The vast and multidisciplinary field of professional counseling is an area that is experiencing more public attention and overall growth than ever before. The expansion of professional counseling has much to do with the influence of the Internet and specifically the attention that social media has brought to the awareness of mental illness. In addition, health insurance companies are providing increased funding and approval for coverage of mental health services, thus contributing to an increase in the need for mental health professionals.
Mental health is being viewed less and less as a private issue that people keep to themselves or hide from the outside world. More individuals are going to Internet blogs and using social media outlets to share their stories and struggles with mental illness, which in turn motivates others to do the same. Television media has also contributed to increased awareness of mental health issues after tragedies related to public shootings, bullying in schools, and other acts of violence related to mental health have been publicized.
What many people have realized is that mental health problems are not a “1 out of 100 people” type of issue. Emotional concerns touch the lives of many (and most) people at some point in their lives. This inevitably contributes to more individuals seeking treatment and more funding sources (i.e., health insurance companies, government agencies, research institutes) pouring more funds into mental health education and treatment. Professional counselors have become a growing need within treatment facilities, community mental heath centers, hospitals, and numerous other private and public agencies.
Professional counselors are especially in need in several specific fields in mental health, such as among the elderly and Veterans. As the baby boomer generation ages, there is a growing number of elderly individuals who will have mental healthcare needs. Geriatric depression and cognitive issues (e.g., dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease) are concerns among this population that will require increased number of mental health professionals to service these individuals. Members of the U.S. military and veterans are another growing population that will require immediate services from professional counselors, such as the assessment and treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is a debilitating condition affecting thousands of military personnel returning from deployments.
If you have a passion for working with the mental health community and enjoy serving populations in need, then a degree as a professional counselor is an excellent career choice. There are numerous opportunities and subfields within mental health to choose from, as well as a variety of job opportunities that will meet your specific work interests. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015), the employment of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is expected to grow 19% between 2014 and 2024, which is more rapid than the average for all other working fields and professions1.
The field of mental health needs the contributions of professional counselors who care to make a difference in the lives of people, who wish to promote positive change, and who believe that all individuals have the potential to improve, grow, and make lasting changes in their lives.
- United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. (2015). Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists.