Things Nobody Told You About Starting A Career In Mental Health.
Updated: Mar 23, 2020
Post by Tay-Lor Anderson LMHP-R
So I Graduated With My Masters in Counseling…Now what?
Absolutely, one of the biggest and most terrifying questions for the books. You expected to have it all once you’ve graduated. But... there are a few things nobody told me about beginning my career as a mental health professional. I thought I would have a plan to pursue higher education or licensure or both; an identified supervisor and site; and an income to match my new shiny degree. Fortunately for some, all those answers are spelled out by the time they graduate their three year program; for others such as myself, I had some answers to my life plan, but not those answers. I knew what I wanted to do in 5 years (maybe) and what population I wanted to serve, BUT I had no idea how to get there.
A Few Key Questions Every Counseling Graduate Should Ask Themselves.
Do I want to pursue my LPC?
If so where will I work during my residency?
What state do I want to be licensed in?
Is the NCC worth it?
Do I want to look into re-enrolling in school for my doctorate?
Do I want to look at certifications
Do I want to take a break?
Here’s some options:
Take a Break. I feel like this is not talked about enough in graduate school. You go through two to three years of being on the go: completing classwork, homework, practicum, and internship. Your brain needs to relax, so please listen to it. Take a break and possibly explore hobbies or interest you let go while in graduate school. Be good to yourself. I wish someone told me that.
Pursue a Doctorate. If your passion is to continue with higher education, go for it. When researching for doctorate programs, be very observant. Here’s a list of things you should look for:
1. Your research interest and the faculty’s interest align.
2. If faculty members you are interested in are accepting students.
3. Practicum and internship sites
4. Cost (because money is important)…SCHOLARSHIPS! GRANTS! ALL THE FREE MONEY!
5. Overall student success rate
6. The style of the program: online, in-person, hybrid. It is best to know your style
7. Location is important. No one wants to be in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do AND in school year-round.
Certifications. Please get your certification to practice as a qualified mental health provider, whether that be for adults or children. You will need that in order to work in Virginia for community based organizations and companies. The website to see certification requirements and application process is:
Employment: Graduating with your Masters opens many doors, but so does experience. Ask your professors about some employment opportunities they may be aware of. Anyway, here’s a list of jobs that I’ve personally worked during my graduate program and after to give you an idea of some options:
1. Mental health skill-builder
2. Intensive in-home counselor
3. Social worker at a psychiatric hospital
4. Assessment and referral clinician
5. Forensic discharge planner
Do not shy away from experience, but begin to understand your limitations and cultivate your craft. Also, shameless plug: many companies will provide free supervision for your LPC, LMFT, etc if you complete a specified number of hours with them.
Licensure. Of course, becoming a resident in counseling is a big goal for many of us. I have provided the link with all the information you will need to apply for licensure in Virginia.
Fact of the matter is, graduating with your Masters in Counseling is huge and scary. Many traditional students only know school, so going out into the working world is a little intimidating, but breathe. Just know you have options, more options than I probably listed. Please listen to yourself throughout this journey of figuring out what is next. Post-graduation depression is real. Be good to yourself and figure out what YOU want out of this degree. You earned it. Now, enjoy it.
T. Smith MA, Resident in Counseling.