Mental health counselors are an important type of professional tasked with helping individuals with their mental health and wellbeing. As a mental health counselor, you might be dealing with patients who are currently going through a tough time due to certain situations in their life or patients who are dealing with a life-long, chronic mental health disorder or condition. To work in this role and be successful, you will need to possess certain skills and qualities. These include:
While studying mental health counseling at Saint Bonaventure University, you will learn the importance of strong communication skills in this role. Counselors need to be able to communicate exceptionally well with others including the use of active listening skills and non-verbal communication to truly understand what their patients are telling them. Often, people do not open up to counselors immediately and it is down to you to determine if what they are not saying is just as, or maybe even more important, than what they are actually telling you.
To work successfully as a mental health counselor, you will need to be a very patient person. Often, people who seek help and support with their mental health do not know where to start or are worried or scared about telling you everything that you need to know. In some cases, it might take weeks, months, or maybe even years for somebody to open up and make progress in counseling. Sometimes the patient might not even be aware of certain things themselves and it’s down to you to have the patience to work through feelings and situations with them, taking as long as your patient needs.
As a mental health counselor, you may be doing this job because of your own mental health struggles in the past that you have been able to successfully overcome or manage. Many mental health counselors do have a personal experience with mental health and can often empathize a lot with their patients because of this. However, you are unlikely to be able to personally relate to every situation that you deal with and need to have a strong ability to put yourself in the patient’s situation and imagine how they must be feeling.
A mental health counselor is somebody who provides a safe and non-judgemental space for patients to talk about some of their toughest struggles. In this role, you are going to be privileged to hear about some people’s deepest and darkest secrets and other things that they would never tell anybody else or otherwise speak about. Because of this, you need to be an approachable person who can put others at ease. You need to be trustworthy as your patients need to know that they can count on you to keep the information that they share confidential.
Mental health counseling is a great career path choice for anybody interested in helping others with their mental health and wellbeing. However, to succeed in this role you will need a specific skill-set.