Health Careers Journal

Outpatient Mental Health Counselor – Job Profile

Outpatient mental health counselors help many people every day. They calm people with anxiety, help families communicate, and listen to people with emotional pain. This article looks at several aspects of this fulfilling career. Review information about a mental health counselor’s average income, responsibilities, practice specialties, and more.

The therapeutic relationship is at the heart of good counseling work. Working face-to-face with another human being is how change begins. Mental health counselors work with individuals, families, and sometimes groups of clients. Counselors use therapy sessions to learn about their clients, listen to them, teach them new things, and help decrease their symptoms. These sessions are done on an outpatient basis.

Counselors do other things for their clients as well. They communicate with other professionals such as doctors, probation officers, caseworkers, and other therapists. Counselors are also responsible for writing session notes, filling out insurance information, crisis intervention, and on-call duties.

The average salary range for a licensed mental health counselor is $23,500-$38,000. This largely depends on whether a counselor works at a private practice office or an agency. Private practice offices rely on insurance claims and private payments for their income. Income can fluctuate in a private practice office as client attendance varies.

Agencies usually have multiple funding sources and provide raises with additional work duties. In a community agency or government office, counselors are usually salaried. This makes the paychecks predictable. However, salaried counselors must often meet quotas or direct service hour expectations.

At a private practice office, counselors generally have fewer meetings or extra responsibilities. A counselor can spend most of their office time doing therapy with clients and have a flexible schedule. Unfortunately, this also leaves fewer opportunities to connect with fellow coworkers.

At an agency or large facility, counselors may be expected to perform other tasks or committee work that does not relate to direct time with clients. This allows counselors to get to know other mental health and support staff in their office. Private practice and community agencies each have advantages and disadvantages. Counselors often find it valuable to experience each setting sometime in their career.

Many counselors make their practice specialized in some way. Some find a niche they enjoy for many years. Others move through two or three specialties over their career. This can happen because of a job change, life events, or even struggles in their practice. Continued education courses give counselors the opportunity to learn more about a niche population or cluster of disorders that interests them.


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