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What Does a Mental Health Counselor do in Alaska?

Alaska has a reputation for being the last wilderness of the United States. We may be more likely to think of its economy as being based on float fishing trips and luxury cruises, however, there is a lot more to the Land of the Midnight Sun. In fact, when one reviews its top industries, the Alaskan economy looks much like that of other states, though perhaps on a smaller scale.

Topping the list of Alaska's top industries is its mining, quarrying, and oil/gas extraction. In fact, Alaska is in the middle of a controversy regarding its oil-rich expanses. This sectors presence in Alaska ranks 9th in the nation, bringing in a whopping $9 billion each year.

Other sectors in Alaska's top five industries include transportation and warehousing, which is 28th nationally and worth almost $8 billion per year. This may be due, in part, to the state's remote location, which demands that most consumer goods arrive via airplane or on ships that must traverse treacherous seas. The Alaskan economy is also led by real estate with $5 billion in revenues, social services including education and healthcare, and professional and business services, which generates over $3 billion.

In the pursuit of their counseling career, clinical mental health counselors help people overcome a variety of psychological and behavioral problems that may hinder their personal and professional lives. To help their clients, mental health counselors conduct psychotherapy to explore the subconscious, early-life traumas, and other factors that may be causing distress.

Since not all clients suffer the same sorts of problems, clinical mental health counselors often specialize in certain sorts of issues or demographics. For instance, some will focus on addiction issues, domestic abuse victims, or depression. There are also mental health counselors that focus on children, adolescents, adults, and geriatric clients. Yet another popular specialty is marriage and family therapy.

The industry that covers mental health counseling professionals falls into the fourth largest sector in the Alaskan economy. Further, economists increasingly acknowledge that, when workers are emotionally and cognitively healthy, the economy benefits. This provides Alaska's leaders with an incentive to bolster university budgets for their counseling degree programs.

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Online Mental Health Counseling Education in Alaska

Once fully funded, counseling degree programs can attract some of the nation's best academic stars to Alaskan colleges and universities. These top researchers can help students by inspiring their counseling practices with cutting edge knowledge and best practices to better serve their clients. Alaska's institutions of higher learning also seek local counseling professionals to work as adjunct instructors. Local counselors are able to provide insights from their practice with Alaskans and the Alaskan regulatory bodies that govern the profession in the state.

There are many different sorts of professions that carry the title counselor. However, mental health counselors are distinct in that they require a special license from the state. Mental health counseling professionals also need at least a master’s degree to work as independent professionals who conduct therapy sessions with patients. In fact, this independence is often a very attractive feature of the career.

Online Associate Degree in Mental Health Counseling (AS)

Alaskans who want to have a career in mental health counseling can start their journey in an Alaskan community college. This degree is not able to support one's application for state licensure, but it's a great start. This is because an associate degree provides a good overview of the profession and the issues involved. Further, an associate mental health counseling degree can open opportunities for those wanting to work as psychiatric technicians and gain some experience.

An associate degree also makes good fiscal sense. This is because Alaska's community colleges charge far less on a per-credit basis than their four-year counterparts. Thus, a student can dramatically reduce costs for the first two years of their bachelor’s degree. Also, when students transfer to their four-year degree program, they will have more insight into the specific focus they'd like to pursue. They can thus begin to set themselves up for the best success in graduate school.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Mental Health Counseling (BS)

A four-year, bachelor’s mental health counseling degree is a great foundation for a career in the field. It won't qualify for an Alaskan mental health counseling license, but it will help students prepare for their master’s clinical psychology degree, which is a vital part of licensure. A bachelor’s degree also is able to go deep enough into various topics in psychology so students will have a stronger idea of how they'd like to conduct their counseling careers.

There may also be opportunities for graduates who would like to work in the mental healthcare field prior to diving into a master’s clinical psychology degree program. One great choice is work as a psychiatric technician, but there may also be opportunities to work as addiction counselors. Those counselors aren't able to conduct individual therapy, but the position allows workers the ability to see the impact of therapy and rehabilitation on actual clients. In fact, this experience may be very useful when it comes time to apply to a graduate degree program.

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Online Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling (MS or MC)

Most mental healthcare experts are eager to earn a master’s mental healthcare counseling degree. This is because it's a necessary requirement for an Alaskan counseling license. Once all the requirements are satisfied, counselors are able to open up their own private practice where they can see individual clients.

There are a few options for a graduate degree that qualifies a student for state licensure. One popular option is a master’s clinical psychology degree. Another avenue to working as an independent counseling professional is a Master of Clinical Social Work. Then, even more ambitious counseling professionals may seek out an MBA to add a new dimension to their careers. It may seem incongruous for a counselor to pursue a business master’s degree, but it can make good sense. With more business knowledge, counselors can create more effective practices and may even open mental health clinics or rehabilitation facilities that are able to run as successful commercial enterprises.

Online PhD Degree in Mental Health Counseling (PhD)

Mental health counseling professionals can benefit greatly from a PhD or doctorate degree. Most counseling professionals seek a doctorate in order to simply learn more and dive deeper into their passions. After all, a doctorate degree requires a lengthy research paper (dissertation), which is typically at least one hundred pages. Such deep research and analysis is very gratifying for most PhD students, and they are rewarded for their efforts.

Once a PhD is earned, professionals can charge more to their client's insurance company and they can use the title Psychologist. This title is not only a gateway to greater earnings, but it's also highly esteemed within the profession itself. Psychologists may find that it's easier to publish a book, land a paid speaking engagement, and teach at the graduate and undergraduate levels. In fact, a PhD can pave the way to a tenure track professorship in any of the Alaska colleges and universities. Alaskan psychologists may even teach via online media for any college or university that supports online psychology courses.

Become a Mental Health Counselor in Alaska

The human mind and the behaviors it inspires are a constant source of fascination for most people. In Alaska, as in most states, there is abundant evidence of mental health troubles and disorders. Thus, many students are interested in learning more and helping people to overcome problems in order to become happier and more effective individuals. To do this, they need to learn how to become a mental health counseling professional in Alaska.

It's not easy to become a mental healthcare counselor in Alaska, or any state. The first step is to earn a bachelor's degree in counseling, social work, psychology, or some other related field. Students can then take their undergraduate degrees and find an entry-level position in a mental health facility. That may be as an addiction counselor or psychiatric technician.

Once a person is motivated to pursue a career as a mental health counselor, they can use their CACREP accredited undergraduate degree and transcript to gain entry to a master’s counseling degree. That degree could take a number of different forms. Some pursue a Master of Social work, which is a versatile degree that allows holders to earn a counseling license in Alaska. Another popular choice is a master’s clinical psychology degree. Each of these degrees has advantages of their own.

The social work degree is advantageous because it opens the possibility of traditional social work, such as a career as a caseworker. A CACREP accredited clinical psychology degree is preferred because it is considered more traditional, plus it opens the opportunity to earn a PhD and the title of psychologist.

On top of these advanced degrees, students will have to satisfy other requirements before they earn full state licensure. Alaskan regulators require that counselors pass a nationally recognized examination. The Alaska regulations then need proof that licensure candidates have completed at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience in counseling within a two-year time period. Regulations allow for this supervision to take place via telephone or online media.

Finally, all counseling professionals must maintain their licenses with regular renewal. Alaska requires 40 credits for each licensure period. Twenty of these hours must be completed in courses, workshops, or seminars. Three CEU credits must cover ethics. Counselor supervisors must likewise complete CEUs that may include graduate courses, NBCC courses, ACA courses, and AMHCA courses.

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Careers for Mental Health Counseling Graduates

  • Psychiatric Aides:
    These mental health workers assist psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses in the care of mental health patients. Aides may be asked to distribute medications, assist with restraining patients, and helping patients with various issues, including telephone usage or similar. Aides must become certified in the state of Alaska.
  • Mental Health Counselor:
    To work in this profession, aspiring counselors need to complete a master’s counseling degree and satisfy the board's requirements for supervised experience, pass a written examination, and continue to maintain those credentials with continuing education credits for each licensure period.
  • Social Worker (LCSW):
    To work as a licensed clinical social worker, counseling professionals need to complete a Master of Social Work degree. Other requirements for state licensure include 3,000 hours of supervised practice, successful passage of a written exam, and continuing education to maintain the license.
  • Case Manager:
    This position is often with a social services agency within the state or federal government, but there are also private companies that employ case managers. To become a case manager, a degree in social work is a great help. However, this position does not necessarily require a degree.
  • School Counselor:
    This career involves helping students overcome the difficulties they may face as elementary, middle grades, or high school students. School counselors must complete a graduate degree in school counseling. They must also satisfy regulators with a period of supervised work as well as successfully passing a written examination. School counselors also must pass a PRAXIS II exam and hold a teaching or educators’ certification.
  • Psychologist:
    While this term may sometimes seem to be synonymous with counselor, it indicates that the practitioner holds a PhD in counseling psychology. To become a psychologist, candidates need a degree, 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and successful passage of a written examination, among other requirements.
  • Psychiatrist:
    These mental health professionals must earn a medical degree and complete a residency in psychiatry. These days most psychiatrists spend most of their time evaluating patient blood work and adjusting their psychiatric medications accordingly. They may also practice psychotherapy, though that is increasingly rare.
  • Licensed Addiction Counselor:
    To help combat the rise in drug addiction and the ensuing devastation, states license addiction counselors. Addiction counselors can earn their licensure with as little as a high school diploma, but those with a master’s counseling degree can conduct individual therapy with addicts suffering with substance abuse disorder.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist:
    This popular subset of the mental healthcare arena deals with the family unit, including childless and unmarried couples. These professionals need to earn a master’s counseling degree and satisfy their state board's other licensure requirements. Some family therapists may have a degree in this specific field, but others may have clinical psychology degrees to which they've added certificates or experience in the field.

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