As the U.S. healthcare shortage continues to grow, an increasing amount of healthcare facilities are looking to address critical staffing needs. While the need for social workers in particular spans multiple specialties, the rise of mental health treatment means that more opportunities are opening up to build careers in mental health.
“The stigma around mental healthcare has always been a barrier to care,” says Alexandra MacDougall, a Staffing Manager in ES Healthcare, a division of The Execu|Search Group. “The effort has been made over the last few years through new legislation and patient advocacy to fight this stigma. By making mental health treatments more accessible, many healthcare facilities are looking for social workers who can address the influx of patients they’re seeing.”
However, it isn’t just clinical social workers that are needed to address these growing needs. “Along with an increasing demand for social workers in clinical roles, we’re seeing a growing need for social workers in schools, correctional facilities, and managed long-term care facilities,” explains Alexandra. “It’s important for social workers to realize that, regardless of whether you’re in a clinical or nonclinical role, your ability to provide mental health treatment can make a significant difference.”
For social workers interested in careers in mental health, there are four ways to get into the field:
Stay up-to-date on new therapy trends
As mental healthcare continues to expand, the therapy trends being implemented in the field continue to evolve. In order to meet your patients’ needs, staying up-to-date on new treatment options will be critical to your success. “Since mental health treatment is receiving more visibility and funding, we’re able to constantly learn new methods of therapy and treatment,” says Alexandra. “In order to be able to provide the best and most effective care for patients, it’s imperative that social workers looking to build careers in mental health stay on-top of new therapy trends and the benefits they can provide their clients.”
Be thoughtful about different clients’ needs
With the mental health patient population continuing to grow, the types of care these patients seek will expand as well. With this in mind, it’s important to realize that the effectiveness of mental healthcare can vary from patient to patient. “One of the most important things for social workers to remember as they get into this field is that different patients will require different types of treatment,” warns Alexandra. “For example, whereas one patient may require regular therapy sessions throughout the week, another patient may not need this type of hands-on care.”
Pursue external interests
When employers look to hire social workers for mental health treatment roles, they aren’t just looking for people who meet the technical requirements and certifications outlined in the job description. Beyond these technical skills, employers are looking for social workers who are passionate about providing mental healthcare and building the appropriate skillset to do so. One way for social workers to stand out as they pursue careers in mental health is by highlighting external interests that are relevant to mental health treatment on their resume. “Even if you meet the basic requirements for a job, an employer is going to be most interested in candidates who are passionate about mental health beyond their professional work,” says Alexandra. “If you’re interested in more holistic treatment methods or getting involved in community outreach, try to highlight this on your resume and demonstrate these interests throughout the interview process.”
Volunteer with outside organizations
For anyone looking to find a social work job, volunteering is an important and helpful way to continue learning about mental health. Since this field is constantly evolving, participating in outside organizations is a good way to ensure your skills remain sharp and your knowledge stays up-to-date. Plus, it’s a great way to meet and network with other social workers who are passionate about pursuing careers in mental health!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To read more of our mental health coverage, click here.