For more information on careers in this field, see the list on the right. For salary ranges, schooling requirements and more, check out the Career Explorer.
Mental health is a broad field with a wide range of career choices. In general, it involves counseling patients or clients in order to promote their optimum mental health, with an emphasis upon prevention.
Working with individuals and/or groups of all ages, health professionals in this field help children, adolescents and adults deal with a variety of life stresses and problems, including addiction/substance abuse; problems with self-esteem; aging-related mental health issues; family, parenting or marital problems; grief, anger, or depression; and other emotional or behavioral issues.
Some mental health practitioners – specifically, professional counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, and psychiatric nurses – hold advanced degrees with special training in brain function and human behavior. These professionals help patients with clinically diagnosed mental illness and emotional problems, and their approach to care may be purely medical, psycho-therapeutic, psycho-social, or a combination of therapies.
The mental health field encompasses a variety of professions, each of which has a number of different career avenues:
Psychiatrist - are advanced-practice M.D.s. They evaluate a patient’s mental condition in conjunction with his/her physical condition. In many states, only psychiatrists and other M.D.s can prescribe medications to treat mental illness.
You can download, save and print a PDF of this overview:
Mental Health Overview 14 May 2008 [pdf, 192 KB]
Psychiatrist - DO / MD
Last updated: December 11, 2013
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