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What Is Clinical Mental Health Counseling?

A clinical mental health counselor can occupy many professional roles in numerous settings. Mental health counselors help families work through major and minor life events. These professionals may consult or work for companies looking to improve their corporate culture. Mental health counselors also lead group therapy in a variety of settings, from private practices to substance abuse facilities. They can act as coordinators who assemble a team of professionals — physicians, social workers, attorneys and others — to help clients maximize their physical, mental, social and emotional health.

As you can see, the role of the clinical mental health counselor covers a wide range of responsibilities in many settings. People interested in a career as a clinical mental health counselor should consider enrolling in a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Earning this degree through Lamar University’s online master’s degree program can be an excellent way for working adults to develop the skills they need to enter the field.

What Kinds of Issues Do Clinical Mental Health Counselors Help Address?

Clinical mental health counselors treat a variety of problems, disorders and everyday issues, such as:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Chronic pain
  • Grief
  • Self-esteem
  • Marital distress

Clinical mental health counselors provide a range of services to help treat and address these challenges:

  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Psychotherapy
  • Treatment planning
  • Brief and solution-based therapy
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Psychoeducational and prevention programs
  • Crisis management

Furthermore, mental health counselors may work in a variety of specialized therapeutic settings, such as substance abuse rehabilitation and marriage and family counseling.

Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Centers

Many mental health counselors work in substance abuse facilities — both inpatient and outpatient. One way that counselors who focus on substance abuse help people is by leading group therapy. In these sessions, substance abuse counselors guide discussions with their clients, contributing clinically appropriate advice and encouragement. These counselors may use various methods to achieve emotional recovery goals, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). According to, “CBT for alcohol and drug addiction works by targeting your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to challenge unhelpful patterns and teach new coping skills.”

A clinical mental health counselor in these settings may also refer their clients to a psychiatrist for medications to treat underlying mental health issues of a more physiological nature. Unfortunately, many people with substance abuse problems deal with co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety disorder. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website, “More than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem.” Coordinating this facet of care is an important aspect of a mental health counselor’s job.

The job prospects for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors are on the rise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this rapid job growth is due to many factors, including a shift toward “treatment and counseling services rather than jail time for people with addictions or mental health concerns.” BLS predicts 22% growth for these occupations between the years 2021 and 2031, compared to a projected average growth rate of 5%  for all occupations during that time frame.

Marriage and Family Counseling

Marriage and family counselors assist couples and families in working through problems and issues in order to rebuild relationships. Married clients may be trying to avoid a divorce or make one as amicable as possible. The loss of a job or a relocation can also cause stress on a family, and counseling can help deal with that. A family member with a substance abuse problem or other mental health issue may also lead to a family seeking guidance from a mental health counselor.

No matter the stressor, counselors can help family members set boundaries and create healthy coping strategies. Some families lack the resources for medical care and proper nutrition, or perhaps a parent is having a hard time finding a job. Family counselors can perform assessments of their clients’ situations and put them in touch with the organizations that can help.

Marriage and family counselors often work in private practices, where the most career growth is available. People are increasingly choosing counselors over doctors and psychologists due to lower costs of care.

Other Places to Work as a Clinical Mental Health Counselor

The following are some other agencies and spaces where clinical mental health counselors may work:

  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Indian Health Services
  • Medicare
  • Military Health Systems
  • Jails or prisons


Every state requires counselors to secure licensure. BLS reports that while licensure requirements vary by state, all states require that mental health counselors in private practice hold a master’s degree and complete a set number of supervised clinical hours. There are often different kinds of licenses, depending on the counselor’s level of education and specialty.

For a wider range of employment options, it is best to secure the highest level of licensure. After earning the required degree, you will need to pass the licensing exam for your specialty in your state. Many counselors must work under the supervision of an experienced counselor before they can practice on their own.

The Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Lamar University

Lamar University’s online M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program can give you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in almost any counseling area. You will be able to practice in any number of settings with a diverse client base. The program also offers in-depth practical experiences through internships. Because Lamar University offers the coursework 100% online, students can complete their assignments at any time or place that is convenient. This flexibility allows students to continue working while earning their degree.

Learn more about the Lamar University online M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.

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