Iris Healing® Retreat, Woodland Hills, CA

The Role of a Mental Health Counselor

Read on to learn more about how a mental health counselor can help prioritize your mental health and well-being.

mental health counselor

Article Contents

What is a Mental Health Counselor?

In a world where mental health has taken center stage, the role of a mental health counselor has never been more critical. Understanding the work of a counselor is essential to debunking myths about mental health.

Let’s take a look at what a mental health counselor does and why they are important.

What is the Role of a Mental Health Counselor?

A counselor is a trained professional dedicated to improving mental health and well-being. Different therapists may have different roles. A counselor may choose to specialize in a certain field to work specifically with a certain demographic of conditions.

Types of Counseling Sessions

When it comes to mental health counseling, there are a variety of options. Counselors may work with an individual one-on-one, or branch out to include the following forms of mental health counseling:1

What Conditions Can Mental Health Counselors Treat?

Mental health therapists can specialize in treating a range of mental conditions. 

This includes the following examples:


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trauma
  • Grief
  • Emotional damage


The mental health counselors at Iris Healing use various therapeutic techniques to provide care and guidance to clients.

The Roles of a Mental Health Counselor

The roles of a mental health counselor expand from therapeutic intervention to facilitating changes about mental health stigmas. Read on to learn more.

Diagnostic Assessment

A counselor works to help manage a variety of mental health conditions. These professionals might administer assessments and conduct evaluation tests during counseling sessions. This helps in identifying mental health issues to create personalized treatment.


A mental health counselor is also an educator. They work to increase public awareness about mental health in the following ways:

  • Debunking misconceptions
  • Advocating for mental health policy changes
  • Driving awareness 
  • Demystifying mental health
  • Fostering understanding and empathy 

Facilitating Change

A counselor also serves as a facilitator of change. They help individuals overcome life challenges by equipping them with effective coping strategies and skills.

Providing Compassionate Care in a Variety of Settings

A mental health counselor can work in diverse settings. Examples include the following: 

  • Hospitals
  • Private practices
  • Schools
  • Community health centers
  • Government agencies

Regardless of the setting, the core of a mental health counselor’s work revolves around providing compassionate and effective mental health care.

What Certifications and Degrees are Required to Work in the Field of Mental Health?

Becoming a counselor involves a significant amount of formal education and licensing. This will be detailed below.

Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming a mental health counselor is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. 

While the specific major can vary, students usually choose from among the following:

  • Psychology
  • Social work
  • Counseling
  • Sociology

This provides a foundational understanding of human behavior and mental processes.2

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in counseling or a related mental health field is also necessary. While obtaining a master’s degree, topics of study may focus on less generalized areas to help narrow a counselor’s field of work. 

Coursework to obtain a master’s degree in counseling often cover these topics:

  • Human development
  • Ethical practice
  • Counseling techniques
  • Psychological assessment
  • Psychopathology

Specializing in a Chosen Field

Students pursuing the title of mental health counselor may choose a specific form of counseling to specialize in. The following list provides examples:

  • Substance addiction treatment
  • Family and marriage counseling
  • School mental health psychologist

Supervised Experience

After earning a master’s degree, prospective counselors usually need to complete a period of supervised clinical experience. This typically involves two years of supervised clinical experience.

Continuing Education

A counselor requirement is to complete continuing education courses throughout their career. This is to maintain licensure and provide them with updates on mental health practices. 

Continuing education courses can cover various topics such as these:

  • Emerging trends in mental health
  • Ethical issues in counseling
  • Breakthrough treatments

Mental Health Licensing

All states require mental health counselors to be licensed. Specific requirements for licensure can vary by state, with most requiring a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Additionally, candidates must pass a state-recognized exam.3
This is to demonstrate that the individual has met the necessary educational and experience standards to provide excellent counseling services. The specifics of different types of medical licensing will be detailed below.

National Certified Counselor (NCC)

This voluntary certification is offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). To become an NCC, a counselor must have a master’s degree in counseling. They must also complete 3,000 hours of work experience.

In lieu of these work hours, a doctorate degree is required as well as two years of graduate-level counseling. It is also necessary to pass the NCE as well as any other licensing exam required by the state.

Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC)

This is another voluntary certification offered by the NBCC. It requires candidates to hold the NCC certification and have a master’s degree in counseling.

Candidates must also have completed at least 100 hours of supervised work plus 3,000 hours of post-graduate clinical work experience. They must also pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE).

Other Certification Options

There are several other certifications available for candidates who wish to specialize in a particular area of mental health counseling.

These include the following:

  • Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC)
  • Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional (CCDP)
  • Certified Child and Adolescent Trauma Professional (CATP)

These certifications often require additional education and supervised experience. They also require examinations specific to the area of specialty.

Types of Conditions Treated Through Mental Health Counseling

A mental health counselor diagnoses and provides treatment for a wide range of mental and emotional issues. At Iris Healing, these include everything from depression to addiction therapy. Read on to discover more.


At Iris Healing, counselors may provide psychotherapy to help with depression. This is a common mental health issue which involves the following symptoms:4


  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Changes in appetite

Psychotherapy: An Innovative Solution for Depression

Communication through psychotherapy can help heal depression symptoms. Psychotherapy includes the following treatment modalities: 

Anxiety Disorders

Mental health counseling can teach coping mechanisms and ways to relax the mind. This allows for cognitive restructuring to develop healthier anxiety management techniques. 

Anxiety disorders can include the following conditions:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias

Substance Use Addictions

Addictions may require extensive counseling to help with the formation of positive habits. With the right treatment and support, recovery is possible and within reach. 

Mental health counseling can help people struggling with addictions to the following: 

  • Alcohol 
  • Drugs
  • Substances

Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

During mental health counseling, traumatic experiences are taken into consideration. Treatment may include therapies such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and cognitive processing therapy. These are effective ways to help individuals with PTSD.

Eating Disorders

Mental health counselors work with patients to understand harmful eating behaviors and thought patterns regarding food. They then help them develop coping strategies.

Eating disorders involve the following:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge-eating disorder

Bipolar Disorder

Mental health counseling can also help manage bipolar disorder. This is a condition that is marked by episodes of mania and depression.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Mental health counseling can be beneficial for individuals suffering from OCD. For peace of mind, reach out to Iris Healing to see how we can help.


Personality Disorders

Counselors can provide therapies like dialectical behavior therapy for personality disorders. 

This helps individuals manage the following conditions:

  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Life Transitions and Stress

Navigating life changes can be an overwhelming experience. Mental health counseling can help with the following examples of stressful life transitions:

  • Career changes
  • Divorce
  • Grief
  • Loss
  • Stressful events

Relationship and Family Issues

Therapists can provide counseling for more than one person to include couples or families. 

Family counseling can help with the following:

  • Improving communication
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Strengthening relationships

Techniques Used in Mental Health Counseling

A mental health counselor addresses many different challenges. They do this through a variety of treatment therapies, starting with an accurate diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan.

Assessment and Diagnosis

A mental health counselor first conducts several comprehensive assessments. These may include interviews and standardized tests.

These can help with understanding the following aspects of a client’s health: 

  • Symptoms
  • Medical history
  • Life circumstances 

It also helps in the accurate diagnosis of any mental health conditions. An accurate diagnosis forms the foundation for an effective treatment plan.

Developing a Treatment Plan

After diagnosis, a counselor develops a treatment plan that is tailored to the specific needs of the client. This treatment plan outlines the strategies and therapies to be used.

Therapeutic Techniques

A counselor employs different therapeutic techniques during treatment. These may include the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This therapy helps in changing negative thought patterns. 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy: Counselors may employ DBT to help manage intense emotions.
  • Interpersonal therapy: This therapy helps with improving relationships and developing a social network.

Therapies may be used in conjunction with other treatment modalities for well-rounded healing. 


Counselors educate clients about mental health conditions. Through good communication, counselors develop a better understanding of the following: 

  • Patient symptoms
  • Causes of certain conditions
  • The best treatment strategies

Psychoeducation helps clients feel more in control and reduces the stigma often associated with mental health conditions.

Skills Training

A mental health therapist often teaches clients coping strategies and life skills. 

In counseling, skills training may include the following:

  • Stress management techniques
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Assertiveness training
  • Mindfulness exercises

Support and Validation

Counselors provide a confidential and non-judgmental environment. This allows thoughts and feelings to be expressed freely. This support and validation can be healing in itself because it helps clients feel understood.

Encouraging Healthy Behaviors

A counselor encourages clients to engage in healthy behaviors. The following can improve mental health to help with a variety of conditions:

  • Regular exercise
  • A balanced diet
  • Adequate sleep
  • Avoidance of harmful substances

Case Management

In some cases, mental health counselors coordinate care. This is done by collaborating with other professionals. A comprehensive approach ensures that all aspects of the client’s well-being are addressed.

Crisis Intervention

Counselors are trained to handle mental health crises such as suicidal ideation or severe panic attacks. 

They can provide immediate therapeutic interventions. If necessary, they can also refer the client to appropriate emergency services.

Continuity of Care

At Iris Healing, mental health counseling may include the option for outpatient treatment. Treatment plans can be adjusted based on a client’s progress. This continuity of care ensures long-term support in managing mental health.

Five Ways to Get the Most Out Of Mental Health Counseling

Getting the most out of mental health counseling requires active participation and honest communication. 

In the following section, we will discuss five ways to receive the best results from mental health counseling.

Open Communication

Be honest and open with your counselor about the following:

  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Experiences

The more communication there is, the better a counselor can help. Mental health therapy sessions are a judgment-free zone, and everything is confidential.

Set Clear Goals

Identify your goals in counseling and communicate this to the best of your ability. Having clear, measurable goals can give direction to your sessions and helps to track progress. A counselor can assist in setting realistic and achievable milestones in treatment.

Be Consistent

Regular attendance at counseling sessions is important for continuity in progress. 

Reschedule appointments that you are unable to attend. By doing this, it becomes easier to apply the concepts learned during treatment to everyday life.


Active Participation

Counseling is a collaborative process. It’s important to engage actively in your sessions in the following ways:

  • Asking questions
  • Voicing concerns
  • Providing feedback

Practice Self-Care

Good physical health supports good mental health. Prioritize self-care outside of your sessions. 

To do this, try some of the following:


  • Engaging in  regular physical activity
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Practicing relaxation techniques

Be Patient with Your Progress

It is important to remember that counseling is a journey, and progress might be slow sometimes. Patience and persistence are key to getting the most out of mental health counseling.

mental health counselor

Find Effective Mental Health Counseling at Iris Healing

Many people face challenges in life that affect mental health and wellbeing. Seeking help through mental health counseling is a courageous and beneficial step. A mental health counselor can provide a safe and supportive environment to explore thoughts and feelings and take positive steps forward.

If you or a loved one are seeking mental health counseling, we can help. We are an addiction rehab and mental health healing center that offers personalized, holistic treatment. Iris Healing offers a variety of programs to treat addiction and mental conditions.

At Iris Healing, a mental health counselor is a trained professional who can help you understand and cope with issues in a healthy and effective way. We house a treatment team of doctorate-level clinicians and mental health experts that collaborate to ensure quality care.

Reach Out Today

For quality mental health counseling, consider Iris Healing. Our center has been a trusted source of care for countless individuals. 

We offer professional guidance for overcoming difficulties and achieving life goals. Reach out today to learn more. 

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