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What is a Mental Health Counselor?

Kansas is one of the primary agricultural states in the US. In fact, they rank 7th nationwide for their agricultural production. Wheat is one of their top crops, as are corn, sorghum, and soybeans. It may be no surprise then that Kansas' top industry is manufacturing as many machines and facilities are needed to process all of that food. On top of this, Kansas also has a strong presence in mining with petroleum and natural gas leading that sector. Kansas also has a strong presence in helium, limestone, and salt mining.

Mental health counselors are professionals who specialize in the psychological disorders and difficulties that plague so many people. They typically use psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, to help their patients work through the issues that give them trouble. These counselors must hold a master’s degree and a license to conduct one-on-one therapy with clients as a licensed professional counselor. They may also oversee their patients' medication as drugs such as antidepressants are now a significant part of mental healthcare. However, only a medical doctor can prescribe psychiatric drugs.

There are also mental health workers who do not yet have advanced degrees. These mental healthcare workers are vital to the functioning of mental health institutions, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities and other mental health clinics. Some, such as addictions counselors, may hold state licensure but those credentials are not enough to conduct one-on-one psychotherapy.

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Online Mental Health Counseling Education in Kansas

The Kansas economy is made of more than natural resources, however. Their top five industries include real estate, professional services, social services such as education, and wholesale trade, presumably selling the processed food the state produces. Other top industries in Kansas include finance and information, indicating that Kansas is keeping pace with global trends.

One of the unsung sectors in the Kansas economy is its clinical mental health counseling arena. While it’s tucked into the state's 4th largest industry along with education, social assistance, and healthcare, the state always needs its mental healthcare professionals. After all, workers who survive some form of trauma, including the loss of a loved one, economic hardship, or genetic difficulties all need help in overcoming those problems. When they have access to strong mental healthcare, people can move on and become happier and more productive within the economy.

To ensure that their state's workers are taken care of, Kansas ensures that its colleges and universities have strong psychology and counseling degree programs. Public funds are utilized by counseling degree programs to pay top academic talent, support research facilities, and to seek out new faculty members. After all, each faculty body is always evolving. New research demands that professors adopt new ideas, not to mention the normal factors that cause attrition. Students interested in working as licensed professional counselors (LPCs) may need to take the National Counselor Exam after completing their degree requirements, but first they'll need to find a counseling program to attend.

Online Associate Degree in Mental Health Counseling (AS)

Mental healthcare careers can launch with an associate counseling degree. While the Kansas state board will need at least a master’s clinical mental health counseling degree to approve licensure for psychotherapy, a counseling degree from a community college will help a person start on their path. While some states provide an addictions counseling license to those with an associate counseling degree, you’ll need a bachelor’s to earn this type of licensure in Kansas. Note that this does not give you the ability to work as a licensed professional counselor outside of addictions counseling.

An associate counseling degree is a great first step for many reasons. For starters, an associate degree requires that students complete the core college curriculum. With those courses out of the way, those who want to earn a full bachelor’s counseling degree can concentrate exclusively on their degree-specific courses once they enter a four-year college or university.

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

A bachelor’s counseling degree is a very strong first step on the way to a career in mental healthcare. Employers like to hire workers with a bachelor’s degree because those candidates have delved deeper into their chosen subject and are likely more invested in making it a career. However, a bachelor’s counseling degree still isn't quite enough to earn full licensure as a counselor.

A bachelor’s degree can still be of great use on its own. Those who wish to work as counselors can still counsel people but not in a psychotherapeutic environment. They could apply their counseling acumen in other areas where people are in distress or in need of assistance. After all, a mature understanding of human behavior is immensely useful in a wide number of careers. Further, those who are eager to earn a license for psychotherapy can use their bachelor’s degree to enroll in a master’s mental health counseling degree program. Additionally, with a bachelor’s degree in this field, you can go on to earn licensure in addiction counseling and have a career in that field for as long as you wish.

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

A master’s mental health counseling degree is the path to success for most mental healthcare professionals. State boards across the nation require this degree as a necessary prerequisite for licensure as an independent counselor. Licensure also involves a period of supervised or probationary counseling, on top of an exam, a background check, and other qualifiers. Those who reach a master's program can also choose from a variety of specializations or related educational programs. These include school counseling, family counseling, counseling psychology, career counseling, clinical counseling, counselor education, Christian counseling, group counseling, counseling of mental disorders, developmental psychology, substance abuse counseling, crisis management, human services, etc.

A master’s counseling degree often involves intensive academic work but also internships where students apply their knowledge. These internships are often in free counseling clinics where students may meet some very challenging clients. Students are also asked to do a great deal of self-examination during this period. In fact, a master’s counseling degree is tantamount to two years of psychotherapy for many students. This process helps budding counselors learn more about the process from a first-hand point of view. The experience should help them more closely identify with their clients while providing them with enhanced objectivity and empathy.

Online PhD Degree in Mental Health Counseling (PhD)

A PhD in mental health counseling is often considered the brass ring for the industry. Counselors who have a PhD have earned the title psychologist, and thus have a higher status in the community, and higher pay, too. Insurance companies will allow higher hourly rates for psychologists because they have greater expertise. The enhanced status that goes with a doctorate can mean that psychologists have an easier time publishing articles or books, while also opening up new career opportunities.

A PhD can also lead to a career in academia for those who choose that route. Though colleges often hire instructors who have a master’s degree, those positions are often part-time, adjunct positions. A PhD can lead to a full-time, tenured position which essentially ensures a permanent job. Some who receive their PhD alter course a bit and focus on research psychology rather than clinical work. They can then take positions as research faculty in which they are solely concerned with writing grants and conducting research.

Become a Mental Health Counselor in Kansas

You might be one of those students who is interested in becoming a mental health counselor. Students considering this path may have an idea of majoring in psychology but, beyond that, things may seem murky. While most states follow the same pattern when it comes to counseling licensure, each has its own quirks. Thus, it's vital to examine Kansas' specific requirements to know what is required to become a mental health counselor in Kansas.

For starters, every mental health counselor will need a bachelor’s counseling degree. Typically, this ends up being a four-year psychology degree that covers courses such as research methods, theory of personality, and more. When seeking out the best bachelor’s psychology degree, students should first look for a fully accredited degree program. Those who are set on becoming counselors should seek out schools that offer counseling-specific courses.

From there, a master’s degree is absolutely necessary. The Kansas board requires a total of 60 graduate hours, which include 45 hours of coursework focused on counseling. The board requires that these counseling courses cover ten specific areas including: theory and practice, a helping relationship, individual appraisal, research, professional orientation, and a supervised practicum and internship. The board then wants to see satisfactory scores on a board-required examination. They also need confirmation that the candidate merits the public’s trust.

For the practicum, the board requires that students complete a minimum of 280 hours spent working in direct contact with clients. This can include client assessments or psychotherapy. Then, after graduation from a master’s counseling degree program, candidates need to complete two years of supervised experience. The board requires a minimum of 3,000 hours including 1,500 hours of psychotherapy.

Note that mental health counselors have a choice when it comes to their graduate degrees. While most will gravitate to a master’s clinical psychology degree, others may choose a Master of Clinical Social Work. A degree in clinical psychology can lead to a PhD and the title of psychologist. Those in a master’s clinical psychology degree program who decide that a career in psychotherapy is not for them might be able to switch to a research psychology track and a career in academia. Meanwhile, a MSW is a great choice for those who would like the option to work as social workers.

Potential Careers for Mental Health Counseling Graduates

  • Psychiatric Aides
    These mental health workers assist psychiatric nurses and psychiatrists in their daily work. Aides may help to restrain patients who are experiencing a disturbance but normally they help distribute medications, manage patient movements, and other tasks. Psychiatric aides in Kansas don't currently need a special state credential but some states, such as California, do have licensure requirements.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    These mental healthcare professionals must hold a master’s degree in clinical psychology or perhaps a Master of Social Work. Each counselor must earn their licensure from their state by completing the requisite number of supervised hours, both while as a student and after graduation. Counselors must also pass an exam and show proof that they are fit to serve the general public.
  • Social Worker (LCSW)
    A licensed clinical social worker is a mental healthcare worker who has been licensed by the state to conduct one-on-one psychotherapy. They can also open a private counseling practice. Since their degree is a Master of Social Work, LCSWs often enjoy the fact that they can work in the social work field. In fact, some may use their credentials to work part-time as social workers on top of a private counseling practice.
  • Case Manager
    These social workers are often required to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work or some related field. The duties of a case manager are mostly administrative in that they help clients find the resources they need and then follow up with the client to monitor their success.
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
    RNs are near the top of their profession. Registered nurses may take on a specialty in their career such as surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, or oncological nursing. Some nurses work in mental health as psychiatric nurses. Registered nursing requires state credentials and significant coursework.
  • Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)
    This entry-level healthcare profession is a great way to get started in the field. CNAs are certified by the state and are highly valued on hospital wards. Their duties often involve the more menial tasks such as assisting patients with hygienic matters, transporting patients to appointments, and perhaps custodial tasks. The educational requirements for this position are nominal, so getting started working as a CNA is a good option for many.
  • Psychiatrist
    To become a psychiatrist, it is necessary to complete medical school. Medical doctors then work through a psychiatric residency before entering the workforce. Psychiatrists spend most of their time evaluating patient blood samples and moderating medications. Since the rise in psychiatric drugs, the profession has mostly moved away from psychotherapy, though many still do use talk therapy in conjunction with medications.
  • Career Counselor
    These counselors needn't earn a state license, but they typically are required to have a master’s degree in their field. Career counselors work on university campuses where they help students achieve their career goals. A big part of their work involves arranging career fairs and other campus events that expose students to career opportunities with local and national firms.

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