What They Don’t Tell You about Being a Mental Health Professional


A challenging time takes a toll on our mental health, so we seek counseling from a mental health professional if we can. Thankfully, mental health problems and services aren’t as stigmatized now. Hence, people are now more open about their struggles and treatment. However, the whole journey of healing still isn’t easy.

Of course, mental disorders don’t go away after a few sessions of counseling or therapy. They’re illnesses that take time and effort to address, just like a physical health condition. When we think about the process of mental health treatments, our views tend to be one sided. We only worry about the patient and rarely about their doctor.

Mental health professionals are undoubtedly resilient. It’s not easy to deal with distressed clients every day, yet they’re passionate about it. But their job doesn’t make them immune to mental health challenges themselves. They, too, might experience a serious decline in well-being, from the professional to emotional challenges they face.

On-the-Job Challenges

The on-the-job or professional challenges mental health professionals face can begin from their education and persist in their job setting. They also experience stress from the demands of their practice, especially when the pandemic occurred.

  • Training and Application

The International Journal of Indian Psychology revealed that some Indian counselors had insufficient training during their post-graduate studies. Their exposure to actual counseling settings was inadequate as well.

  • Stigma

In some places, mental health is still barely understood, resulting in stigma toward mental health professionals. Furthermore, many people are unaware of the differences between a counselor, a clinical psychologist, and a therapist. In particular, the term “counseling” has not even been clearly defined in several countries.

  • Recognition of Counseling Profession

In some settings, counselors don’t have a unique identity as mental health professionals. Psychiatrists apparently don’t refer their clients who don’t need medication to them. People are also unaware that there are post-graduate courses on psychological counseling.

  • Stress and Burnout

Client issues lead to stress and exhaustion in mental health professionals. Even before the pandemic, therapists have been overworked. The demand for mental health services surged in some college mental health centers, as did the severity of the conditions for which they seek care. During last year’s fall semester in the United States, surveys and studies found that students were experiencing more symptoms of anxiety and depression than in the previous years. Mental health professionals were also going through the same emotions.

  • Client Billing and Authorization Issues

If a client’s health insurance covers mental health services, mental health professionals should seek authorization from the insurer before starting a treatment. This can result in billing delays. But thankfully, reliable mental health billing solutions have become available and mitigated this challenge.

  • Unsatisfactory Pay/Salary

In some places, counselors are underpaid. Some clients are also not ready to pay for counseling, assuming that the process merely involves talking and listening.

unfair salary

  • Ethical Issues

Clients experiencing severe symptoms put counselors in a tight spot. Counselors find it challenging how much information they should disclose to their clients’ family members.

  • Licensing Issues

In some countries, counselors experience drawbacks from the absence of licensing in their country. At times, no national body of counselors exists to support them. As such, there is also no network or association of counselors.

  • Professional Isolation

According to the Society of Psychotherapy, mental health professionals in private practice may deal with isolation. They don’t have as many opportunities to talk to other professionals during the normal course of their workdays. As a result, they get frustrated and feel out of touch with the latest developments in their field. This is especially true if they don’t seek peer supervision or attend conferences.

  • Educational Setting Issues

Some teachers in various parts of the world fail to see the usefulness of counseling for students. Some schools also employ inadequately qualified counselors, and colleagues from other departments don’t understand the importance of counseling.

Emotional Challenges

Mental health professionals commonly experience compassion fatigue, a type of secondary stress acquired from exercising empathy and identifying with clients. Kerry A. Schwanz, Ph.D., a professor at the Coastal Carolina University, told the American Psychological Association about “empathy overload.” She warned mental health professionals of this type of burnout, as it can make them feel numb, anxious, and demotivated.

Balancing professional and personal life can also be challenging for clinical psychologists. The pandemic has also dampened their spirits, but they’re forced to put it on the back burner so that they can attend to their clients who are undergoing the same thing.

The American Psychological Association’s Code of Conduct allows psychologists to take a break from their practice if their personal problems might be affecting their professional role. Like anybody else, they are also encouraged to seek mental health care.

Mental health professionals are people, too. Thus, we must be more considerate of them and commend them for their strength, patience, and passion.

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