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Job Profile: Emotional or Behavioral Disorders Specialist

Behavioral or emotional disorders specialists are in demand for the mental health field, and this career field is an excellent one for individuals who enjoy helping others. Affordability of mental health services is projected to increase due to mandatory insurance coverage, and therefore the number of patients is expected to rise. These types of specialists serve as counselors for people diagnosed with various disorders that hinder their leading productive lives. Some specialists also choose to focus on certain areas, such as addictions counseling or family therapy. The majority of specialists are employed full time in community health clinics, mental health centers or rehabilitation centers. Some with advanced degrees choose to open up their own private counseling practices.

Average Salaries For Emotional or Behavioral Disorders Specialists

The average annual salary for this type of specialist is $38,520, and the average hourly wage is $18.25. These rates can vary by place of employment and sometimes years of experience.

The Beginning Salary

This job position has a beginning salary of $25,140 per year. In some work environments, new specialists start out assisting counselors with higher seniority and are given rises as they take on more responsibilities.

Key Job Responsibilities

Emotional and behavioral disorder specialists perform assessments on new patients to determine specific mental health problems. They then use that information to recommend the best course of treatment for each individual. Specialists also help patients with goal-setting, behavioral therapy exercises and the development of healthier coping skills. Many of these behavioral specialists work with the families of patients as well, helping them to better understand and cope with the challenges that come with specific disorders.

Necessary Skills

These kinds of mental health professionals need to have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. They also need to be able to adapt quickly and professionally to difficult and unexpected situations on the job. Emotional and behavioral disorder specialists need to be familiar with various mental health disorders, their symptoms and their most effective courses of treatment. In-depth knowledge of varied cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques is also essential. Behavior and emotional disorder specialists also need to have high degrees of compassion and patience for addressing challenging situations.

Degree and Education Requirements

A few entry level behavioral specialist positions require only a high school diploma or its equivalent, but most are open only to candidates who have completed at least a four-year undergraduate degree. Hiring managers give preference to new graduates who have degrees in psychology, sociology, behavioral science or clinical counseling. Some colleges and universities offer specialty certificate programs in emotional disorder counseling, addictions counseling, family therapy or a similar area of expertise. Recent graduates with one of these credentials have better chances in the competition for available behavioral or emotional disorder specialist jobs.

Specialists with advanced degrees and credentials are qualified to provide more extensive patient services, including one-on-one counseling and life coaching. Those with Masters’ degrees are eligible for supervisory positions provided they have the past work experience. One nationally recognized credential in this field is certification from the National Board For Certified Counselors.

Pros and Cons of This Job Role

Emotional and behavioral disorder specialists get the satisfaction of seeing patients eventually overcome problems that have interfered with the ability to carry out positive, productive lives. Helping others develop needed coping skills and alter their existing behavior patterns can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the profession. Several challenges face specialists as well, including patients who are resistant to treatment or who believe there is nothing wrong with them. Counseling sessions can sometimes be emotionally charged and tense, so a disorder specialist needs to develop the ability to remain both compassionate and professional at the same time. Adjusting counseling approaches to different personalities can also be a challenge that becomes easier with practice.

Other Steps to Get Started

Students considering careers as behavioral and emotional disorder specialists can gain valuable experience outside of their classroom studies. Volunteering at mental health clinics and completing internships are two excellent options for becoming familiar with this kind of work environment. This kind of practical work also presents good networking opportunities that could lead to later job recommendations. Another step to take for learning more about this field is to conduct an informational interview with at least one behavioral disorder specialist. This kind of direct information can bring more in-depth information about working in this particular profession.

Before completing a degree program, prospective specialists are also encouraged to join professional organizations in the specialty fields of psychology that interest them. These organizations can be additional sources of help and professional contacts for future employment possibilities.

Future Job Outlook

This particular field of counseling is expected to grow by at least 30 percent by the year 2020, which is a noticeably faster rate compared to some other occupations. As more health insurance companies will be required to cover more mental health services, more people will begin seeking treatment that was previously cost-prohibitive. New laws require health insurance providers to cover mental health disorders in the same manner as other chronic ailments.

Demand for knowledgeable behavioral and emotional disorder specialists will increase to accommodate a larger number of patients. Graduates with the right degree, credentials and experience stand good chances of being hired for one of these positions in the mental health field. Many clinics and private treatment facilities are currently experiencing shortages of qualified applicants. Just as in many other professions, hiring managers prefer candidates with practical experience in addition to degrees. Unpaid internships and volunteer work will give students that work experience as well as references.

Prospective emotional and behavioral disorder specialists can find out details about the field by completing a relevant degree, by networking with mental health professionals and by gaining practical work experience before graduation. Those with the skills and dedication have excellent chances of finding rewarding work in clinics, counseling groups or even in private practice after several years of experience.

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