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What is a Mental Health Counselor?

Delaware is one of the smaller states in the United States, but it still makes a huge impact on the national economy. The state's generous tax policies make it a hub of finance that elevate the state far above what its geography and population size might indicate. Where most of Delaware's economic sectors rank in the mid-high 40s, the financial sector comes in at #22 nationally. Perhaps more famously, Delaware is also home to the DuPont company, one of the largest chemical companies in the world.

A licensed professional counselor is a professional who specializes in practicing therapy and psychotherapy with clients in need. Their clients may be suffering from psychological issues that are hindering their personal or professional lives, often both. To address these problems, counseling professionals employ the tools of professional counseling to help their clients work through their difficulties and emerge with a newfound sense of mental health.

Mental health counselors are licensed to work as independent agents in the community, but they can work for larger organizations, as well. Some may work in mental health hospitals, psych wards of general hospitals, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. However, those that work in their own private offices may have part-time hours in a larger facility or they may work as contractors for those larger organizations. For instance, a counselor might work as an interventionist who sends substance abuse victims to a particular rehabilitation clinic.

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Mental Health Counseling Education in Delaware

While finance brings in almost twice the revenue of Delaware's #2 industry, real estate, the 2nd place finisher still brings in a healthy $10 billion in revenue. The #3 position is then taken by professional and business services, which generate over $8 billion and holds the #38 spot nationally. Next is the social services sector, which includes education and healthcare and generates $6 billion for Delaware. The fifth largest industry in Delaware is manufacturing which creates almost $5 billion in economic strength and holds the #43 spot nationally.

Delaware also has great strength in agriculture and is a leader in broiler chickens, potatoes, soybeans, corn, and dairy items. The state capitalizes on its oceanfront property, cultivating a strong and growing tourism business. Delaware's commercial fishing enterprises are likewise strong and growing, helping the state expand its reach into seafood markets up and down the east coast.

Given that Delaware's #4 industry includes mental healthcare, Delaware can rely on its counseling professionals to help maintain a strong economy. The revenues that mental healthcare generates are only part of the story, however. This is because, when Delaware's financiers, farmers, and real estate brokers receive care from a counseling professional, they become better workers themselves. The impact of mental healthcare professionals can go far beyond whatever funds are involved in a mental healthcare transaction.

Since the legislature is well aware of the benefit counseling professionals can bring to the state, they seek to strengthen counseling degree programs statewide. Clinical psychology and social work programs alike receive ample funds to attract and maintain the best faculties possible. They look not only for top talent from PhD programs but also for master’s level mental health counselors from the local area. Locals are always a boon to any faculty in that they can inspire undergraduates with anecdotes and special insights from the local economy.

Associate Degree in Mental Health Counseling (AS)

A two-year associate mental health counseling degree is an attractive option for many students who have long-term goals of working as counseling professionals. Delaware's community colleges often have courses in psychology and allied health professions that can introduce a student to the field. However, an associate mental health counseling degree is not sufficient to earn a license as a therapist or counselor in Delaware, or any state.

An associate degree is a great option for many reasons. One of the chief benefits of a community college is that they are typically close by so that students in smaller towns or areas remote from a large university can start their college career without having to move away. Class sizes in community colleges also tend to be smaller, which is attractive, plus the instructors often hail from top colleges and universities. Finally, community colleges charge far less per credit hour than their four-year counterparts.

Bachelor's Degree in Mental Health Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s degree is a necessary step for every mental health counselor. During the four-year degree, students are able to dive deeper into their area of primary concentration, such as psychology or social work. Students are also able to expand the scope of their knowledge with complimentary courses in fields such as sociology or anthropology. They may even be able to find internship opportunities in the mental health field.

Since most aspiring mental health counseling professionals study psychology for their undergraduate degree, they are able to see the broader field and make more informed decisions about their graduate work. Undergraduate students study aspects of clinical psychology as well as research psychology. The ability to gain field experience only bolsters this knowledge so that they can be confident that they want to study clinical psychology, or research psychology, depending on their preference.

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

A master’s mental health counseling degree or counseling psychology degree is a requirement for all counselors, therapists, and secondary school counseling professionals. Delaware's licensing board requires that this degree come from a recognized, accredited clinical psychology degree program or an accredited Master of Social Work degree program. The state requires a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours, or the quarter-system equivalent, to qualify for state licensure.

A master’s mental health counseling degree enables the holder to pursue work in private practice or in a mental health facility, such as a hospital or clinic. This sort of freedom is a very attractive feature of the profession and a reason many pursue a master’s counseling degree. Those with a master’s counseling degree can also choose to teach at the post-secondary level. Naturally, a master’s counseling degree is also a requirement for those who wish to earn a doctorate degree.

PhD Degree in Mental Health Counseling (PhD)

A PhD is considered the gold standard for counseling professionals in Delaware. With this degree, counselors can use the title Psychologist and enjoy the benefits that come from that status. One of the chief benefits is the ability to charge insurance companies more for client hours. Psychologists might also find that they have an easier time publishing articles and books, which can bolster their counseling practice while generating additional revenue.

Psychologists with a PhD can also teach at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. This may offer a professional the opportunity to expand their career in ways not always available to other professionals. In fact, many psychologists teach a few courses on a part-time basis for the love of teaching but also to add more diversity and interest to their workweek. Psychologists with PhDs will also have an easier time landing tenure-track positions in Delaware colleges and universities.

Become a Mental Health Counselor in Delaware

Mental healthcare is an attractive career option for many. After all, most of us are curious as to what makes people tick. Those who have worked with a counselor may also be interested in helping others. This is part of why many students in might be interested in knowing how they might become a mental health counselor in Delaware.

The road to a career in counseling is not a short one, and it starts with a bachelor’s counseling degree or one in a related field. Most students choose an undergraduate psychology degree to get started in the field, which teaches students the fundamentals of the field, including research methods. From there, aspiring counseling professionals must move on and earn a master’s counseling degree.

A master’s counseling degree must be from a recognized, accredited counseling degree program. Where most graduate degrees are conducted on campuses or some other academic environment, a clinical psychology degree includes many hours of practical experience. Students are required to complete this work under close supervision from a licensed counseling professional.

Even after completing 60 graduate semester hours of work in an accredited degree program, students have more work to do. Delaware requires that license candidates gain even more practical experience. The state needs to see proof of two years of supervised counseling experience. To be precise, Delaware's regulators need to see 3,200 hours of practice that are completed in a period of not less than two years but no more than four. Delaware requires that at least 1,600 of those hours be supervised.

On top of this, Delaware requires successful passage of the National Counselor Examination or an equivalent exam. Other requirements include a background check, fingerprinting, and a clean criminal record. Those who have a criminal conviction may appeal to the board except in the case of felony sexual offenses.

After earning a counseling license from the state of Delaware, counselors still must work to maintain their credentials. Not only must they conduct their practice according to high ethical standards, but they must continue their education. Each licensure period requires that counselors take qualifying courses, including non-academic seminars or graduate courses. They can also publish articles or even conduct their own seminars to earn continuing education units (CEUs).

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Careers for Mental Health Counseling Graduates

  • Psychiatric Aides
    The psychiatric community needs workers who can assist with patient needs. They are employed by psychiatric hospitals and clinics to help the psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses on staff there. Psychiatric aides may be asked to help with patient medications, practical concerns such as checking out for home visits, and facilitating in-house visits with family. Aides must also be able to help restrain patients if they suffer a physical outburst.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    This profession requires a master’s degree, successful passage of the National Counselor Examination, or an equivalent exam, and 3,200 hours of pre-licensure practice. Mental health counselors often work in private practice, but they can also work with established mental health organizations such as state mental hospitals.
  • Clinical Supervisor
    These licensed counseling professionals are a vital part of the counseling licensure process. They oversee the all-important first two years of a counselor’s career and licensure process. Supervisors mentor and guide new counselors and then sign off on their work so that the board will provide them with credentials.
  • Social Worker (LCSW)
    These mental health professionals are credentialed to conduct independent counseling sessions with their clients. LCSWs also may work for state or non-profit social work agencies as caseworkers or counselors. Like their peers in mental health, LCSWs need to earn a master’s degree, a Master of Social Work degree, in particular.
  • Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)
    This is the entry-level nursing credential. While not required as a part of RN licensure, CNAs often start at this level before progressing to licensed practical nurses and then, finally, to credentials as registered nurses. CNAs typically perform duties such as changing bedpans, feeding patients, and escorting patients to appointments within a hospital setting.
  • Psychiatrist
    These mental health professionals are considered the field's top experts. Psychiatrists are first and foremost medical doctors who have completed a residency in psychiatry. Their mental health practices are mostly concerned with monitoring and administering psychiatric drugs to their patients.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
    This mental health profession is focused on one specific population: those suffering from substance abuse disorder. Substance abuse counselors must receive credentials from their state regulatory body. Even those with only a high school diploma may receive licensure, depending on the state, but only professionals with at least a master’s degree may conduct independent counseling sessions.
  • School Counselor
    These education professionals work to help students overcome whatever difficulties they experience in being the best students they can be. School counselors may work on a child's social life or difficulties at home. School counselors also conduct psychological testing to determine a student's overall scholastic competencies.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
    One popular subset of the counseling profession is the marriage and family therapy specialty. These counselors work exclusively with couples and their families to help heal those relationships. While any counselor can, in theory, conduct family or couples therapy, this special credential is sought by most families in need.