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A day in the life of a mental health counsellor

By Emilly Parris | 04 December 2019

Do you have a passion for helping people overcome mental health problems and live healthier happier lives? As a mental health counsellor, you will help patients cope with emotional, mental, and psychological disorders. You may work with people who are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, marital and family issues, or work-related stress and anxiety.

Similar job titles under this occupation include; social worker, case manager, registered nurse, psychologist and mental health specialist.

Mental health counsellors can work in a variety of settings including mental health centres, addiction treatment centres, hospitals, government institutions, prisons, schools, private institutions or in a private practice.

In this article, SkillsTalk will cover some of the responsibilities, duties and pathways of a counsellor as well as the salary expectations and job outlook.

The positive impact of mental health counsellors

middle aged man having a counselling session

Mental health affects everyone, from individuals to their families and the wider community. 

People who live with a mental illness are more at risk of experiencing a range of adverse social, economic and health outcomes. For example, people with mental illness are far more likely to end up homeless or in prison. 

Data from the Department of Health suggests that up to 75% of homeless adults have a mental illness and, of these, about a third are affected by severe disorders. In addition, Australian studies have found that around 40% of prisoners have a mental illness and that 10–20% are affected by severe disorders.

The economic costs of mental illness are also high. Due to the disability often associated with mental illness, many people depend on government for assistance beyond mental health treatment. They may require housing, community care, income support and employment assistance. Poor mental health reduces workforce participation and impairs the productivity of those who are employed.

Positive mental health means people can go about their lives and contribute meaningfully in our society, which is why it is important to address our mental health concerns as early as possible. Research shows that Australians are seeking mental health services more than ever before, which illustrates the importance of counsellors and mental health professionals.

Mental health counsellors provide patients with an outlet to express their thoughts while also giving them strategies to cope and overcome problems associated with their mental health.

Mental health counsellor responsibilities

The responsibilities of a mental health counsellor can vary from day to day, but typically include the following:
  • Maintain accurate patient care documentation according to regulatory guidelines
  • Design and implement patient treatment plans
  • Counsel clients individually and in group sessions to promote optimal mental health outcomes
  • Assess patients’ mental status through observation and counselling sessions
  • Monitor individual, group and family therapy sessions
  • Conduct reviews as needed throughout a patient’s treatment
  • Provide referrals and intervention services
  • Have the ability to treat both routine and serious mental health illnesses

The challenges of being a mental health counsellor

mental health concept

Mental health counselling can be highly rewarding, since you will be helping people improve their mental wellbeing. However, it is not a career for everyone. The right skills and qualifications are important, but you will also need the right personality traits to thrive under the pressure and demands of this job.

Mental health counsellors are highly empathetic individuals with the ability to listen and take a practical approach to help solve their patients’ problems. You will need to be highly organised, professional, compassionate, patient and a great communicator.

Working in mental health can be stressful. Your patients could be dealing with a variety of health problems such as addiction or substance abuse, they may refuse treatments or become argumentative and abusive. 

You may be called in to assist with patients who become too difficult for other staff to manage and respond to emergency situations outside of your normal work hours. Often, the workload can be quite heavy as you will be managing a number of patients with a variety of mental health concerns.
Mental health counsellor salary

In Australia, the average yearly salary for a mental health counsellor is $60,875. More experienced practitioners can earn up to $122,000. Job Outlook suggests an average weekly salary of $1,584 for counsellors in Australia. The number of counsellors grew very strongly over the past 5 years and is expected to grow very strongly over the next 5 years: from 25,900 in 2018 to 30,500 by 2023. There are likely to be around 22,000 job openings over 5 years.

Interested in pursuing mental health counselling?

Upskilled’ CHC51015 - Diploma of Counselling can teach you the skills required to pursue a career in mental health and counselling. This Diploma offers a pathway to becoming a counsellor that can practice privately and will help you navigate membership options for professional associations, such as the Australian Counselling Association. 

After completing this course, you can continue your studies to obtain a specialisation or start working in the industry in a counselling support role. To find out more, chat to one of Upskilled’s education consultants on 1300 009 924.
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