Becoming An Efficient Mental Health Counselor

Mental health is a wide subject with many professionals incorporated. Primarily, a mental health professional is charged with the task of offering services which ultimately improve a person’s mental health or treat any kind of mental illness. Different professionals exist in the mental health sector: psychiatrists, clinical social workers, clinical psychologists and mental health counselors. Although such practitioners cover the same illnesses, conditions and disorders dealt with by these professionals, depend on the perceived scope of their skills. Some mental health professionals help in the enhancement of relationships while others are charged with the responsibility of treating specific mental illnesses. Different laws guiding the mental health profession, education and training accorded to the professional apportion the scope which a mental health professional is to undertake.

This document examines the plans which I will incorporate to become an efficient mental health counselor. Modalities to materialize the ethical issues which form the core basis on code of ethics under ACA will also be addressed. Insights into social change and its effectiveness in the mental health industry will be tackled as well. A comparison between a practicing mental health practitioner and my views will be tabled so will class discussions on professional identity.

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Duties of a Mental Health counselor

Mental health counseling is a psycho-educational discipline which came into being in the 1970s. Mental Health counselors (MHCs) are charged with the task of providing mental health counseling especially to the patients through incorporating dynamic and holistic approaches which are indeed strength based. The MHCs have excellent educational qualification and knowhow, having achieved this through varied experience in counseling. While other professionals in the mental health docket are excellent in treating mental health illness, the MHCs have been grounded in counseling with emphasis in such areas as developmental theory. More often than not the MHC collects data vital in identifying the mental, behavioral as well as emotional disorders and problems affecting a particular client thereby coming up with modalities to treat the patient (Palmo, 1999). Thus the MHC does not only treat a patient’s dysfunction on matters regarding self awareness, general body wellbeing as well as personal growth but also is concerned with an individuals total environment which plays a major role in making him or her completely healthy. MHCs can thus be described as a cadre of professionals tasked to offer counseling services in mental health centers, learning institutions as well as in hospitals and clinics.

The success and significance of this profession cannot be underemphasized. Through the utilization of psycho-educational approach during the counseling process, prevention of mental illness is emphasized and achieved by the MHCs. Instead of medical model a holistic approach based on developmental theory is utilized. Many individual, families as well as groups have largely benefitted from MHCs through treatment of mental disorders as well as emotional imbalances like depression, suicidal impulses, substance addiction, grief as well as self esteem issues confronting them (Crespi & Stier, 1997).

Developing Professional identity as a MHC

When laying the basis in identifying the MHC, several factors come into play since particular professional as well as scientific aspects from the educational, psychological as well as counseling disciplines are used by the mental health counselors. Through the usage of these interdisciplinary attributes, a holistic procedure of promoting health lifestyle and in particular preserving as well as restoring mental health in an individual is achieved. As I establish my professional identity, I intend to use systemic and personal perspectives to bring to attention the contextual attributes and influences present in a person’s life which ultimately contribute to mental health illnesses (Palmo, 1999). In undertaking my tasks, I will be more concerned on facilitating total mental-wellness on my clients regardless of the fact that they are suffering from developmental struggles of clinical pathology. Concentrating on the strengths achieved from undertaking several synthesized domains of a client will make this move easy to implement.

Thus, during my practice as a MHC my focus will not be to cure mental illness in a client, rather I will be seeking to improve the general mental health of individuals through preventing the repeat of such illnesses. Through collaboration with other mental health professionals and working in community settings, I will no doubt improve my effectiveness especially when working with clients who have had a stint in interdisciplinary teams. In order to remain vital and viable in this highly competitive industry, I intend to be responsive to the market needs by being flexible in service provision amid changing mental health industry. When confronted with a psychopathology case, I intend to use the guiding philosophy of this profession which aims at restoring the development of mental health in an individual instead of searching for ways to cure the mental illness. Assisting clients to adequately adapt to the challenges associated with mental illness will also come in handy in enabling me forge my personal identity in this profession (Seiler & Messina, 2002).

Ethical principles

In the mental health counseling profession five major ethical principles have been advanced to act as major ethical guidelines. As such the ethical guidelines do not primarily address all the issues which confront a MHC in the course of undertaking various tasks. It’s through extensive evaluation of the ethical guidelines that assists professionals when confronted with an issue which requires clarification. In this counseling profession, five principles have been advanced: autonomy, beneficence, fidelity, non-malfeasance and justice. Consistent understanding of these ethical principles helps in making it possible for an individual to better function in this profession. Below is a detailed account of how I intend to implement these ethical principles during my practice as a MHC.


This principle is largely concerned with the moral duty of a counselor to encourage a client practice their independence in regards to decision making procedures. It is the responsibility of a counselor to allow a client be autonomous and act in accordance to their values (Beck, 1999). I will thus make my clients understand the implications of the decisions they are about to make and how such decisions will be perceived in the society they are living in. I will also make sure that the clients understand the possible impact which their chosen activity will cause to other members in the society. In case a client wishes to source support from such networks as religious or spiritual leaders or from family and friends, then I will agree to it as enlisting the help and involvement of other people is vital in ensuring mental health in an individual. A client has the freedom to determine when to quit a counseling session thus I should not coerce them to remain when indeed they want to leave. I will also ensure that I provide adequate information on the progress of the counseling process. I will also pay particular keen interest to underage children and people whose mental handicap is high. This is vital in preventing them make decisions likely to cause harm to themselves or other people.


Primarily, this ethical principle may be regarded as the most critical in the mental health counseling field. It entails engaging in activities which will not cause any harm to the client. In my practice as a MHC, I will be careful not to engage in any activity likely to cause intended or not anticipated harm to my clients (Crespi & Stier, 1997). Sexual, emotional as well as financial exploitation are some of activities which would largely cause harm to my clients. Purporting to be qualified in some areas which I am not, possess danger to my clients. This is especially so when a counselor claims to be qualified professionally in areas he is not. Truthful representation of my qualifications vital in handling mental health challenges is important. The competence of a counselor is determined by educational competence. I will also not undertake to provide services to the clients when intoxicated, sick or when the personal circumstances surrounding myself may elicit a wrong prescription. Since it is my ethical responsibility to mitigate any danger posed to a client, holding an insurance policy would be handy in assisting in such eventualities which would require restitution due to the harm and damage caused on any client.

Abandonment of clients before completion of a counseling session is likely to cause massive harm to a client. As such I will terminate my session as provided for under AMHCA ethical considerations. Thus proper arrangements need be put in place incase interruptions are inevitable like during vacations or illnesses. It is good to refer the client to another MHC who will continue with the therapy. Incase a MHC terminates hisher practice, the stipulated procedure to transfer the clients file and information need be followed. This helps in alleviating any form of danger which would be caused to a client when immediate withdrawal of the counseling services is instituted. Engaging or condoning sexual harassment is not allowed for MHCs because of the harm caused to the clients. Thus instances of sexual solicitation, unethical physical advances or verbal conduct likely to harm my clients will not be undertaken at all. Such advances are not only offensive but they also create a hostile environment where efficient counseling and therapy session cannot be undertaken. Other people’s actions can cause considerable damage to my clients. Thus it is my duty to question such activities likely to cause considerable damage to an individual under my care.


This principle in mental health counseling refers to the counselor’s responsibility to positively influence the welfare of a client. Thus, the MHCs are required to proactively do good to people thereby preventing occurrence of any form of harm to a client (Seiler & Messina, 2002). In upholding this principle in my practice, I will largely be involved in acts of mercy, charity as well as kindness. With love and genuine altruism my diagnosis and counseling will be geared towards complete healing of the clients. Acting for the benefit of others will guide me in putting in place activities which will ultimately contribute to the general wellbeing of the clients. By preventing as well as removing possible harmful setups, I will always help my clients discover and further the interests which they consider important as well as legitimate. This principle will come in handy especially when dealing with clients struggling with suicidal thoughts. My role as a MHC will be to intervene by providing the necessary therapy which will ultimately save the life of the client. Placing the client in a protective environment where the welfare of the client will not be compromised will be vital in saving the life of such clients.


This principle involves treating similar people with equal magnitude. A form of fairness must therefore exist when dealing with the patients (Beck, 1999). Clients presenting similar mental conditions need be accorded the same treatment. In my practice, I will ensure that I do not exhibit any form of biasness. The amount of money charged for the counseling sessions will be the same thus I will not exploit my clients on such basis as when they seem like they are from a better social group. I will also tackle the needs of each client as everyone has a right to receiving counseling sessions regardless of their social orientation.


This principle largely involves a client possessing notions of loyalty and faithfulness to the MHCs. It is important that a client is confident about the competence of the counselor as such a move ultimately makes a lasting relationship to be created (Messina, 1999). In effecting this principle, I will ensure that I do not fail to fulfill the laid down obligations which I have with my clients. In addition, engaging in activities likely to threaten the therapeutic relationship existing between me and my clients will not be undertaken. Being cultural sensitive when solving the client’s problem will greatly assist in building lasting relationships with the clients. When diagnosing mental disorders present in a client, use of appropriate diagnosis methods which are efficient is no doubt important. Under this will employ DSM-IV for diagnostic purposes. Before undertaking any assessment, I will ensure that I receive consent from the clients and explain to them the nature and purpose of the test undertaken.

Organizations to join

Several organizations which cater for the welfare of MHCs have been formed. The American MHCs have formed an association (i.e. AMHCA) where critical impact is accorded to the American citizens through giving insights on the mental health counselor’s profession. The association assists its members to develop their career owing to the many informative seminars and workshops organized by the association. This ultimately translates into improved service delivery to the clients thereby raising the overall standards of the profession. This association is also working to improve the recognition accorded to the MHCs by perhaps improving the perception of the members of public regarding the practice. By being a member of this association, my success in this field will ultimately be enhanced as vital tools and programs like continuing education and mentor programs are available in this association. Through availing practical resources to the members, the association expands learning and promotes the overall practice of the professionals under this field (Beck, 1999).

American Counseling association (ACA) is another body I intend to join. This association has put in place several aspects which are dedicated to promoting the general growth and development of the counseling profession. This ultimately translates into better service delivery to the clients who seek counseling services. This association which was formed in fiscal 1952 represents counselors in all practice settings. I will develop my skills and build on my knowledge base due to the leadership training, advocacy services availed to the members. I may also get a chance to continue with my education. Since this association largely represents the interests of counselors and according to the federal agencies this profession is no doubt developing.

National board for the certified counselors (i.e. NBCC) is a counselor’s accreditation body which I intend to join as well. The association aims at maintaining a certification program geared towards identifying the counselors who have studied and obtained some form of certification. Since a register of the qualified counselors is maintained, this helps in doing-away with quacks from the practice. It is beneficial to members since counselors who meet the professions standards are recognized. Through this membership, I will obtain client referrals thereby boosting my experience and number of clients whom I handle.

Incorporating social change in counseling

Social change is generally exhibited due to shifts in social structure and relations which were evident in the society. Behavior modification especially for individuals with mental health incorporates such aspects as physical and mental coercion, psychotherapy as well as brain washing in order to make the patient recover and gain more control over their life. When MHCs use behavior modification techniques when counseling individuals with mental health conditions and those with disabling mental conditions considerable aspects of improvement are witnessed. Systematic desensitization which is the mostly used technique in incorporating social change assists the MHCs to offer therapy to individuals with disturbances which have identifiable sources. For instance when a client has extreme fear for the closed places this method works perfectly well. According to a professional MHC that I had a chance to interview, he suggested that Biofeedback is the most effective method of using when treating disturbed minds. Information regarding a problem affecting a person is given to the therapist who then monitors it through the use of a mechanical device. Desirable rewards may then be provided to the client so as to influence positive behavior (Seiler & Messina, 2002). By constantly monitoring the information given, a therapist is able to develop a treatment technique which will work best for a particular client. It is also easy to use especially in different settings. The MHCs first decide on what an individual can do in order to remodel the problem. A treatment program is then devised so as to change the mental condition. Proper record keeping is vital in order to monitor the progress of the client and in case the chosen methodology proves ineffective the MHC is advised to discontinue its usage.

Discussions on professional identity

Having held several discussions with my fellow classmates of issues regarding professional identity of MHCs important information was realized. Since professional identity incorporates the various ways in which and individual seeks to incorporate the statuses and roles he is undertaking and experience acquired when undertaking mental health counseling ,a coherent image of the individual is realized. Since professional identity is shaped by the principles that we choose to know and the manner in which we choose to know them, then every MHC should choose the kind of identity he will uphold. It is the identity chosen which determines the kind of people chosen to interact with. Through participation in the activities and affairs of the mental health counselors profession, a practitioner is able to build on their professional identity since mutual engagement as well as shared repertoire is achieved (Messina, 1999). Affiliation to professional organizations helps to build on vital connectedness based shared histories as well as experiences of the MHCs which ultimately shape the professional identity of individuals in this field. People develop their professional identity as a result of the identities they uphold with the people in a given profession. Since a significant need to distinguish between the MHCs from other counseling professionals like social workers, psychiatrist as well as nurse practitioners joining the MHCs associations will greatly assist in forging the professional identity of these professionals.


MHCs have master’s level qualifications in counseling and the profession is based on theory and practical orientation of behavioral sciences. In order to fully qualify to be a qualified MHC then at least 60 credit hours must be dedicated to achieving specific coursework as well as supervised experience. Mental health counseling is no doubt amongst the youngest human service profession which was greatly popularized in the 1970s by the professions who were seeking for visibility and recognition in this discipline. The distinguishing aspect of this profession lies in the use of multifaceted aspects of an individual in order to restore or better still strengthen the mental health of an individual. Thus the MHC contributes significantly in enhancing the vitality and vigor of a person’s mental health thereby completely sustaining the general wellbeing and soundness of a person. Unlike a major misconception that mental health counseling enables a person suffering from a mental illness to better cope with their situation, MHCs employ holistic attributes geared towards preventing a person from being incapacitated by a mental condition (Crespi & Stier, 1997).

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