health therapist, some of which include

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • An ability to communicate nonverbally
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Active listening skills

While these attributes are not necessarily a prerequisite for most mental health therapist positions, those who possess them often make better and more meaningful connections with their patients.


Although being in a position to positively influence the lives of others is a reward in and of itself, it is worth noting that a career as a mental health therapist also comes with an attractive salary as well. The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report that the average salary for a mental health therapist is between $40,000 and $50,000 per year. Certified mental health therapist can earn even more, often as much as $70,000 per year. Some of the factors that can determine how much an individual will make include

  • The state where they practice
  • Whether they provide individual or family counseling
  • The facilities where they practice
  • Whether or not they provide consulting services


For those who have satisfied all of the requirements necessary to become a licensed therapist and are ready to join the workforce, the world is your oyster. Because mental health therapists are trained to work with individuals, families, and groups, they are well-equipped to work in almost any setting. Some of the most sought-after mental health therapist positions are available in the following sectors:

  • Drug and alcohol rehab facilities
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Correctional facilities
  • Businesses
  • Behavioral clinics
  • State and federal government agencies

In short, wherever people work, learn, or play, there will always be someone struggling with a mental health disorder of some kind. As such, many of these same institutions are prepared to hire mental health therapist to help better lives of those who need help the most. To learn more about a career as a mental health therapist, consider speaking with one of our friendly representatives today at 844-639-8371.

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