Masters in Mental Health Counseling

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stemikger
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Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by stemikger »

Hey folks,

My daughter turns 19 in December and will soon be entering the second term of her sophomore year in college. She is majoring in Psychology with the ultimate goal of getting a Masters in Mental Health Counseling. She really is doing well and does seem to have a genuine interest for the subject.

My fear is that this field is very hard to get work in when she finishes. From what I read it seems like there are no jobs with just a BA and a Masters is pretty much mandatory. Is there anyone on these boards that does this for a living or knows more about the subject and what can she expect as a starting salary and career prospects going forward. I would like to pass on this information to her.

Thanks,

Stephen G.
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apk
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by apk »

I don't want to be the voice of doom, but this work is thankless. The pay is low. The mental health system is designed to fail. She might be better off choosing another vocation and volunteering for this kind of work. Volunteering once a week for a couple of hours might give her fulfillment. Doing this 40 hours a week is a whole different story.
hicabob
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by hicabob »

An MSW (masters social work) might possibly be a better alternative wrt future employment?
Rodc
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by Rodc »

My 26 year old daughter is arguably in "Mental Health Counseling" working for non-profits with a BS in psychology.

She has worked with troubled teens in a group home for kids on that on court orders to be in the home. They try to get them to where they can live on their own. Some make it and some end up in a more jail like setting. She has worked with adults on the autism spectrum, who really can't function on their own and again the task is to get them to where they can. She is currently working with brain trama adults, who again are trying to transition to being able to function on their own.

Indeed this is a very thankless job and low paid. There are plenty of these jobs with a BS if my daughter's experience is any indication.

She is looking at getting an MSW, which might lead to better work.
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stemikger
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by stemikger »

Thanks for the replies. This is kind of what I expected from what I am finding on the internet.
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campy2010
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by campy2010 »

Encourage her to get an internship at one of the non-profits that may ultimately employ her. There is no better lesson about your future career path than to experience it first-hand.

At the same time, I would discuss with her career paths that are similar, but perhaps more flexible. Nursing or, if you think she has the aptitude, physician assistant or medical school.

Personally, I would have no problem bringing up the idea of a "fall back" plan for when she gets tired of low wages. It is a concept that some 19-year old middle, upper middle class kids have a hard time thinking about proactively.

ETA: I know a couple of people in this field and from what I understand, there is a considerable amount of degree inflation. So, a PhD is now becoming the norm for jobs that used to require a master's degree. These are professional programs so they require tuition and are rarely funded by grant research. High student loan debt is very common.
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stemikger
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by stemikger »

campy2010 wrote:Encourage her to get an internship at one of the non-profits that may ultimately employ her. There is no better lesson about your future career path than to experience it first-hand.

At the same time, I would discuss with her career paths that are similar, but perhaps more flexible. Nursing or, if you think she has the aptitude, physician assistant or medical school.

Personally, I would have no problem bringing up the idea of a "fall back" plan for when she gets tired of low wages. It is a concept that some 19-year old middle, upper middle class kids have a hard time thinking about proactively.

ETA: I know a couple of people in this field and from what I understand, there is a considerable amount of degree inflation. So, a PhD is now becoming the norm for jobs that used to require a master's degree. These are professional programs so they require tuition and are rarely funded by grant research. High student loan debt is very common.
Thanks Campy2010
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by White Coat Investor »

apk wrote:I don't want to be the voice of doom, but this work is thankless. The pay is low. The mental health system is designed to fail. She might be better off choosing another vocation and volunteering for this kind of work. Volunteering once a week for a couple of hours might give her fulfillment. Doing this 40 hours a week is a whole different story.
+1

This sounds like my own private version of hell. That job takes everything I don't like about every job I've ever had and throws it all into one job. That said, I'm glad someone is willing to do it. I'd hate being a dermatologist too and that's supposed to be the best job in medicine.

Trust me when I said there will be PLENTY of work for someone in this field. It won't pay much, but there's plenty to do.
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by boomerbaby »

In mental health the level of respect, education and reimbursement top down appears to be:

Psychiatrist - MD ( who may or may not do actual talk therapy, most prescribe.)
Psychologist, PHD (talk therapy)
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, MSW
Mental Health Counselor, BA or MA

An 'LCSW' is a licensed clinical social worker, more utilized for counseling than a mental health counselor.
In order to become a LCSW, one would major in social work rather than psychology and get a master's in that specialty.

Psychologists and LCSW's do the brunt of the work. Insurance companies usually do reimburse LCSW's too.

I have seen job descriptions for general mental health counselors that require a bachelor's degree but only pay $28K-30K annually.
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stan1
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by stan1 »

Agree with the internship. She can always go in different directions after a few years -- for example she may find that being a school teacher gives her many of the thing she likes about mental health without some of the challenges.
TheGreyingDuke
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by TheGreyingDuke »

She will never get rich doing this, but my expereince has been quite different from those voiced by others in this thread. Started in the field almost 40 years ago, got an MSW and focused on working with people with chronic health issues (hypertension, heart disease, drug addiction, etc). Always had rewarding jobs, pay was more than adequate for our modest lifestyle, and now work consulting for months each year in China.

The myth that the difficulties faced by your clients/patients makes one miserable is just that, far outweighing this is the rewards of helping people find the key to ending their misery. As the years have gone by, the pay scales have not kept up and the reimbursements from insurance companies is now lower than it was 15 years aog, this is unique in medical insurance.

For doing anything other than basic work, a masters is required, MSW is the only masters degree eligible for insurance reimbursement in most jurisdictions, including Medicare. An MSW requires about 800 years of a field placement, sort of an internship with wrap around supervision, essential for gaining the confidence and skills needed, counseling is a practice profession, education is necessary but practice under supervision is essential to gaining the necessary skills and confidence.

Send me a PM if you want more detials form the front lines.
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jbk
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by jbk »

I earned my MSW nearly 25 years ago and have been in the field since then. It's worked for me. Yes, the jobs can be stressful and low-paying. In my case, I moved to management after two years. The pay improved and the stress reduced. Compared to other fields the pay was still low, but I tried to deal with that by not comparing my field to others. As always, your results may vary. The one thing I would do differently now would be to look much more closely (probably exclusively) at federal (Veteran's Affairs), state, or city employment. The pay and benefits generally far exceeds that of private non-profit employment. As a new grad I had no idea about any of that, and just answered newspaper ads. Again, it worked for me. Also, in my area (NYC), it's a huge advantage to be able to speak Spanish (which I don't). Best of luck to your daughter!
marbles100
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by marbles100 »

I'd like to be a voice of hope here in contrast to some of the doom expressed by others. I speak from the "trenches", in that I'm a clinical social worker, and have been in the field for almost 20 years, starting in the outpatient department of a county mental health clinic, and now in private practice. I'd like to encourage your daughter to follow her interests and commitment to service. Indeed, working as a counselor/mental health worker/psychologist/clinical social worker is not easy work, can be thankless, is not well paid, and is prone to incredible levels of burn-out. Yet it can be a tremendously rewarding vocation, and as Emergdoc points out, the work is out there: we live in a world in which there is much need for qualified clinicians who are willing to take on the challenges.

Going for graduate training is the way to go for maximum flexibility in the field. I don't know too much about the Masters in Mental Health Counseling, but would advise looking closely at licensing requirements in her home state if she would at any point like to go into private practice and/or take insurance. Proven routes would be to pursue an MSW degree, MA/PhD or MA/PsyD degree in Clinical Psychology - from an accredited university. And then pursue licensure, which requires many hours of supervised practice and continuing education beyond the graduate degree. In my experience, Master's level clinicians can compete with PhD/PsyDs for similar jobs in the field, the latter having more training in doing psychological testing and the like.
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by hicabob »

One of my kid's works with some MSW's and reports they make over 100k here working for the county with a nice DB pension, really good vacation and other expected govt perks. As with most professions - he reports some are great , some take up space.
robertalpert
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by robertalpert »

A bachelor in psychology will only qualify her to become a student in the next phase. Take the precaution to find out that her planned master's degree will actually qualify her for state licensure. MSW may qualify her to become a state licensed independent social worker (LISW). Other counseling master may qualify for state Licensed practical counselor (LPC). PhD in psychology is also a decent career path with higher pay, provided she becomes a state licensed psychologist.

If her particular masters degree major does not qualify her for state licensure, then she is likely to be an unemployed graduate for quite some time.
letsgobobby
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by letsgobobby »

EmergDoc wrote:
Trust me when I said there will be PLENTY of work for someone in this field. It won't pay much, but there's plenty to do.
Agree, tons of work but none of it pays well. The degree in question is not one I've heard of. A lot probably depends on the state, and whether that state allows her to become independently licensed. An MSW or LCSW or doctorate allows independent licensing and thus can be paid higher. We are currently hiring MSWs at $25/hr plus benefits. A non licensed provider can only be paid $19.
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stemikger
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by stemikger »

Thanks so much everyone. You all gave her enough information to give it serious consideration and possibly change her direction to social work or something else. Thank you all very much!!!

And TheGreyingDuke, thanks for the PM offer, I'll make sure she sees that.

I appreciate your input very much!!

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bl2410s
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by bl2410s »

I think campy2010 may have said it best. My fiance is 25 has a BA in Psych and a Masters in Behavior Health. She was a great student (4.0 grad degree) with good reference and lots of experience for her age. Upon graduation she couldn't find a job that would pay her a reasonable salary (30-35k) in a large city in Florida. Most entry level jobs in mental health are around $10-12/hr and ones that require a Masters (ie higher pay) are really hard to come by. She was actually told in one interview that she was over-qualified for a lower position and in an interview for the same company but higher position was told she needs to start low and work her way up. She finally has one after two years of doing work in other fields but still the income isn't great and actually took a pay cut to get it. She now works with people with diagnosed mental illnesses and help them transition to an independent lifestyle. She enjoys the work and seems much happier than working for a bank. However, if your daughter like my fiance has to take out 75k+ in student loans for a 35k job with little room for growth, I would strongly advise volunteering to make sure that's what she wants to do.
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by protagonist »

stemikger wrote:Hey folks,

My daughter turns 19 in December and will soon be entering the second term of her sophomore year in college. She is majoring in Psychology with the ultimate goal of getting a Masters in Mental Health Counseling. She really is doing well and does seem to have a genuine interest for the subject.

My fear is that this field is very hard to get work in when she finishes. From what I read it seems like there are no jobs with just a BA and a Masters is pretty much mandatory. Is there anyone on these boards that does this for a living or knows more about the subject and what can she expect as a starting salary and career prospects going forward. I would like to pass on this information to her.

Thanks,

Stephen G.
Your daughter probably has other motives that trump the financial. Hopefully she is smart enough to know her options, or will be by the time she is forced to decide. If she is pursuing her dream, I would encourage her.
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

apk wrote:I don't want to be the voice of doom, but this work is thankless. The pay is low. The mental health system is designed to fail. She might be better off choosing another vocation and volunteering for this kind of work. Volunteering once a week for a couple of hours might give her fulfillment. Doing this 40 hours a week is a whole different story.
+1 I agree from my second hand knowledge a friend of mine had pursued this with the required licenses and after all that work - was not happy with the job. The friend thought that theory would be placed into practice, but found out the system is designed to provide band-aids (less time spent per patient, more patients equals more volume) and not really fix the problems experienced by those patients with certain issues. Quite depressing to see. Also, the friend was switching employers often in an effort to make more money and find what it was they wanted, but found out more money doesn't mean more job satisfaction.
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SmallSaver
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by SmallSaver »

I wonder if when we say "thankless" we mean "low-paying". I have friends in social work. The system is a shambles, the pay is low, and the workload is intense, but all of them have the satisfaction of contributing to their community and working with people who don't have a lot of other resources. I think there's something to be said for that. It's also a job that is needed everywhere. A good friend lives in a small town in the mountains, helps kids who got dealt a terrible hand, and has summers off to explore the northern Rockies. She's not getting rich, but I wouldn't call call her unrewarded.

That being said, there are no doubt paths that provide more opportunity and remuneration, which other posters have a better handle on. I'd advise anyone in college to intern in the field they're interested in and, in this day and age, plan on getting a master's degree at some point.
Rodc
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Re: Masters in Mental Health Counseling

Post by Rodc »

bl2410s wrote:I think campy2010 may have said it best. My fiance is 25 has a BA in Psych and a Masters in Behavior Health. She was a great student (4.0 grad degree) with good reference and lots of experience for her age. Upon graduation she couldn't find a job that would pay her a reasonable salary (30-35k) in a large city in Florida. Most entry level jobs in mental health are around $10-12/hr and ones that require a Masters (ie higher pay) are really hard to come by. She was actually told in one interview that she was over-qualified for a lower position and in an interview for the same company but higher position was told she needs to start low and work her way up. She finally has one after two years of doing work in other fields but still the income isn't great and actually took a pay cut to get it. She now works with people with diagnosed mental illnesses and help them transition to an independent lifestyle. She enjoys the work and seems much happier than working for a bank. However, if your daughter like my fiance has to take out 75k+ in student loans for a 35k job with little room for growth, I would strongly advise volunteering to make sure that's what she wants to do.
Is she is a licensed social worker or just has an MS?

I gather from folks there is a big difference. I know my daughter is pretty explicit that in looking at programs for her graduate work that the program must lead to being licensed.

So it would be very useful to know if she is licensed and still struggles with low pay and few opportunities.

Thanks much.
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.
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