The Role of Mental Health Counselors

Mental Health Treatment

Mental health counselors provide treatment for individuals who have a variety of mental health care needs, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and career-related issues. Mental health counselors have training in psychotherapy techniques and can provide individual, family psychotherapy and crisis management (i.e., suicidal thoughts, poor self-esteem).

Substance Abuse Treatment

According to a 2005 Journal of Mental Health article, new treatment models like Integrated Social Learning and Cognitive Behavior Treatment (CBT) have emerged to help substance abuse clients. Mental health counselors with training in the CBT approach can provide effective treatment for clients. Counselors help substance abusers by using behavioral techniques that help people realize relapse triggers and negative self-defeating thinking patterns.

Job Counseling

Mental health counselors assist people with career advice and goal planning. In addition, counselors advise individuals on opportunities for career growth and stress management. The need for mental health counselors can increase due to rampant job losses and a poor economy. states that one-third of Americans report difficulty with stress and have fears about the economy.

Trauma Treatment

Acute changes in mood--such as psychological trauma following a disaster--require immediate care and treatment. Mental health counselors can play an important role in helping a disaster victim deal with painful emotions. Counselors provide emergency critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) during and following a traumatic event (i.e., earthquake). For example, following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, New Jersey mental health counselors were dispatched to McGuire Air Force Base to offer mental health treatment for displaced Haitians. Along with providing crisis management, counselors should also consider and respect the cultural norms of patients when providing treatment. According to New Jersey Real-Time News, some members of the Haitian community who received treatment expressed difficulty with confiding personal issues. Therefore, during crisis interventions, mental health counselors have to consider the whole person during delivery of treatment services.


Mental health counselors also assist elderly clients with late life counseling and help people experiencing suicidal thoughts work through surface emotions by addressing underlying issues from the past. Counselors maintain detailed documentation (i.e., progress notes, client records) and perform clinical assessments and evaluations to determine the needs of clients. According to 2010 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for mental health counselors is expected to grow by 24 percent in the coming years. Mental health counselors assist people with making lifestyle changes which improve overall mental health. Professionals in this field receive advanced clinical training, hold master's degrees and can be accredited through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Mental health counselors can work in the private and public sectors and often collaborate with other mental health professionals (i.e., social workers, psychiatrists) to coordinate the needs of clients.