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Can you become a mental health professional even if you haven’t trained in psychology or psychiatry?

A mental health professional is someone who works within a clinic or health care system, counseling or acting as a therapist to individual patients with mental health issues. The job profile of a professional in a mental health clinic is not always patient-facing though. It also involves administrative and business planning in some cases and interface with governmental organizations for funding or accreditation as well as media outreach as and when necessary.

In most cases a Masters or Bachelor’s degree in Psychiatry or Psychology is a must. This is true especially if the job profile is such that interaction with patients is mandatory. A therapist’s role in a mental health clinic is a tough job. The patients can vary from those with anxiety and stress to full blown depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, manic compulsive disorders and other serious mental health diagnoses. Treatment methods can vary from Psychotherapy that is talk focused, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Exposure therapy, Interpersonal therapy, along with skill based therapy focused on interaction with animals or art or occupational therapy. Knowing these methodologies and having a track record working with patients is what privileges those who have studied psychology or psychiatry before.

However, if you have studied some other subject in your undergraduate or graduate degree, you can still do a course in these therapies specifically to learn them. What’s more, as a business administration or economics or marketing graduate, your skills may be useful in the day to day running, planning, budget and funding of the health clinic. A Master’s in Education is also considered useful in this sector as it allows you to grasp the importance of the concepts of therapy as well. A Master’s in Social work as well as a background in working in non-profits is also considered a good qualification for working in mental health. Whether you are running a mental health clinic or an NGO, the skills required overlap quite a bit. Whether it is working with groups with vulnerabilities or with funding agencies, dealing with limited resources or providing track records to raise capital, liaison with government bodies for accreditation or with the media for exposure and awareness – the skill sets in both fields are very handy. Communication skills are very important in this industry so having skilled language or communication experts is also a plus.

So the answer to the question is a degree in psychology or psychiatry certainly helps in patient interfacing jobs in mental health, but it is not the only required qualification for the job. If you have a passion to contribute, and a willingness to learn, there is no reason why you should not consider a job in mental health.

Further reading

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5 things our body tells us about mental health


5 things your dreams tell you about your mental health


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