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With the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reporting that 1 in 5 adults grapple yearly with mental illness, the need for professional care is clear.
Enter clinical mental health counselors, equipped with the expertise to create a safe haven for clients using therapeutic, evidence-based techniques. And just as importantly, the potential to reshape society's perception of what it means to be well in both body and mind.
Intrigued by the possibilities of this life-changing profession? Read on to explore whether it could be the right fit for you.
According to Dr. Matt Glowiak, a clinical faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), clinical mental health counseling is a therapeutic process in which licensed professionals help their clients address and manage emotional, psychological and behavioral challenges. It serves to promote well-being, enhance coping skills and facilitate personal growth through talk therapy, assessment and the development of effective management strategies.
In addition to individual importance, Glowiak emphasizes clinical mental health counseling's high cultural importance. He specifically notes the ability of those in the profession to advocate for positive social change by spreading mental health awareness and empowering marginalized voices.
The demand for experts in the field reflects its importance. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors is projected to grow 22% through 2031 — four times faster than the average for all occupations.
The BLS indicates this rigorous rate is anticipated, in part, as a result of people continuing to seek addiction and mental health counseling services, states seeking treatment and counseling services, and the continued need for counselors to provide military veterans with appropriate care.
The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) defines clinical mental health counselors as "highly-skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy" and "combine traditional psychotherapy with a practical problem-solving approach" to create a path for change.
"Mental health counseling is housed within the medical professions, as the issues we address with clients are ones in which lives may be at stake," said Glowiak. "Consider, for instance, imminent harm to self or others. If unprepared, one cannot possibly possess the competence and wherewithal to respond accordingly."
The National Career Development Association (NCDA) notes the day-to-day responsibilities of a clinical mental health counselor tend to vary based on their clients, work environment and specialty.
However, Mood Health illustrates that the bulk of any clinical mental health counselor's day is typically spent with clients. According to Glowiak, sessions can be held in one-on-one, couples, family and group settings, depending on individualized needs. Outside of scheduled appointment times, explains the AMHCA, some clinical mental health counselors may be on call for crisis situations. This could include helping a client manage acute distress or making them a referral to emergency services.
Since every client session needs to be carefully chronicled, the American Counseling Association (ACA) highlights documentation as another important element of a clinical mental health counselor's day. Paperwork generally includes assessments, progress notes, treatment plans and the like.
According to Glowiak, mental health counselors repeatedly set aside time to attend workshops, research seminars, and events held by industry-based organizations. This grants them the opportunity to learn the latest research and therapeutic approaches and, in turn, treat their clients most effectively.
Some clinical mental health counselors may also take it upon themselves to help raise public mental health awareness, notes Counseling Today. This can include things like organizing workshops, speaking in public forums or leading support groups.
As the role of a clinical mental health counselor can be particularly demanding, the importance of daily self-care should not be overlooked. Glowiak deeply agrees and said, "Self-care is a major theme of the profession, as without it, we cannot supply our all to others. As they say, 'One cannot pour from an empty cup.'"
Clinical mental health counselors work in a variety of settings. The BLS specifies the largest employers of substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors in 2021 were as follows:
Other settings may include prisons, probation or parole agencies and juvenile detention facilities. Clinical mental health counselors may also choose to establish their own private practice and work for themselves.
In terms of time commitment, the BLS notes that "most substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors work full time, although part-time work is common. In some settings, such as inpatient or residential facilities, they may need to work evenings, nights or weekends."
The BLS reports the median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $48,520 in 2021, with the highest 10% earning more than $77,980.
Of the top industries in which substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors work, government paid the highest median annual wage in 2021 at $60,450, followed by hospitals (state, local and private) at $49,630.
"The process toward becoming a mental health counselor is multifaceted and ongoing. Even when one does become a clinical mental health counselor, continued education (among other requirements) is necessary to maintain licensure," said Glowiak. "One must also abide by federal and state law as well as governing body and institutional policies and standards."
He notes the initial road to becoming a clinical mental health counselor typically adheres to standardized steps, with some variation depending on your jurisdiction:
Depending on the state in which you practice, your official title may differ. The AMHCA lists the following as some of the most common:
After officially obtaining your license, you're free to begin taking on clients in a professional capacity.
Though psychologists and clinical mental health counselors are both mental health professionals who work to help others with emotional, psychological and behavioral challenges, there are several key distinctions between the two professions.
According to Glowiak, these distinctions include but are not limited to:
These professional differences create collaborative opportunities for psychologists and clinical mental health counselors, as they may refer clients to one another to ensure they receive the most comprehensive care.
When it comes to pursuing a career in clinical mental health counseling, many feel the reward is worth the effort.
Just ask Glowiak. "Being a mental health counselor is among the most fulfilling careers a person can have," he said. "Though the work is challenging, the fulfillment received in helping someone get to a better place cannot be understated."
Discover more about SNHU’s master's degree in counseling: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you’ll learn and how to request information about the program.
Kelly Hamilton is a copywriter in higher education. You can find her on LinkedIn.
Online therapy provides a private, convenient and often affordable way to access mental health help without requiring you to visit a counseling center or therapist’s office in person. Instead, you can connect with your therapist via video call, phone call and/or text message conversation, depending on your needs and preferences.
Online therapy is a safe space in which you can address courses like depression, anxiety, stress, anger management, insomnia, panic attacks, eating disorders, trauma, relationship issues, life transitions, bereavement and more.
Different online therapy platforms support different methods of therapy delivery, so first consider the way(s) in which you would like to receive help. The best online therapy options in our evaluation were broad telehealth sites that include therapists: Amwell, Doctor on Demand and MDLive. These services mirror a traditional therapy appointment, focusing on live video sessions with a therapist.
Some online therapy platforms allow you to purchase one video therapy session at a time while others require a monthly subscription, which usually includes a single video therapy session a month and access to unlimited text messaging with your therapist. If ongoing communication with your therapist sounds beneficial to you, consider a platform with this subscription option. Just note that “unlimited messaging” means that you can text message your therapist as much as you like, but your therapist might respond only once or twice a day on weekdays.
Some platforms, such as Online-Therapy.com, focus heavily on the skill-building components of therapy, offering tools like worksheets that your therapist reviews, journals, activity plans to help you schedule and keep track of certain behaviors, and even yoga videos.
Many online therapy services have their own mobile apps as well.
“Each [communication] format plays a significant role in the total therapy process,” says Lisa Henderson, a licensed professional counselor expert at the American Counseling Association and co-founder of Synchronous Health in Nashville, Tennessee. “If you’re doing anything that’s what I would consider deep work—trying to resolve trauma, getting into the roots of addictions or eating disorders, anything where you’re doing a lot of processing—I prefer video. You need to be able to see and read body language.”
Meanwhile, Henderson says texting is fantastic for check-ins around skill building and using those new skills. “Texting is much better for the coaching side when I want to deviate away from the processing side.” Texting or check-ins between live sessions are often used in dialectical behavior therapy to reinforce the client’s practicing of evidence-based skills when they encounter difficult situations.
As far as phone calls go, Henderson suggests this format is best for navigating gray areas. “It’s harder to coach without getting into processing on the phone, but if it’s complicated and you need to work through why something didn’t work, then the phone would certainly be better than texting,” she adds.
The best online therapy platforms connect you with licensed providers, which can include psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors.
It can be challenging to compare online therapy platforms due to their wide range of plans and prices. Based on our research, here are several ways to identify the best online therapy for you:
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Many people are likely to need some mental health support due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of adults with depression symptoms more than tripled between March 2020 and September 2020—from 8.5% to 27.8%—according to a study published in JAMA.
Certain disorders and issues may be better suited for virtual therapy than others. It’s usually appropriate and effective to address anxiety disorders, body image issues and guilt issues with online therapy. People seeking personal growth and the children of alcoholics can benefit from the online therapy format as well, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
Situations not appropriate for online therapy, according to the study, include:
Mary Alvord, a psychologist in Maryland who teaches mental health professionals about telehealth, Jay Shore, Ph.D., a psychiatrist and director of telemedicine at the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and Lisa Henderson, a licensed professional counselor expert at the American Counseling Association, offer these pros and cons for online therapy. Other sources of this advice include Psychology Today and the American Psychological Association.
Circumvents mental health stigma. “For people whom stigma is a concern, especially if they live in a tight-knit community, parking their car outside a counseling center or therapy office can really violate their privacy,” Henderson says. “But online therapy is really discrete and can protect people’s privacy and confidentiality in ways that in-person [therapy] simply cannot.”
Convenience and safety. If you’re unable to travel safely during bad weather or can’t take time out of your workday to travel to and from a mental health professional’s office, a virtual visit can be a good substitute.
Sense of intimacy. Shore says some patients may prefer their familiar at-home surroundings versus an “artificial clinic environment.” Henderson echoes these sentiments. “In some ways, video is more intimate than being in the same room because we’re in each other’s space,” she says. “You might be in my office, but it’s in my home, so it feels like you’re in my home just as I am in your home. That really bridges a gap, as opposed to being on my turf when you come into my office.”
Similar outcomes. In-person and video visits hold the potential to deliver similar results, according to Shore. Henderson agrees: “We see just as much, if not more, improvement in online therapy settings. Apples to apples, in-person therapy versus telehealth, there’s really no difference between which one is more effective.”
Easier access. For people who live far from the nearest therapist office or counseling center, online therapy can provide a readily available alternative.
Little to no wait time. A virtual appointment may be able to begin on time while an in-office appointment may be delayed by paperwork and other bureaucratic hurdles.
Nonverbal communication. A therapist may not pick up on a patient’s nonverbal cues during a virtual appointment. Alvord explains that much of our communication is nonverbal. However, Henderson points out that the proximity of the camera lens during video appointments can provide more visual communication through facial expressions than an in-person appointment where a greater physical distance exists between the therapist and the client.
Limited effectiveness for some. Certain patients, such as some children or people with autism spectrum disorder, may not respond well to virtual therapy, Alvord notes. Patients with dementia or other cognitive issues also may not do well in virtual sessions without modifications, such as a caregiver being with the patient, Shore says..
Technology. Some patients’ homes may not be equipped with high-speed internet service, or the patient may not be comfortable with technology, making virtual therapy difficult or even impossible to carry out.
Insurance coverage. In some cases, your health insurance provider may cover an in-person therapy session but may not cover a virtual session. Such policies are constantly changing, though, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speak to an agent at your insurance company to confirm what your coverage currently includes.
Alvord suggests asking these questions when selecting an online therapist:
Regulation of online therapy sites and mobile apps—an area of mental health known as telebehaviorial health or telemental health—is a bit of a hodgepodge.
Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulate some, but not all, medical apps. The safety of medical apps “is an emerging public health issue,” say researchers in a 2020 study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. They called for establishment of “vigilant regulatory frameworks” to govern these apps.
As the FDA “continues to develop a framework for oversight, industry professionals have noted that the agency has taken a hands-off approach for mental health apps in particular,” say researchers in The Regulatory Review, a publication by University of Pennsylvania’s Program on Regulation.
At the state level, regulation typically focuses on doctors who deliver telehealth services, but state agencies have stepped up their regulation of psychologists, counselors and other mental health professionals who use telehealth. For its part, the American Counseling Association emphasizes that counselors who offer telebehavioral services must adhere to state licensing requirements. Many online therapy sites stress that all of their therapists are licensed.
On top of state regulations, compliance with professional ethical standards and HIPAA may come into play with online therapy.
Online therapy also raises questions about regulation when a therapist is in one state and the patient is in another. Most of the time, therapists can only practice in the state they’re licensed, which means their client must be in the same state even if the sessions are virtual–an exception would be if they obtained some type of temporary or provisionary permit with the state board where the client resides. This is important because therapists must abide by rules and regulations overseen by their specific licensing boards, and interstate cases can cause issues in investigating problems involving a therapist’s professional conduct.
If you need to lodge a complaint about an online therapy platform, first alert the site to your concerns. Next, you can reach out to the FDA and FTC. To file a complaint about a specific therapist, contact the agency in your state that’s in charge of licensing the therapist’s profession. Licensing rules vary for psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors.
Before you commit to online therapy, ask yourself:
Some sites market their services as therapy, but those claims may be false or misleading, says the American Psychological Association (APA), because some therapists may not be professionally licensed.
According to the APA, “therapist” and “psychotherapist” are not “legally protected” words in some states, meaning someone who promotes themselves as a therapist may not be licensed. Numerous online therapy providers promote the fact their therapists are licensed.
Online therapy may not be right for everyone in every situation. For example, online therapy may not be ideal for people with several mental disorders or who pose a threat to themselves or others, according to a Frontiers in Psychiatry study.
However, research suggests professionals and patients view telehealth favorably and that teletherapy can be effective. “I would say—and have heard some of my clients say, too—that in some ways, online therapy is even a little bit more comfortable than being in the same room,” Henderson says. “And that has implications on people feeling relaxed and opening up.”
Private and government-sponsored health insurance don’t cover telehealth services, including online therapy, evenly. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says most private health insurance covers at least some telehealth offerings. Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid cover telehealth in certain cases.
If an online therapy provider accepts insurance, they can bill your insurer directly. You’ll still be responsible for your copays and deductibles. If the site doesn’t accept insurance, you may be able to submit your bills to the insurer for reimbursement, depending on your plan. You may also need a diagnosis in order to use insurance.
Meanwhile, you may be able to use your health savings account (HSA) or flexible savings account (FSA) to pay for online therapy.
Alvord and Shore provide these tips for Preparing for an online therapy session:
Not all “online therapists” are legit. To be safe, make sure your therapist has licensing in your state, such as a licensed marriage and family therapist or licensed clinical social worker. The best online therapy services will also have psychiatrists and/or psychologists available.
Not all therapists can prescribe medication, regardless of whether you meet with them online or in person. A couple of online therapy services we evaluated have plans that specifically include medication in the pricing: Cerebral and Brightside. Other online therapy services, such as Amwell, can connect you with therapists who can prescribe.
Telehealth and teletherapy practices must adhere to the same codes of ethics, regulations (federal and state) and professional standards as in-person treatment. These responsibilities include maintaining confidentiality and storing electronic patient records securely.
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By Ashlyn Beck | Staff Writer
The Baylor Counseling Center is a free resource on campus that offers students a safe and honest environment where they can connect with others.
Dr. Randal Boldt, senior psychologist and senior associate director, has worked in the Counseling Center for 16 years. He said the center’s current mission is to combat what Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called “an epidemic of isolation and loneliness” with “the healing effects of social connection and community.”
“I can meet with people who are struggling and help them find their path through that — not just through the struggle but toward thriving and resiliency,” Boldt said. “They tap into their own gifts and connect, celebrate and enjoy life there.”
Dr. Kallie Kobold, psychologist and director of outreach, said the heart of the Counseling Center is helping students find a way to connect with themselves and others. Students can participate in one-on-one therapy, group sessions or anonymous online counseling, but the goal is for them to make connections.
“Counseling and therapy can be a way to slow down, be present and listen to what’s actually going on and what you want for yourself,” Kobold said. “Our goal is to be able to provide that through whatever avenue that may be. We just want for people to get connected where they are.”
According to Boldt and Kobold, a unique tool the Counseling Center is using this fall is Togetherall. In addition to providing 24/7 care, this online platform is a space for students to receive and offer support to their peers anonymously. Togetherall is constantly supervised by licensed counselors who can provide care at any time.
“When peers connect with each other, it is really powerful,” Kobold said.
Kobold said one of the greatest strengths of the Counseling Center is simply being available. It is constantly growing to meet the needs of the student body, and the online platform Togetherall is just one example.
“We want students to have access to mental health support,” Kobold said. “Not everybody is ready to come to the Counseling Center or needs the Counseling Center. They really just want to connect with peers.”
Boldt said the Counseling Center ensures students’ needs are met during a time in their lives that can be particularly stressful and anxiety-inducing.
“We understand the struggles, and we are not here to judge, but to supply you a safe place to connect,” Boldt said. “We are on your side.”
In addition to the Counseling Center and Togetherall, one resource that is always available to students is the suicide hotline, which can be reached by calling 9-8-8.
According to the Counseling Center website, students can schedule appointments by walking in, calling the number or going online through the Health Portal.
Our Take on Experian IdentityWorks
Experian IdentityWorks offers identity theft protection plans for individuals and families. Membership ranges from $0 to $34.99 a month, with identity theft insurance and resolution support included in the paid plans. If you’re looking for comprehensive identity protection, consider springing for a paid plan, but if your main focus is being alerted to potential fraud through credit monitoring, the free Basic plan could be your best choice.
Identity theft protection services empower individuals to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and fraudsters, offering peace of mind and a sense of security in an increasingly vulnerable digital landscape. Chances are you’re familiar with Experian, one of the three national credit bureaus that generate personal credit reports alongside Equifax and TransUnion. Experian also offers other products and services, including identity theft protection.
If you’re looking to protect your identity while also keeping a close eye on your credit activity, you may want to check out Experian’s IdentityWorks. The credit bureau offers ID theft protection plans starting at $0, and includes a suite of credit report and score monitoring features in each package.
When you sign up for IdentityWorks, you’ll get access to your Experian credit report, FICO Score and dark web surveillance reports, even if you choose the free Basic plan.
For more protection, you can opt to subscribe to the Premium plan or Family plan. The two paid plans are practically identical, except that the family plan covers more people. Both offer a long list of security features, including alerts for Social Security Number activity, change of address, court records and sex offender registry and both include up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.
Experian is one of three national credit bureaus. In addition to providing credit reports and credit monitoring, the company offers a wide variety of identity theft protection services.
Experian’s membership-based IdentityWorks plans are heavy on credit protection, but compared to some competitors like Aura, they lack cybersecurity protection. You won’t get VPNs, password managers or malware removal with IdentityWorks.
IdentityWorks paid plans stand out for their suite of ID monitoring features, including SSN trace alerts and social media and change of address monitoring.
IdentityWorks memberships are available for free or for a monthly subscription fee, but all plans include the following:
If you’d like to sign up, you’ll need to create an account by providing the last four digits of your SSN and your telephone number. Then, you’ll need to submit a brief registration form with your contact information and you’ll have to agree to receive product promotions.
Experian’s free IdentityWorks Basic plan helps you keep a watch over your credit report activity. But if you want more thorough identity protection and alerts, you’ll need a paid plan. For $24.99 or $34.99 a month, you’ll get monitoring and alerts for a variety of suspicious activities, including financial account takeovers and dark web activity.
The downside is that you still may not be satisfied with Experian’s customer service, especially after an identity theft incident.
Customer support is not available 24/7, and Experian has just 1.1 out of five stars based on customer reviews submitted to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
While most of Experian’s BBB reviews are likely written by customers who don’t use IdentityWorks, many mention issues you could encounter with IdentityWorks, including difficulty unfreezing credit reports and inability to reach a live agent.
Experian IdentityWorks stands out amongst the competition when it comes to price. You might have trouble finding any other free identity protection service, although it’s worth keeping in mind that Experian’s free Basic plan offers minimal protection outside of credit security.
For a paid plan, the best choice depends on the features you want. IdentityWorks provides a comprehensive suite of identity monitoring services and alerts, but unlike some competitors, it doesn’t offer much when it comes to cybersecurity, like VPNs, password protection or antivirus protection.
If your main concern is keeping your credit file safe, an Experian IdentityWorks plan could be a good choice. Experian has been in the credit business for decades and already has access to your credit information, so their plans naturally include a variety of credit-related security features. Plus, you can get a Basic plan through Experian for free.
But even if you don’t sign up for IdentityWorks, you can still get all of the following from Experian at no cost:
For identity protection with cybersecurity features, you may find a better deal elsewhere. If you and your family need support with keeping your devices secure, try finding an identity protection plan that includes features like a password manager, gaming monitoring and/or antivirus protection.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Experian IdentityWorks offers two paid memberships that both come with free, seven-day trials. Customers can cancel their trial membership within those first seven days for no charge. Experian also offers a free IdentityWorks Basic plan.
Experian IdentityWorks is an identity protection product offered by the credit reporting company Experian. In addition to IdentityWorks, Experian offers other credit monitoring and protection services and financial education resources.
The Basic Experian IdentityWorks membership is free. Experian also offers a premium plan that covers one adult for $24.99 a month, or a family plan that covers two adults and up to 10 children for $34.99 a month.
The free IdentityWorks Basic plan from Experian does not include insurance, but both of the paid plans include up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.