Career Pathway: Mental Health Counseling

Pathway Overview

Why Mental Health Counseling?

  • High demand
  • Booming field
  • Job security
  • Desirable for those seeking a helping profession
  • Ability to provide specialized services (leading to job stability)

Mental health counseling, also referred to as clinical counseling or clinical mental health counseling, is one of the broadest fields within the counseling field. What sets mental health counselors apart, however, is that they can diagnose mental illnesses, whereas not all other professional counselors are licensed to do so. While counseling licensure and scope of practice depend on state licensing boards, this general differentiation between mental health and other counselors applies to the majority of states within the U.S.  

Licensed professional counseling (LPCs) is an expanding field that draws a large pool of prospective job seekers since it intersects with many other industries (healthcare, education, corrections, etc.). There are many career pathways a counselor can explore. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for counselors is expected to grow 25% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than average. Counselors are particularly well positioned for job stability and future growth based on their ability to provide specialized treatment services to both individuals and organizations.

Clinical mental health counselors can focus on specific areas, but their broad educational background allows them great flexibility to work with a variety of populations on a variety of mental health issues. Depending on the state, clinical mental health counselors receive one of the following licenses: LMHC, LCMHC, LPCC, or LCPC.


Title and type of counseling license is subject to state of residence. Please verify your state’s license titles and requirements. All licenses referenced require a master of counseling degree from a program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and a certain number of clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor 
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Licensed Clinical Counselor

The license required to conduct clinical mental health counseling varies by state. For all states, licensed mental health counselors must obtain a master’s degree in counseling and complete the required counseling fieldwork hours. Number of credits and hours vary by state.

In-Demand Skills

Ultimately, your ability to land a specific role rests on your experience and educational background, as well as your proficiency in the skills below.

Clinical Skills (Field-Specific)

  • Mental illness diagnosis
  • Counseling/therapy techniques 
  • Mental health treatment plans
  • Behavioral health
  • Crisis intervention
  • Case management
  • Rapport building 
  • Group facilitation
  • Counseling ethics 
  • Self-care
  • Multicultural awareness
  • Research

Transferable Skills and Qualities

  • Communicative
  • Attentive
  • Empathetic
  • Solution-focused
  • Objective
  • Collaborative
  • Evaluative
  • Diplomatic
  • Flexible
  • Conflict-resolution oriented
  • Time-management focused

Job Description

Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counselors offer psychotherapy in clinics, public agencies, medical facilities, and private practices to help clients with mental health issues. Counselors provide assessments and diagnoses, treatment planning, evidence-based therapeutic modalities, and crisis management or intervention.

Types of organizations where mental health counselors may work include:

  • Private practices
  • Mental health outpatient centers
  • Private nonprofit agencies
  • Hospital / medical centers
  • Prison / correctional settings

Job Title Examples with License: Mental Health Counselor, Mental Health Clinician, Staff Therapist 

Future Roles: Program Supervisor, Clinical Supervisor, Director of Counseling

Relevant Licenses: LMHC, LCMHC, LCPC, or LPCC

Relevant Professional Associations: American Counseling Association (ACA), American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA)

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