So, your goal is to find a S. But, with so many different career paths available to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which direction to take!
When it comes to deciding between mental health counseling vs social work especially, the choice can be difficult to make. Of course, there are so many similarities between these equally challenging yet rewarding professions. But, what makes them fundamentally different could ultimately make choosing your career path easier.
Stay with us as we explore the main differences between these two fields, and also, as we explain the reasons why each profession suits different individuals more than others.
Mind Matters: Pathways towards Mental Health Counseling
If you have an interest in mental health, you may well be wondering, what is a mental health counselor? Predominantly, mental health counselors are qualified to provide treatment and care to individuals presenting with mental illness. As such, they will likely be trained in delivering different types of psychotherapy, which can include:
Cognitive therapy focuses on the ways individuals think, and how this influences their behavior. It essentially involves ‘rewiring’ the patient’s brain and helping them to develop healthier ways of processing events that happen in their lives.
Behavioral therapy, perhaps unsurprisingly, is more focused on the way an individual behaves. Mental health counselors often utilize this form of treatment with victims of trauma and distress.
Sometimes, using each of these techniques in combination to treat mentally unwell patients can be particularly effective. To evidence this, the more recently developed school of thought known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short, takes on elements of both types of psychotherapy mentioned above.
Importantly, as a mental health counselor, your interests will lie in the medical and scientific theories behind patient care. As well as this, mental health counselors have the authority to diagnose mental illnesses and to refer patients to a psychiatrist if deemed necessary.
The Subject of Social Work: How You Can Help Make a Difference
The role of a social worker differs quite a bit from that of a mental health counselor. This is because, rather than treating individual patients, social work is often more involved in community or grassroots practice. For this reason, social workers are usually best placed to help treat underprivileged, marginalized members of society who may not otherwise have access to private mental health treatment. As such, if you become a social worker, you can rest in the knowledge that you are truly making a difference.
Of course, being a social worker is not without its challenges. Commonly, you will be tasked with treating victims of substance abuse and drug addiction, as well as at times being confronted with distressing behavior being displayed by your patients. In addition to this, you will likely be exposed to working in settings of extreme poverty and homelessness. You will frequently also be assisting individuals suffering from domestic or family violence.
If this is the professional pathway you wish to go down, then, you will need to be resilient, driven, and passionate about the cause. The value you are bringing to the lives of the community members you are supporting will be one of your main drivers. Admittedly, social workers are also often paid less than private mental health practitioners. As such, you will need to be steadfastly committed to the work you are doing, as well as being motivated by factors other than financial gain.
For qualified mental healthcare professionals, there are several different career pathways you can follow. But, the decision on which road to take can be tricky – unless you can narrow down your motivators.
If you prefer to work in a private practice or clinical setting, for example, becoming licensed to work as a mental health counselor could be best suited to your goals. Alternatively, if your passion is to make an impact at a grassroots level, social work may be for you.
Either way, irrespective of which path you are best suited to, pursuing a career in mental health is not for the faint-hearted – but, it is not without reward. Whether you choose to become a mental health counselor or a social worker, you can be proud of the considerable support you are providing to those in need.