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Career profile Mental Health Therapist

Also known as Behavior Analyst, Behavior Support Specialist (BSS), Case Manager, Clinician, Correctional Counselor, Counselor, Mental Health Counselor, Mental Health Specialist, Mental Health Therapist, Therapist

Mental Health Therapist

Also known as Behavior Analyst, Behavior Support Specialist (BSS), Case Manager

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Investigative
  • Artistic
Pay Range
$30,590 - $78,700 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Psychology
  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Customer and Personal Service
Core tasks
  • Maintain confidentiality of records relating to clients' treatment.
  • Encourage clients to express their feelings and discuss what is happening in their lives, helping them to develop insight into themselves or their relationships.
  • Assess patients for risk of suicide attempts.
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What does a Mental Health Therapist do?

Mental Health Therapists counsel and advise individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health, with an emphasis on prevention.

In addition, Mental Health Therapists may help individuals deal with a broad range of mental health issues, such as those associated with addictions and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; or aging.

What kind of tasks does a Mental Health Therapist perform regularly?

Mental Health Therapists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Maintain confidentiality of records relating to clients' treatment.
  • Encourage clients to express their feelings and discuss what is happening in their lives, helping them to develop insight into themselves or their relationships.
  • Assess patients for risk of suicide attempts.
  • Prepare and maintain all required treatment records and reports.
  • Counsel clients or patients, individually or in group sessions, to assist in overcoming dependencies, adjusting to life, or making changes.
  • Guide clients in the development of skills or strategies for dealing with their problems.
  • Perform crisis interventions to help ensure the safety of the patients and others.
  • Perform crisis interventions with clients.
  • Fill out and maintain client-related paperwork, including federal- and state-mandated forms, client diagnostic records, and progress notes.
  • Develop and implement treatment plans based on clinical experience and knowledge.
  • Collect information about clients through interviews, observation, or tests.
  • Discuss with individual patients their plans for life after leaving therapy.
  • Modify treatment activities or approaches as needed to comply with changes in clients' status.
  • Evaluate clients' physical or mental condition, based on review of client information.
  • Monitor clients' use of medications.
  • Collaborate with mental health professionals and other staff members to perform clinical assessments or develop treatment plans.
  • Act as client advocates to coordinate required services or to resolve emergency problems in crisis situations.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of counseling programs on clients' progress in resolving identified problems and moving towards defined objectives.
  • Plan, organize, or lead structured programs of counseling, work, study, recreation, or social activities for clients.
  • Counsel family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, or supporting clients or patients.
  • Refer patients, clients, or family members to community resources or to specialists as necessary.
  • Learn about new developments in counseling by reading professional literature, attending courses and seminars, or establishing and maintaining contact with other social service agencies.
  • Meet with families, probation officers, police, or other interested parties to exchange necessary information during the treatment process.
  • Gather information about community mental health needs or resources that could be used in conjunction with therapy.

The above responsibilities are specific to Mental Health Therapists. More generally, Mental Health Therapists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.

What is a Mental Health Therapist salary?

The median salary for a Mental Health Therapist is $47,660, and the average salary is $51,550. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Mental Health Therapist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Mental Health Therapists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Mental Health Therapists earn less than $30,590 per year, 25% earn less than $36,950, 75% earn less than $61,760, and 90% earn less than $78,700.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Mental Health Therapists is expected to change by 22.9%, and there should be roughly 41,000 open positions for Mental Health Therapists every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$30,590 - $78,700
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Mental Health Therapists?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Mental Health Therapist are usually higher in their Social, Investigative, and Artistic interests.

Mental Health Therapists typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Mental Health Therapists typically have moderate Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Lastly, Mental Health Therapists typically have moderate Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Mental Health Therapist tend to value Relationships, Achievement, and Independence.

Most importantly, Mental Health Therapists very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Mental Health Therapists strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Mental Health Therapists strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Mental Health Therapists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as concern for others, stress tolerance, and self-control.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Mental Health Therapists, ranked by importance:

Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Social Orientation
Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.

What education and training do Mental Health Therapists need?

Many Mental Health Therapists have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Mental Health Therapists may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Mental Health Therapists

  • 0.9% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 3.7% completed high school or secondary school
  • 7.7% completed some college coursework
  • 5.5% earned a Associate's degree
  • 26.1% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 51.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 4.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Mental Health Therapists

Mental Health Therapists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as psychology, therapy and counseling, or customer and personal service knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Mental Health Therapists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Sociology and Anthropology
Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures, and their history and origins.

Important Abilities needed by Mental Health Therapists

Mental Health Therapists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Mental Health Therapists need abilities such as oral comprehension, oral expression, and problem sensitivity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Mental Health Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Mental Health Therapists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Mental Health Therapists frequently use skills like social perceptiveness, active listening, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Mental Health Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.