Career and Education Opportunities for Mental Health Counselors in Alexandria, Virginia
Mental health counselors can find both educational opportunities and jobs in the Alexandria, Virginia area. The national trend for mental health counselors sees this job pool growing by about 24.0% over the next eight years. Mental health counselors generally counsel with emphasis on prevention.
The income of a mental health counselor is about $20 per hour or $43,090 annually on average in Virginia. In the U.S. as a whole, their income is about $17 hourly or $36,810 yearly on average. Incomes for mental health counselors are better than in the overall category of Counseling and Therapy in Virginia, and not quite as good as the overall Counseling and Therapy category nationally. People working as mental health counselors can fill a number of jobs, such as: college mental health counselor, mental health clinician, and correctional caseworker.
The Alexandria area is home to eighty-four schools of higher education, including five within twenty-five miles of Alexandria where you can get a degree as a mental health counselor. The most common level of education for mental health counselors is a Master's degree. You can expect to spend about six years training to become a mental health counselor if you already have a high school diploma, or just 2 years if you have a Bachelor's degree.
CAREER DESCRIPTION: Mental Health Counselor
In general, mental health counselors counsel with emphasis on prevention. They also work with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental health.
Mental health counselors maintain confidentiality of records relating to clients' treatment. They also encourage clients to express their feelings and consider what is happening in their lives, and help them to evolve insight into themselves and their relationships. Equally important, mental health counselors have to collect data related to clients through interviews and tests. They are often called upon to guide clients in the development of skills and strategies for dealing with their problems. They are expected to modify treatment efforts and approaches as needed to comply with changes in clients' status. Finally, mental health counselors formulate, organize and lead structured programs of counseling, work, study, recreation and social activities for clients.
Every day, mental health counselors are expected to be able to piece together evidence to, in some sense, diagnose what is going on in a situation. They need to evaluate problems as they arise. It is also important that they listen to and understand others in meetings.
It is important for mental health counselors to monitor clients' use of medications. They are often called upon to formulate and conduct programs to stop substance abuse or improve community health and counseling services. They also supervise other counselors, social service staff and graduate students. They are sometimes expected to schedule and direct employee workshops and training about mental health issues. Somewhat less frequently, mental health counselors are also expected to guide clients in the development of skills and strategies for dealing with their problems.
Mental health counselors sometimes are asked to design and implement treatment plans on the basis of clinical experience and knowledge. They also have to be able to ready and maintain all required treatment records and reports And finally, they sometimes have to learn about new developments in their field by reading professional literature, attending courses and seminars, and establishing and maintaining contact with other social service agencies.
Like many other jobs, mental health counselors must have strong self control in the face of challenging situations and have a strong concern for others.
Similar jobs with educational opportunities in Alexandria include:
- Career Advisor. Counsel individuals and provide group educational and vocational guidance services.
- Child and Family Services Worker. Provide social services and assistance to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and their families and to maximize the family well-being and the academic functioning of children. May assist single parents, arrange adoptions, and find foster homes for abandoned or abused children. In schools, they address such problems as teenage pregnancy, misbehavior, and truancy. May also advise teachers on how to deal with problem children.
- Health Education Specialist. Promote, maintain, and improve individual and community health by assisting individuals and communities to adopt healthy behaviors. Collect and analyze data to identify community needs prior to planning, implementing, and evaluating programs designed to encourage healthy lifestyles, policies and environments. May also serve as a resource to assist individuals, other professionals, or the community, and may administer fiscal resources for health education programs.
- Marriage and Family Therapist. Diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, whether cognitive, or behavioral, within the context of marriage and family systems. Apply psychotherapeutic and family systems theories and techniques in the delivery of professional services to individuals, couples, and families for the purpose of treating such diagnosed nervous and mental disorders.
- Social Services Assistant. Assist professionals from a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, or social work, to provide client services, as well as support for families. May assist clients in identifying available benefits and social and community services and help clients obtain them. May assist social workers with developing, organizing, and conducting programs to prevent and resolve problems relevant to substance abuse, human relationships, or adult daycare.
- Substance Abuse Specialist. Counsel and advise individuals with alcohol, tobacco, or other problems, such as gambling and eating disorders. May counsel individuals, families, or groups or engage in prevention programs.
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: Mental Health Counselor Training
Northern Virginia Community College - Annandale, VA
Northern Virginia Community College, 4001 Wakefield Chapel Rd, Annandale, VA 22003-3796. Northern Virginia Community College is a large college located in Annandale, Virginia. It is a public school with primarily 2-year programs and has 41,870 students. Northern Virginia Community College has 2 areas of study related to Mental Health Counselor. They are:
- Substance Abuse/Addiction Counseling, one to two year which graduated 1 student in 2008.
- Mental & Social Health Services & Allied Professions, Other Specialties, less than one year and associate's degree which graduated 225 and one students respectively in 2008.
Columbia Union College - Takoma Park, MD
Columbia Union College, 7600 Flower Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Columbia Union College is a small college located in Takoma Park, Maryland. It is a private not-for-profit school with primarily 4-year or above programs and has 974 students. Columbia Union College has a two to four year program in Substance Abuse/Addiction Counseling.
College of Southern Maryland - La Plata, MD
College of Southern Maryland, 8730 Mitchell Rd, La Plata, MD 20646-0910. College of Southern Maryland is a medium sized college located in La Plata, Maryland. It is a public school with primarily 2-year programs and has 8,240 students. College of Southern Maryland has a one to two year and an associate's degree program in Mental & Social Health Services & Allied Professions, Other Specialties which graduated six and thirteen students respectively in 2008.
Gallaudet University - Washington, DC
Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Ave, NE, Washington, DC 20002-3695. Gallaudet University is a small university located in Washington, District of Columbia. It is a private not-for-profit school with primarily 4-year or above programs. It has 1,389 students and an admission rate of 64%. Gallaudet University has 2 areas of study related to Mental Health Counselor. They are:
- Mental Health Counseling/Counselor, master's degree which graduated 7 students in 2008.
- Mental & Social Health Services & Allied Professions, Other Specialties, master's degree.
Marymount University - Arlington, VA
Marymount University, 2807 N Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22207-4299. Marymount University is a small university located in Arlington, Virginia. It is a private not-for-profit school with primarily 4-year or above programs. It has 3,541 students and an admission rate of 84%. Marymount University has a bachelor's degree program in Mental & Social Health Services & Allied Professions, Other Specialties which graduated one student in 2008.
Certified In Thanatology: Certification in Thanatology (CT) is a foundation certification that enhances the professional designation established by the academic discipline of each certificate holder.
For more information, see the Association for Death Education and Counseling website.
Distance Credentialed counselor: A Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC) will be nationally recognized as a professional with training in best practices in Distance Counseling.
For more information, see the Center for Credentialing & Education, Inc. website.
LOCATION INFORMATION: Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria is situated in Alexandria City County, Virginia. It has a population of over 143,885, which has grown by 12.2% in the past ten years. The cost of living index in Alexandria, 124, is far greater than the national average.
The three big industries for women in Alexandria are professional, scientific, and technical services, public administration, and health care. For men, it is professional, scientific, and technical services, public administration, and construction. The average commute to work is about 30 minutes. More than 54.3% of Alexandria residents have a bachelor's degree, which is higher than the state average. The percentage of residents with a graduate degree, 24.8%, is higher than the state average.
The unemployment rate in Alexandria is 4.6%, which is less than Virginia's average of 6.4%.
Church of Resurrection Episcopal, Agudas Achim Synagogue and Alexandria Bible Church are some of the churches located in Alexandria.
Alexandria is home to the Circle Terrace Hospital and the Kate Waller Barrett Branch as well as Marina Park and Founders Park. Shopping centers in the area include Hamlet Shopping Center, Landmark Shopping Center and Arlandria Shopping Center. Visitors to Alexandria can choose from Comfort Inn-Landmark, Best Western Old Colony Inn and Hilton Inn for temporary stays in the area.