You can do this: Mental Health Counselling
"I love being able to educate teens and young adults, specifically, on important topics such as suicide prevention, anxiety and bipolar disorder."
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Véronique Perrin, 34, Mental Health and Addictions Counsellor in Montreal, Que.
Median annual salary for a mental health counsellor: $52,232, with more experience, total pay ranges as high as $77,000.
Projected job growth rate over the next eight years: +17%
One of my best childhood friends lived with a parent who had a co-occurring disorder, which is a combination of a substance abuse problem with a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. Just seeing how it affected my friend and her family truly stuck with me. Things eventually got better; however, I still found it troubling that so many others were grappling with mental illness and addiction — with little to no support.
In 2004, I enrolled in the one-year mental health and addiction diploma program at La Cité collégiale in Ottawa. This program helped me to understand how people cope with mental illness, as well as what can be done to help these individuals lead more productive and fulfilling lives. Since 2006, I’ve been supporting women and youth through their efforts to combat addictions to alcohol, prescription drugs and street drugs.
I’m very proud to work in one of the fastest-growing career sectors in Canada. I love being able to educate teens and young adults, specifically, on important topics such as suicide prevention, anxiety and bipolar disorder. It’s important that youth culture knows about people like me, who are compassionate and genuinely care for their wellbeing. We’re here to help, listen, observe and provide the appropriate treatment and consultation for clients in crisis.
How to start
Most mental health and addictions programs are offered at the college level, allowing students to participate in field placements and co-ops that teach valuable skills in crisis management, client assessment and therapeutic techniques. However, some employers may exclusively seek candidates with a degree in nursing or occupational therapy. In most cases, organizations will value individuals with prior volunteer experience.
Where can you go
According to the Government of Canada, one in five Canadians is affected by addiction or mental health problems, whether personally or through a close friend or family member. As such, job opportunities exist in a range of settings including treatment facilities, residential care facilities, mental health agencies, schools, group homes and therapy clinics.
Next Career Step
The mental health and addictions field is continuously growing, enabling professionals to specialize in several areas. Many opt to help particular subsets of people. Others see the benefit in pursuing masters-level education in counselling to obtain certification with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, which connects experienced counsellors with exclusive educational programs and professional development opportunities.
Data for this feature was provided by payscale.com, trade-schools.ca, jobbank.gc.ca and onetonline.org
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