The Business of Practice

Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counseling is a profession where a psychological healthcare provider diagnoses a mental health condition and provides a treatment plan. Depending on the degree a counselor holds, they are either able to practice independently or under the supervision of another certified therapist. 

Mental Health Counseling

What is Mental Health Counseling?

Counselors provide sessions that typically last between forty-five minutes or one hour with clients. Clients often return on a weekly or biweekly schedule. A mental health counselor’s treatment plan determines the duration and frequency of counseling sessions.

Mental health counselors are able to distinguish their treatment styles based on their psychological ideology. There are a variety of specialties mental health counselors choose from when deciding to enter the field. 


For example, a therapist may specialize in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) if treating mood disorders like borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. Moreover, a marriage and family therapist is a psychological healthcare provider who prioritizes knowledge with particular concern for couples and child therapy.

What Training is Needed to Become a Mental Health Counselor?

First, a mental health counselor must obtain a counseling degree from an accredited school. A counseling degree spans two or three years, on average, after completing a four-year undergraduate program. 

A counseling degree requires a combination of educational and therapy work. During the educational process, the student completes an internship while under supervision to gain counseling experience. Additional licensing is required to practice independently or become a private practice therapist.

 There are several categories of counseling degrees available at academic programs:

  • MFTs or Marriage and Family Therapists
  • LPCCs or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors
  • LCSWs or Licensed Clinical Social Workers

Qualities of a Good Mental Health Counselor

A good mental health counselor is one who is effective at their job while they maintain their emotional health as a care provider.

The subsequent qualities indicate a successful mental health counselor:

  • Empathetic
  • Present and attentive
  • Clear verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Respectful of boundaries
  • Up-to-date with research
  • Transparent with treatment

How to Start Your Career as a Counselor

After completing schooling for a counseling degree, decide whether you are able to take time off for licensure or look directly into available careers with supervision.


To start a private practice, earn licensure through clearance of a government exam and completion of supervised counseling. The requirements vary by state and counseling degree, so be sure to confirm specificities depending on your needs.

Salary of a Mental Health Counselor

Salaries for a mental health counselor will vary depending on the effort spent on personal brand marketing or available organizational funding. Counselors need to factor cost-of-living expenses in their session pricing depending on their location. Mental health counselors require a marketing strategy in addition to legal consideration when they start a private practice in counseling and psychology.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors make a median salary of $48,520 annually. A licensed mental health counselor makes on average $83,474 nationwide, according to ZipRecruiter which averages self-reports of compensation. Salaries can typically range from $30,000-$150,000, depending on location and licensure.

Where to Work as a Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors work in an assortment of settings. Traditionally, mental health counselors provide counseling in an office space or remotely online. Additional ways to utilize a mental health counseling degree include working at a nonprofit or as a consultant to businesses regarding the mental health of their workers.

  • Therapy Office
  • Private Practice
  • Nonprofit Organization
  • Hospital Network

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