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A career working in the mental health industry can be both extremely rewarding and equally as challenging. As is the case with many jobs that involve working with others who may be struggling or in a vulnerable position, it requires a certain set of skills and character traits in order to get the most out of the experience for everyone involved.
Whilst many people opt for a career in mental health, it is often the case that individuals jump into a role before knowing exactly what’s involved. This is easily done, but can often lead to people being underprepared and often overwhelmed when faced with the variety of tasks required of them.
In this article we are going to cover all the key things you need to know before entering into a job working in mental health. From the different careers you can consider, to the types of tasks that might be expected of you; If you are unsure whether a job in mental health is for you, then this should be a helpful guide in the decision making process!
What Is Mental Health?
It may seem an obvious place to begin, but so often those who are looking to begin a career in mental health don’t have a full understanding on just how broad the scale can be. Mental health is more than anxiety and depression; it can cover trauma, phobia, addiction and so much more that you should be aware of from the start.
According to mentalhealth.org, ‘mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.’
The fact is that not only are mental health problems pretty common, they can also affect just about anybody. From children all the way through to the elderly, mental health is a serious and widespread issue.
The roles of those who choose to work in mental health are crucial, as a mental health condition left untreated can often lead to more serious and sometimes life-threatening situations. It is for this reason that the need for more mental health workers and mental health resources is so great.
If you are choosing a job in the mental health sector, you can expect a long and fulfilling career, full of challenges, variety and accomplishment.
What Skills Are Needed to Work In Mental Health?
Before we get into the different career paths that you can go down, it is first of all important to look at the skills that will be expected in any individual looking to work in this sector.
It is of the upmost importance that anybody looking to start a career in mental health, regardless of the specific role is made aware of the expected skills and character traits needed to fulfil the role well.
What’s needed from those looking to work in mental health?
- Empathetic nature and ability to relate to a variety of individuals
- A great communicator
- A great listener
- Ability to remain calm under pressure
- Quick thinking
- Able to build healthy boundaries
- Problem solving
The skills and personality traits listed above may not all be looked at in an interview, however they are all equally as important to be good at your job, and successful in your field.
While some jobs may not require such a long list of personal attributes, when it comes to working with others who may be vulnerable, the way you communicate and handle situations can make all the difference.
It is for these reasons that the skills and personal attributes necessary to succeed within mental health span across all the different jobs, from admin through to psychologist. The genuine care and drive to help someone is paramount across the board.
So, what are your choices?
When it comes to a career in mental health, there is actually quite a wide range of options open to you! It is a common misconception that you need a handful of degrees in order to work within the mental health field, however this is not the case and there are in fact many rewarding paths you can take working within mental health.
There is no question that the demand for mental health workers is high, with approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem every year, there is certainly a need for more people to enter this field of work. Often the nature of the work involved in mental health roles means that many people find it too demanding and stressful, and this can put some people off entering into the field at all. It is for this reason that it is so important to ensure you are informed at the beginning of the options open to you, so that you are better prepared to make the right choices and hopefully find a rewarding and challenging role that you can progress in.
There is a wide range of positions within the mental health sector that will require you to work closely with the individual such as:
- Mental Health Counsellor
- Mental Health Social Worker
- Mental Health Nurse
- Elderly Care Worker
- Mental Health Advocate
However there are many brilliant roles out there that allow you to work alongside teams that support those with mental health such as:
- GP or hospital administration
- Clinical secretary
- Counselling administrator
Of all the roles that are out there it can be tricky to know which is right for you! If you prefer a more involved position then a counselling role that will see you helping someone closely may be for you. For others a position that is perhaps a little less involved such as an administrator may be appealing; not only can you improve your business skills, but you can also help support a team in providing a great service for someone who needs it.
There is no right or wrong choice, so how do you know which is best for you? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular career choices in the mental health sector, and the tasks that may be asked of you.
Mental Health Counsellor
Counselling covers a range of areas, and mental health counselling in particular can be very complex. In general it would be your job to help individuals work through their issues. These problems could involve depression, anger, anxiety, stress, and can involve almost anything you can think of from parenting and work to addiction and eating disorders.
A career in mental health counselling is very rewarding, however it can also be incredibly draining and stressful for the counsellor as well as the individual. So it is important to be as prepared as you can be before entering into this kind of role.
Here is a list of the expected tasks of a mental health counsellor:
- Work alongside individuals to develop therapeutic processes
- Encourage discussion about thoughts and feelings
- Explore issues such as sexuality, abuse, careers, age, addiction, self-harm (and many more)
- Work with individuals or groups/families
- Refer clients to other appropriate services
What Do You Need To Be a Counsellor?
To become a fully qualified counsellor you will be expected to complete specific diploma level qualifications, and often this will need to be accompanied by supervised placements.
At the Online Learning College, we offer a range of relevant courses that can support you in your goal of becoming a mental health counsellor. We offer a fully recognised and Ofqual approved TQUK Level 2 certificate in Counselling Skills, which is a 12 month course done entirely online with full tutor support.
This specific certificate is perfect for developing skills in working face to face with clients, and can be great for those already on the way to becoming a counsellor, or even those right at the start of their career.
Mental Health Support Worker
Perhaps one of the most popular career paths that people choose to take is the mental health support worker route, as it can cover such a wide variety of areas. From education, residential care, community care and even rehabilitation and substance abuse – the role of a mental health support worker can be a very rewarding one.
Whether you are working specifically with children, adults or the elderly, the role of a mental health support worker doesn’t tend to differ too drastically. Your job ultimately is to work with and provide support to the individual. It is for this reason that the role is so popular, as it allows for a level of flexibility and progression.
So what can you expect from a career as a mental health social worker? Here is a list of some of the main tasks expected:
- Organise peer support groups
- Working alongside other professionals to provide the necessary support for the individual
- Communicate with family members
- Promote independent living
- Assist individual in accessing services and resources
- Cleaning and tidying
- Food shopping
These are just some of the key roles of a mental health support worker, however the reality is that a role such as this could encompass a vast range of tasks. Depending on the nature of the case and the individual’s issues will ultimately determine what level of input you are expected to contribute.
What Do You Need To Be a Mental Health Support Worker?
Those looking for a career working with mental health often gravitate towards mental health support work because it requires less official qualifications and relies much more on the individual’s character, passion and skills.
However, that being said it will be necessary for you to have a certain level of knowledge and that is why we offer a variety of incredibly relevant and beneficial courses that can put you ahead of the game when it comes to getting your dream job.
We offer a nationally recognised online Level 3 TQUK Certificate in Understanding Mental Health Care, which runs for 12 months and provides you with much of the necessary knowledge and skills you will need to be able to work with a variety of individuals with varying mental health issues.
As a practicing psychologist, you will have the knowledge and tools to assist people in coping more effectively with their mental health as well as other aspects of life. The sorts of issues you could be faced with are varied and could include any of the following:
- Sexual Abuse
- Relationship Issues
- Domestic Violence
The kinds of mental health conditions you are likely to be dealing with as a psychologist tend to be much more complex and require a high level of skill and knowledge. Conditions such as the following may present themselves in your line of work:
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
You will be expected to possess a wide range of skills from basic IT and counselling skills to the ability to work as a team, as well as open minded, and understanding natured. This line of work is perhaps one of the most challenging to go into within the mental health sector, however it can also be incredibly rewarding.
What Do You Need To Be a Psychologist?
To be a qualified psychologist you must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council and have completed a postgraduate degree. However, due to the competitive nature of this career choice, it is helpful for you to get any extra qualifications and knowledge to help you along the way.
At the Open Learning College we offer a Level 3 Diploma in Psychology, which runs for 12 months. This course covers many of the basics of the scientific principles within psychology and looks at the way the mind works.
We also offer other useful courses such as Child Psychology Level 3, Psychology of Criminal Profiling Diploma level 3and Psychology Diploma level 4.
So Should You Consider a Career In Mental Health?
If you are passionate about helping others and feel that you possess the necessary skills needed to thrive in this type of career, then you are already onto a good start! For many individuals who are serious about a job role in mental health, it can be the qualifications necessary that can act as a deterrent and preventative to more great mental health workers entering the sector.
That is why at The Online Learning College we offer a variety of relevant and informative courses to help you along the way. Whilst many consider University to be the only way to enter into this type of work, we provide alternative routes to get you into a better position to get the job you have worked so hard for.
So if you are asking should you consider a career in mental health, then perhaps start by taking a look at the paths open to you. Every learner is different, and whilst one career route may work perfectly for one, something entirely different could be right for someone else.
Ultimately if you want a job in mental health then the passion to help others will drive your determination to succeed. So you no longer need to be unsure how to become a mental health worker, or doubt your ability to achieve this goal – we provide all the tools to kick-start your career journey.