Want to Get a Job Working in Mental Health? Here Are Top Traits You Must Exhibit

If you’ve decided that getting a job in mental health is the path for you, there are numerous roles to consider as well as a variety of places where you could work, from hospitals and clinics through to schools, corporations, governments and other organizations. This is a prosperous field when it comes to career prospects, due to the ageing population, the rise in stress and anxiety and other cultural and lifestyle factors.

Regardless of this field’s growth, you will be facing stiff competition when applying for positions. Apart from getting the necessary qualifications and training for the job type you’re interested in, whether counselling degrees, social work certificates or something else, you also need to ensure you have the personal traits employers look for when conducting interviews. Read on for some of the top characteristics you need to succeed.


Trait 1: Good Communication and Interpersonal Skills

One of the most important traits that a mental health worker needs is good communication skills. Professionals must be able to listen actively to patients, ask relevant questions and retain the verbally transmitted information shared by those being treated. Workers should be proficient at focusing all their attention on what clients are saying, rather than being distracted by personal problems or thoughts during a session.

It is also important to be able to read body language and take in tone, social cues, patterns of behaviour and the like as many patients may struggle to express themselves effectively. Counsellors, social workers and other professionals, therefore, need to be able to read between the lines of what is said.

Mental health workers must be able to speak well, too. They need to clearly explain ideas, thoughts and treatment plans to others (which could include colleagues, managers, patient families and more) and be able to follow directions without incident in certain situations.

Similarly, those working in mental health must have excellent interpersonal skills. It is important to be socially perceptive and to be able to work well in a variety of situations with a broad scope of people, from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures and age ranges. Interpersonal skills make it easier for those in the mental health field to establish rapport and build trust quickly with clients and to develop strong relationships not just with patients but with other relevant parties as well.


Trait 2: Empathy and Compassion

The ability to vicariously experience someone else’s situation or feelings is a process that’s vital to counselling, social work, psychology and related fields. It makes it easier to understand other people’s problems and to help them find ways to solve them. Patients notice whether those treating them seem to have empathy or not, and they will be less likely to respond positively when empathy is lacking.

Compassion is also vital. Mental health workers often guide clients through some of the most stressful and challenging times of their lives, so they need to feel compassionate towards their struggles and be understanding when patients cannot express themselves well, react badly in sessions, miss appointments and so on.


Trait 3: Self-Awareness

Self-awareness refers to the ability to look within oneself and identify unmet psychological needs and desires, such as being seen as competent or a need for intimacy. Counsellors and psychologists must be self-aware, so they don’t mix up their own issues with those of their clients or place their own problems onto someone else.

Self-awareness is also essential to continually evaluate their work performance and improve from time to time. While people in this field do routinely get feedback on their performance from clients, supervisors, patient family members and colleagues, it is necessary also to be able to judge their own work, from their own point of view.


Related: Emotional Intelligence: Key Skills to Excel at Work


Trait 4: Flexibility

Flexibility requires personal refinement if you plan to become a exceptional counsellor, social worker, psychologist or any relevant professional jobs. Health care practitioners often have to be flexible when it comes to the responsibilities they shoulder, whether in private practice, at a company or in a government department.

One must be able to adapt the way you communicate and respond to your patient needs. If your patients are not able to grasp the message that you convey, you will need to find a different approach as there are no “one-size-fits-all” that can fit in every interaction.


This article is contributed by Tiffany Rowe, writer of seekvisibility.com.

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