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Choosing The Right Mental Health Career Path

Mental health is a booming field around the world and doesn’t look likely to slow down anytime soon. Indeed, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its ranking of the 20 fastest-growing occupations in the United States last year, the job that ranked highest (with a likely growth rate of 53 percent in the years leading up to 2022) was that of an industrial-organizational psychologist.

If you’re currently studying a degree in social work or a psychology-specific degree, or looking for a new career path in the field, you’ll no doubt be feeling a little daunted about choosing which exact stream of the popular area to specialize in. After all, while many of the methods used are the same, the daily working life of different types of workers can vary hugely.

If you’re keen to find out more about the various industries where the scientific and holistic study of human mind and behavior is used, read on for some of the most popular career paths you can consider. 

1. Social Work

Social work itself can be a diverse career path. When training as a social worker, you learn about all the different aspects of the profession, from child protection to mental health and everything in between. Social workers can choose to either specialize in a particular area of the field if they have a singular passion, or can move between specialties over time as it suits.

A reason many people decide to become a social worker is because of the opportunity it provides to connect with, and assist, their community. Social workers act as an advocate, and provide local people with resources, referrals to other professionals, and counseling.

If you choose to go down the path of social work, you will be able to connect with people (both individuals and families) in a positive and beneficial way, no matter the particular area you work in. You will be able to see for yourself the difference made in a client’s life, whether you help them with counseling, housing, literacy training, food, or education.

2. Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychologists apply their knowledge, skills, and experience of psychology to the understanding and functioning of justice systems. They also research relevant areas of the field, and can work in a variety of legal contexts.

Forensic psychologists utilize their skills to collect and report on psychological evidence, to conduct assessments and diagnose patients, for research purposes, for psychological intervention, forensic interviewing, and to evaluate programs. They can provide assistance in criminal, family, and civil legal cases, as well as aid victims, government personnel, litigants, perpetrators, and community organizations.

If you choose to become a psychologist specializing in this scientific-based area of study, you could find yourself employed in areas like courts and tribunals (often evaluating criminals to decide whether they are fit to stand trial or not). Other areas include police departments, alcohol and other drug services, child protection units, juvenile and adult prisons and community corrections facilities, mental health and family services, rehabilitation facilities, academic and policy organizations, or private practice. Generally the highest demand for forensic psychologists comes from federal governments.

3. Neuropsychology

If you’ve always been fascinated with how the brain works, consider a career as a neuropsychologist. These specialists assess and rehabilitate people suffering from a traumatic brain injury, as well as other neurological illnesses like strokes, tumors, metabolic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases.

As a neuropsychologist you would work with people of all ages, and must demonstrate clinical skills and extensive knowledge in a broad range of mental health issues and the way in which the brain works. Before being able to specialize in the field, you will need to first become a registered psychologist within either educational or clinical psychology.

Neuropsychologists most often work in “acute” settings, such as neuroscience facilities where the main focus is on the effects of trauma, neurological diseases and neurosurgery on patient brains and functions. However, there are also job openings in rehabilitation centers (providing support, training and assessments for people who have sustained a brain injury, for example), as well as in research centers or as expert witnesses for court cases.

4. Industrial-Organizational Psychology

If you’re interested in getting involved with businesses or large organizations, becoming an industrial-organizational psychologist might suit you best. People qualified in this area use psychology to help companies, government agencies, and other organizations to increase their effectiveness, as well as to improve the level of job satisfaction in staff members.

Also known as “occupation psychologists”, these specialists evaluate business models and management theories, help to create better business policies, and can work directly with employees to increase productivity and workplace satisfaction. The role can also involve screening employees such as police officers, government agents, and security officers before they are given permission to carry a firearm. 


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