8 Best Careers to Help People with Mental Illness

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There are many possible career directions in mental health. Generally a mental health career involves counseling patients in order to provide them with the highest level of mental health possible.

YouTube Special Feature

This is the first in a series of programs produced to encourage a better understanding of mental illness. Often using schizophrenia as an example, this program explores what we now know may be some of the causes of mental illness, the latest treatments, and the future of care for the mentally ill.


Facts & Statistics

First some facts about mental illness in America and why careers in this field are in such demand. Nami.org states:

  • One in four adults−approximately 61.5 million Americans−experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 17−about 13.6 million−live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.
  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year
  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. 19
  • Adults living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than other Americans, largely due to treatable medical conditions

About The Career

Mental health professionals work with people of all ages, and help patients work through many stresses and problems of life. Some of the most common problems they assist with include:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Self-esteem
  • Mental health problems related to aging
  • Parenting and marital issues
  • Anger and depression

Many mental health practitioners have advanced degrees in psychology and other fields.

There are many excellent career paths to assist people with mental illness, and these include the following:

1. Mental Health Counselor

This type of mental health professional assists people in managing a variety of emotional and mental disorders. This job requires that you listen carefully to the person and to ask insightful questions. In this process, you will help the patient to have a better understanding of their mental health issues and to devise better strategies to improve their emotional and mental well being.

Working in this profession usually requires you to earn a master’s degree in psychology. The median pay according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in this field is $41,000.

2. School and Career Counselor

A school and career counselor helps young people to develop social and emotional skills so that they can succeed in school and in life generally. A professional in this environment will help the student to have a better understanding of social, emotional and behavior problems he or she may be having. This can be done through both individual and group counseling.

You may need to work closely with parents in some situations so that you can best address any mental health or behavioral issues.

In this profession, you may work either at the elementary, middle or high school level.

Many in this field often work for public schools, so the median pay often is higher – $53,600 according to BLS.

3. Child and Family Social Worker

A child and family social worker helps children and families to deal with emotional, mental and situational problems in their lives.

As a social worker, you will help children and families to cope with the many challenges in their lives. This can be due to many factors, such as a mental health problem, but just as often a highly stressful situation, such as the death of a child or sibling. You may also work with people who have serious physical problems and addictions.

Median pay for all social workers is $44,200, and people with a master’s degree or PhD can earn up to $72,000.

4. Clinical Social Worker

A clinical social worker may also be referred to as a licensed clinical social worker. This type of social worker diagnoses and treats many types of mental, behavioral and emotional issues. Some of these may include anxiety and depression. This type of social worker may provide group, family and couples therapy. Whoever they are working with at a given time, they will attempt to provide their clients with the skills and strategies they need to deal with mental health issues.

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5. School Social Worker

A school social worker will work closely with teachers, parents and school administrators to come up with strategies and plans to boost the academic record and social development of students. This type of social worker will work with the child or young adult to deal with many types of behavioral problems, including bullying and aggressive behavior.

6. Healthcare Social Worker

This type of social worker works with healthcare patients in an attempt to make them deal better with their physical or mental diagnosis. In this profession, you will help a person to make a smoother transition back to their community or home. You also may provide your patients with information on support groups and home health care that will help him or her to better manage their mental or physical illness.

7. Geriatric Social Worker

This type of social worker professional will help senior citizens and their families to handle a variety of mental and physical disorders that afflict older people. They may help the patient and the family to locate essential services, and possibly to provide the client with home health care and meals. A geriatric social worker may provide helpful information about assisted living centers, and possibly work with seniors in those settings.

8. Rehabilitation Counselor

A rehabilitation counselor helps someone with emotional and/or physical disabilities to live as independently as possible. You may work with clients to help them to overcome or manage personal, social and professional issues that they may have due to their disability.

You will need to work with people of all ages and of all mental and physical abilities in many stages of their lives. You may work with a younger person to help her to live with a mental or physical disability, or with a veteran who most cope with a mental health disorder.

The median wage in this field according to BLS is $33,880. If you work for state government, the median wage is $43,500.

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For more about Mental Illness visit these great resources:

About the Author: Ann Steele

This website is co-authored by Ann Steele, a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with extensive experience with children and adolescents. Ann Steele attended American School Of Psychology & Argosy University Online. She especially enjoys using music therapy for mental and emotional well-being.

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