Are you considering a career in mental health? You might be wondering how much does a counselor makes or a psychiatrist’s salary to see if it’s worth it. However, a career in mental health is about more than the money. In other careers, you are focused on profit for your employer – sales, customer service, marketing. In these jobs, the bottom line is the profit margin, and you can feel like another cog in the wheel of a great, big, impersonal machine. But a career in mental health is rewarding on more levels than just financial. You get to help people suffering and work with them to achieve their goals or alleviate their distress. This pays dividends beyond wages.
However, we’re in a digital age, and a career in mental health in this modern world brings a unique set of challenges and opportunities, which this helpful article will discuss. Read on to learn more.
What Does a Counselor Do?
A counselor is a trained and qualified mental health professional that has completed training such as a master’s in mental health counseling. They are qualified and competent therapists who can develop a trusting and healing relationship with the people they assist. Some counselors are specifically trained to offer different “interventions” – usually through talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.
Counselors can assist people with various issues, including anxiety, depression, stress management, weight loss, smoking cessation and alcohol or drug issues. However, the digital age presents a set of challenges for a counselor (as well as some new and unique opportunities).
Digital Counseling – Challenges and Opportunities
Nowadays, you can see a counselor entirely remotely, either via the phone or an online meeting platform such as Zoom. In fact, according to the American Psychiatric Association survey from 2021, 96% of psychologists believe that telehealth is effective therapeutically, and 97% said that it should remain post-pandemic. This can mean it is more difficult to establish the trust and respect needed between the counselor and the client, as online therapy is more impersonal than if you were to see a counselor in person. There is also the risk of technical issues, such as internet dropouts, glitches, freezes and even a data breach from malicious hackers.
Privacy & Comfort of Home
Moreover, online counseling offers a comforting sense of security for clients, as they can engage from their familiar personal spaces. This approach is especially advantageous for those struggling with social anxiety or severe depression, where the idea of attending a physical therapy session can be daunting or practically difficult. The ease of accessing therapy from home can significantly lower barriers to seeking help, encouraging consistent engagement and potentially leading to more effective treatment outcomes.
Lower Overheads & Flexible Hours
It can also mean that the counselor can work from the comfort of their own home and that they don’t have to pay the overheads of renting a room or paying for reception staff. What’s more, it opens up opportunities for flexible and after-hours appointments that might not have been logistically possible in a traditional office setting. Additionally, this flexibility can lead to a more diverse client base, as counselors can cater to individuals in different time zones or with varying schedules. This expands the reach and impact of their practice, allowing them to offer support to a wider range of people who may not have access to traditional, in-person counseling services.
Another benefit of a career in mental health in the digital age is that a majority of the administration of appointments can be automated. Clients can use an online booking platform to see a counselor’s availability and book an appointment that suits them. They can use the same system to cancel or reschedule a booking if the time no longer works. Then, the appointment reminder system can also be automated, with a text message or email reminder of the appointment sent to the client a few days before the appointment.
Mental Health Courses and Jobs for Remote Locations
Another opportunity for a mental health career in the digital age is that if you live in a rural or remote location, you can still gain a qualification in mental health. You can study counseling, therapy, social work and psychology online, provided you have a decent internet connection. Then, once you’re qualified, you can set up an online practice, which means people in rural or remote locations can access your services. The same challenges we’ve mentioned above apply, such as tech issues.
Missing Non-Verbal Cues
A large part of a successful therapeutic relationship between a mental health professional and a client is that the therapist can pick up on non-verbal cues and nuances such as body language, expression and facial changes. A digital therapy session can mean that it can be easy to miss these subtle expressions and changes in posture, which can signify discomfort or relaxation. You’ll have to work harder to pick up on these cues and pay careful attention or listen for changes in the client’s voice and tone.
Another benefit of a mental health career in the digital age is that clients with a physical disability that limits mobility can still access mental health support from home. For instance, if someone uses a wheelchair or requires a walking aid to get around, they can have a telehealth or video call appointment with you without leaving the house. This means that people who are unable to access mental health support can get the required help.
If you live in a small town and access mental health support, you can face stigma and discrimination if you are seen presenting at the local therapist’s office. Having digital therapy available in a small town means clients can get the support they need without spreading their business throughout the local rumor mill. The anonymity online therapy provides can be invaluable.
This helpful and informative article has covered the challenges and opportunities of a career in mental health in a digital age. We’ve covered some of the benefits and drawbacks of online counseling and therapy to help you make an informed decision.