How To Become A Successful Mental Health Counselor

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There will likely be a high demand for your services if you choose mental health counseling as a career. Mental health counselors and psychologists will experience rapid job growth in the next ten years.

According to government employment data, approximately 20% of mental health counselors will be employed by 2023. Since more Americans now have access to healthcare services and extended lives, there is a greater need for mental health care to deal with the problems that arise during a long life.

A mental health counselor must undergo a lifelong journey to reach greatness. Also, it is never too late for great counselors to learn and improve. Below are eight tips for becoming a great counselor, whether you want to be one or already are.

1. Maintain a constant learning attitude

Developing professionally as a counselor is a constant commitment. Without it, you will have difficulty practicing effectively with your clients. 

The inability to continuously learn demonstrates a lack of commitment on the part of a counselor. If you don’t commit to counseling, your skills will inevitably deteriorate.

Once you are done with graduation, you can practice as a licensed professional mental health counselor. However, to fulfill the high standards set by the mental health profession, you must pursue a master’s course. If you wish to continue your practice while studying, you can also do a counseling psychology masters online. The online course meets the same quality and content standards as the in-person program.

Additionally, attending regular conferences, continuing education classes, workshops, and reading about new ways to provide mental health counseling based on cutting-edge research will make you a great counselor.

2. Learn how to improve your microskills

A counselor can use five counseling microskills to enhance and improve communication with clients. These microskills help counselors build strong working relationships with clients to make counseling sessions more productive. 

The following are critical microskills:

  • Be attentive to a client’s needs

Being attentive to a client’s needs is crucial to building rapport. The first step is demonstrating your willingness to work with and help them. Developing strong attending behaviors requires direct eye contact and nonverbal cues (for example, turning toward the speaker to demonstrate interest).

  • Ask the right questions

Right questions during a session can open up new paths for discussion that are very useful in solving problems. Counselors need to be well-versed in different ways of asking questions while maintaining discretion when necessary. It is usually good to start an open-ended question with ‘how,’ ‘why,’ and ‘could.’

  • Address their inner conflict

In counseling, confrontation involves bringing the client’s attention to something they have been overlooking or avoiding. Counselors may need to deal with discrepancies between feelings and thoughts and feelings and actions.

  • Focusing

Counselors can use several types of focus to bring possible solutions during a session. There are four main focus areas: individual focus (tell me about yourself); problems focus (what brought you here today); family focus (how your family affects problems); mutuality focus (how can we work together); and interviewer focus (where you can share some personal details).

  • Reflections of Meaning

Deeply held beliefs and meanings shape each individual’s life experiences. Great counselors use this microskill to help clients explore their life experiences for answers.

Taking the time to develop these microskills will enhance many of your counseling abilities.

Engage in early and frequent networking

Networking goes beyond advancing your career prospects. Contacts within the counseling field can provide you with support on psychological concerns, such as collaboration, supervision, and referrals.

Additionally, fellow counselors and peers are always willing to share their methods and strategies.

3. Become more effective

A great counselor uses effective strategies to be more organized and efficient when working with clients. By applying effective strategies, they can improve many professional and personal areas of their counseling career.

4. Self-Care

Several counselor-related problems can negatively impact your level of service. It can also increase your risk of burning out.

As a counselor, you can reduce the chances of burnout by recognizing this and devising effective strategies to take care of yourself. In terms of your effectiveness, finding a good work-life balance is as important as anything else.

5. Understand clients on a deeper level

It is essential to be responsive and flexible when communicating with clients. Each client has a very different mindset and emotional state. 

Depending on the person and the situation, there is often a need to adopt a different approach. The success of your relationship with each client will usually depend on how well you adapt to their needs.

Even if a client relationship isn’t always rosy, it can still be necessary and productive. Often clients are forced by court orders to attend counseling sessions despite not wanting to do so. However, as a great counselor, you must do your best to ensure that the client receives the best service.

6. Have the knowledge

In counseling today, various theories and approaches are available to choose from. Depending on the client’s needs, you can use these methods separately or in combination with others.

You will be better equipped to develop an appropriate intervention for a client in a unique situation if you understand the underlying psychological theory and the techniques, applications, and benefits associated with each one.

For example, motivational interviewing may be incredibly helpful in counseling drug-dependent clients. Counseling in this way involves being a ‘helper’ and accepting your client throughout the change process. 

An important obstacle to recovery is uncertainty about substance abuse. Motivational interviewing helps the client to overcome this obstacle. The following principles underlie motivational interviewing:

  • Listening reflectively to express empathy
  • Analyzing their current addictive behavior conflicts with their goals and values
  • Keeping confrontations and arguments to a minimum
  • Accepting the client’s resistance rather than directly opposing it
  • Supporting self-efficacy and optimism

Gestalt therapy, behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, and motivational enhancement therapy are other counseling models that can be very effective based on the situation at hand.

7. Self-Awareness

Mental health counselors have a broad range of skills they can apply to help people with various issues. The problem is that not every counselor can establish a healthy therapeutic relationship with every client. Professionals with different backgrounds or approaches, like psychiatrists, may be necessary for some clients.

Counselors who are good at their jobs recognize when they are not the right fit for a client. Some clients require higher levels of treatment; others simply don’t develop an interpersonal connection after a few sessions. A respectable counselor will refer their client to another professional who can provide better assistance in such cases.

8. Possess a sense of humor

The stories that counselors hear are often uncomfortable, difficult, and traumatic. Despite that, clients and counselors alike can have a good time. When it comes to humor during any session, timing is everything, but finding someone who shares your sense of humor is also important. 

The use of humor in the therapeutic environment can be extremely beneficial when understood in a nuanced manner.


Even though counselors are at various stages in their professional careers, they can still gain valuable knowledge from the experiences and reflections of their colleagues, 

Additionally, having certain microskills, self-awareness, and an appropriate level of humor is crucial to forming a bond of trust and comfort with clients.

Following the above principles will help you develop your counseling skills to become a great counselor.