Mental Health Services
Students in this degree program acquire a broad and in-depth background in the humanities as well as in the biological, social, and behavioral sciences while developing those skills essential for working with mental health patients. Through classroom studies and more than 300 hours of fieldwork experience, students develop the necessary expertise in observation, interviewing, counseling, and recording information. In addition, students learn about group counseling, psychological testing, and statistical measurement.
Mental Health assistants typically do the following:
- Work under the direction of social workers, psychologists, or others who have more education or experience
- Help determine what type of help their clients need
- Work with clients and other professionals, such as social workers, to develop a treatment plan
- Help clients get help with daily activities, such as eating and bathing
- Coordinate services provided to clients by their own or other organizations
- Research services available to their clients in their communities
- Determine clients’ eligibility for services such as food stamps and Medicaid
- Help clients complete paperwork to apply for assistance programs
- Monitor clients to ensure that services are provided appropriately
Career Options and Occupation Outlook
Mental Health assistants have many job titles, including case work aide, clinical social work aide, family service assistant, social work assistant, addictions counselor assistant, and human service worker. Social and human service assistants help clients to identify and obtain benefits and services. In addition to initially connecting clients with benefits or services, social and human service assistants may follow up with clients to ensure that they are receiving the services and that the services are meeting their needs.
With children and families, social and human service assistants ensure that the children live in safe homes. They help parents get the resources, such as food stamps or childcare, they need to care for their children.
With the elderly, these workers help clients stay in their own homes and under their own care whenever possible. They coordinate meal deliveries or find personal care aides to help older people with their day-to-day needs, such as running errands or bathing. In some cases, human service workers help look for residential care facilities, such as nursing homes.
For people with disabilities, social and human service assistants help find rehabilitation services that aid their clients. They may work with employers to adapt the elements of a job to make it accessible to people with disabilities. Some workers find personal care services to help clients with daily living activities, such as bathing or making meals.
For people with addictions, human service assistants find rehabilitation centers that meet their clients’ needs. They also find support groups or 12-step programs. They work with people who are dependent on alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other substances or behaviors.
With veterans, assistants help people who have been discharged from the military adjust to civilian life. They help with practical needs, such as finding housing and applying skills gained in the military to civilian jobs. They also help with navigating the overwhelming number of services available to veterans.
For people with mental illnesses, social and human service assistants help clients find resources to cope with their illness. They find self-help and support groups to provide their clients with an assistance network. In addition, they may find personal care services or group housing to help those with more severe mental illnesses care for themselves.
With immigrants, workers help clients adjust to living in a new country. They help the clients locate jobs and housing. They also may help them find programs that teach English, or they may find legal assistance to help immigrants get their paperwork in order.
With former prison inmates, human service assistants find job training or placement programs to help clients reenter society. Human service assistants help former inmates find housing and connect with programs that help them make a new life for themselves.
With homeless people, assistants help clients meet their basic needs. They find temporary or permanent housing for their clients and locate places, such as soup kitchens, that provide meals. Human service assistants also help homeless people find facilities for other problems they may have, such as joblessness.
Social and human service assistants held about 372,700 jobs in 2012. They work for nonprofit organizations, private for-profit social service agencies, and state and local government. They may work in offices, clinics, hospitals, group homes, and shelters. Some travel around their communities to see clients.
Employment of social and human service assistants is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be due to an increase in the elderly population and rising demand for health care and social services.
Much of the growth will be due to the needs of an aging population. An increase in number of older adults will cause growth in demand for social services. The elderly population often needs services such as delivery of meals and adult daycare. Social and human service assistants, who help find and provide these services, will be needed to meet this increased demand.
In addition, growth is expected as more people seek treatment for their addictions and more drug offenders are sent to treatment programs rather than to jail. The result will be an increase in demand for social and human service assistants who work in treatment programs or work with people with addictions.
Communication skills. Social and human service assistants talk with clients about the challenges in their lives and assist them in getting help. These workers must be able listen to their clients and to communicate their needs to organizations that can help.
Compassion. Social and human service assistants often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.
Interpersonal skills. Social and human service assistants must make their clients feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues. Assistants also need to build relationships with other service providers to help themselves learn about all of the resources that are available in their communities.
Organizational skills. Social and human service assistants often must complete lots of paperwork and work with many different clients. They must be organized in order to ensure that the paperwork is filed properly and that clients are getting the help they need.
Problem-solving skills. Assistants help clients find solutions to their problems. They must be able to listen carefully to their clients’ needs and offer multiple solutions.
Time-management skills. Social and human service assistants often work with many clients. They must learn to manage their time effectively to ensure that their clients are getting the attention they need.
Some employers require a criminal background check. In some settings, workers need a valid driver’s license.