HDP Careers: Behavioral Health

People in the behavioral health professions assist people with personal, family, educational, mental health, and career decisions and problems. They are trained in a variety of therapeutic techniques used to address a wide range of issues, including depression, addiction and substance abuse, suicidal impulses, stress management, problems with self-esteem, issues associated with aging, job and career concerns, educational decisions, issues related to family, parenting, and marital or other relationship problems, problems of everyday living, eating disorders, assist medical and surgical patients in dealing with illnesses or injuries, specialize in behavior during infancy, childhood, and adolescence, or changes that occur during maturity or old age. They counsel people with disabilities resulting from birth defects, illness or disease, accidents, or the stress of daily life, personal, social, and vocational effects of disabilities.

Behavioral Health and Human Development

Several issues within behavioral health can be linked directly to development.  Even in normative development, changes across the life-span in childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and the elderly can present challenges to an individual’s emotional, behavioral, intellectual, and developmental well being.  Knowing something about how people typically develop over time thus helps us to place behavioral problems and illnesses into context, and also suggests ways that problems can be fixed.  For example, a social anxiety problem as an adult may stem from an inability to form successful personal relationships as a teenager or child. Improper nurturing as a child may cause difficulties in forming trusting relationships as an adult. Understanding the changes that one experiences in the later years of life can help elderly people remain mentally and emotionally strong and independent as long as possible.

Understanding development can also help individuals coping with more severe developmental disorders, developmental psychopathology, and traumatic life events, such as the illness or death of a loved one.  But perhaps most useful to understanding development is in the ability to act preventatively, by teaching individuals how today’s actions can affect them, or their families, in the future.

Training and Credentialing

All behavioral health professions require some type of licensure and certification process, although the procedure can vary by profession and by state.  Most careers require a Master’s degree for higher. However, some (such as a Child Life Specialist) have a bachelor’s as a minimum requirement, with required coursework which may be taken at the graduate or undergraduate level.

Career Descriptions

Clinical Psychology

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and human behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments. Some psychologists work independently, conducting research or working with patients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians and social workers or in school settings, working with students, teachers, parents, and other educators. Those in private practice often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients. Clinical, counseling, and research psychologists need a doctoral degree, either a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. Practicing psychologists also need a license or certification.

Median Salary Minimum Education Level Job Growth outlook
$69,280/year Doctoral or professional degree As fast as average

For More Information

US Dept of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook:

Clinical Psychologists  http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Life-Physical-and-Social-Science/Psychologists.htm

Trade Organizations (including lists of graduate programs):

For more information on careers in all fields of psychology, visit
American Psychological Association

For more information on state licensing requirements, visit
Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards

For more information about psychology specialty certifications, visit
American Board of Professional Psychology

For more information about careers and certification in neuropsychology, visit
American Board of Professional Neuropsychology

Clinical Social Work

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers, clinical social workers, also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. Social workers are employed in a variety of settings, including mental health clinics, schools, child welfare and human service agencies, hospitals, and private practices. They generally work full time and may need to work evenings, weekends, and holidays. Although most social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and two years of post-master experience in a supervised clinical setting. Clinical social workers must also be licensed in the state in which they practice.

Median Salary Minimum Education Level Job Growth outlook
$44,200/year Master's degree Faster than average

For More Information

US Dept of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook: Clinical Social Workers 
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm

Trade Organizations (including lists of graduate programs):
American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work
National Association of Social Workers

For more information about accredited baccalaureate and master’s levels social work degree programs, visit
Council on Social Work Education

For more information about licensure requirements, visit
Association of Social Work Boards

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Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Healthcare Social Workers

Marriage & Family Therapy

Marriage and family therapists (MFT) help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions, to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives. Marriage and family therapists work in a variety of settings, such as private practice and mental health centers. Most work full time. Marriage and family therapists typically are required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.

Median Salary Minimum Education Level Job Growth outlook
$41,500/year Master's degree Much faster than average

For More Information

US Dept of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook:  Marriage and Family Therapists
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm

Trade Organizations (including lists of graduate programs):
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

For general information about counseling and for information about counseling specialties, visit
American Counseling Association

For information about contacting state regulating boards, visit
National Board for Certified Counselors

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions, to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives. Mental health counselors work in a variety of settings, such as private practice and mental health centers. Most work full time. Mental health counselors typically are required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.
Median Salary Minimum Education Level Job Growth outlook
$41,500/year Master's degree Much faster than average

For More Information

US Dept of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook:  Mental Health Counselor
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm

Trade Organizations (including lists of graduate programs):
American Mental Health Counselors Association

For general information about counseling and for information about counseling specialties, visit
American Counseling Association

For information about contacting state regulating boards, visit
National Board for Certified Counselors

Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome challenging life events, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization.. Armed with a strong background in child development and family systems, child life specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences.  Because they understand that a child’s wellbeing depends on the support of the family, child life specialists provide information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. They also play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress.  In addition to hospitals, child life specialists are employed in hospice programs, camps, early intervention programs, courtrooms, dental practices, support/bereavement groups, community programs, and private practice

Median Salary Minimum Education Level Job Growth outlook
$36,256/year Bachelor's degree About average to other professions

For More Information

Trade Organization:
Child Life Council: http://www.childlife.org/

Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors help people with emotional and physical disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, and professional effects of disabilities on employment or independent living. Rehabilitation counselors work in a variety of settings, such as schools, prisons, independent-living facilities, rehabilitation agencies, and private practice. Most work full time. Rehabilitation counselors typically must have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Some positions require certification or a license.

Median Salary Minimum Education Level Job Growth outlook
$33,880/year Master’s degree Faster than average

For More Information

US Dept of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook:

Rehabilitation counselors  http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm

Trade Organizations (including lists of graduate programs):

For more information about counseling and information about counseling specialties, visit
American Rehabilitation Counseling Association

For more information about the Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC) certification and the state licensing regulating boards, visit
Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification

Substance Abuse/Behavior Disorder Counselor

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work in a wide variety of settings, such as mental health centers, community health centers, prisons, and private practice. Most work full time. Educational requirements range from a high school diploma to a master’s degree, depending on the setting, type of work, state regulations, and level of responsibility.

Median Salary Minimum Education Level Job Growth outlook
$38,520/year High School diploma or equivalent Much faster than average

For More Information

US Dept of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook:  Substance Abuse Counselor
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm

Trade Organizations (including lists of graduate programs):

For more information about addiction counselors, visit
Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network

For more information about counseling and counseling specialties, visit
American Counseling Association

For contact information for State regulating boards, visit
National Board for Certified Counselors

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Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

School Psychology

School psychologists apply psychological principles and techniques to education-related and developmental issues. They may address student learning and behavioral problems; design, implement, and evaluate performances; and counsel students and families. They may also consult with other school-based professionals to suggest improvements to teaching, learning, and administrative strategies. School psychologists need an advanced degree and certification or licensure to work. The advanced degree is most commonly the specialist degree (Ed.S. degree, which requires a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours and a 1,200-hour supervised internship), a doctoral degree in school psychology, or in some instances, a master’s degree. School psychologists’ training includes coursework in both education and psychology, because their work addresses education and mental health components of students’ development.


Median Salary Minimum Education Level Job Growth outlook
$67,650/year Master’s degree Faster than average

For More Information

US Dept of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook:

School Psychologists  http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Life-Physical-and-Social-Science/Psychologists.htm

Trade Organizations(including lists of graduate programs):

For more information on careers for school psychologists, visit
National Association of School Psychologists

For more information on state licensing requirements, visit
Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards

For more information on careers in all fields of psychology, visit
American Psychological Association

For more information about psychology specialty certifications, visit
American Board of Professional Psychology