Holbeck College

Getting started in mental health

Published 3 December 2021

Getting started in mental health

In the first episode of the podcast, we explore getting into mental health. Should you start with training, volunteering, or finding a job?

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Welcome to the mental health professionals podcast. I'm your host, Chris, I'm excited to have you here for the first episode of the show today, we are starting right at the beginning and talking about getting started. So if you want to work in mental health, you want to work as a practitioner, a psych therapist, a counsellor, whatever it is you're looking to do, what are some good ways to get started there?

We're going to give three approaches in this episode. So we're going to look at training. We're going to look at volunteering and we're going to look at work. Let's start with training then. So a great way to get involved is to get training first, because then you know what you're doing when you start working, of course, we offer a range of training courses here at Holbeck College. We think they are really good. You should check those out. But what training you're ultimately looking for will depend on where you are in the world because different countries have different regulations around what you need to do in order to reach your chosen goals. So for example, here in the UK, there's a very specific pathway. If you want to be something like a clinical psychologist or a counselling psychologist, then you've got a 6, 7, 8-year program to go through.

But interesting counsellor and therapist on regulated. So you don't technically have to do any training for those though, of course, morally, we would want to know what we're doing before we start seeing clients, but that varies depending on countries. So for example, in Germany, there's only a set certain levels of different psychotherapy modalities that you can practice. And you've got quite an extensive training program for them. And in something like the U S you need a license to operate as a therapist. And so you need to achieve that relevant training standard. So the first thing you want to do is obviously, you know, where you are in the world, but start researching what training do I need to achieve my end goal? So what do I want to be? And what training do I need to achieve that? Now, if you're just getting started, maybe you don't know what you want to be in, in that case, it would be great to do a lot of introductory training courses.

See, what thing kind of works for you? What clicks with you, or maybe take one of the other routes like working on volunteering and to get that better impression before you, before you embark on like a one to three year training course, maybe check it out and see if that's the thing for you. But if you already know what you want to do, then it's just a case of looking up, what are the requirements in my country for doing that? And then following through now, of course, training doesn't have to, especially if you, in the early days, it doesn't have to involve like embarking on a year long course or a short courses, but also things like, ah, just reading books can be really useful because if you read a couple of textbooks on the subjects you're interested in, that will give you a lot of insight into whether that might be a path for you.

So the training first approach, it's quite intensive and it's quite expensive typically because you have to pay for the training before you actually do any of the work. And then if you get to the end of that training and you actually don't like the work, then that's a bit of an expensive mistake, but it is a lot of some industries just won't let you in without that training. And you probably have a good idea that mental health is somewhere where you want to work anyway, but it is worth considering the other options to kind of give you a taster of what's going on before you commit to that training. So let's talk about the next one of those, which is volunteering. So you could start a voluntary role, which are generally have much lower entry standards. Generally. You don't need anything for a lot of volunteer roles, and that's not the case that they're just going to throw you in and be like, right, you're running a therapy session.

Now here's some clients but you will be able to get involved in some level, in a supervised environment. So for example, I'm doing a bit of counseling. Working in support groups is great because support groups tend not to be therapeutic groups. It tends to be more about getting the members to interact with each other. And so you need a lot less training to be able to start doing that many organizations except volunteer. So good examples here with the Samaritans, do phone support and often chat support as well. So people can phone them up. People in crisis can, can log on, do a chat, do a phone call. And they have volunteers answering those calls out. Similarly Cruse bereavement, which is a big bereavement offer. One-To-One bereavement counseling. And again, it's all run by volunteers and you can get involved in that. Both of those organizations and many of us accept volunteers offer some level of training. So they don't just throw you in there, but you have to go through that training program and they'll provide that for free providing. You commit to a certain amount of volunteering. Some of them will allow you to pay for the training and go for it without that commitment. But generally they're trying to get you to volunteer. So you agree to volunteer twice a week and they've put you through their training for free. And then you signed up for, for a certain commitment to that.

And overweight to do is do just to start your own project. So for example, I got into mental health just by starting a an anxiety support group because there wasn't one in my local city. And I was like, well, that's a bit rubbish quite like that. So I just started my own group and really learnt from experience. Obviously it's pretty scary doing that. And you've got to have a lot of internal motivation and maybe some confidence to go ahead and do that and start advertising the group. But it is a really great way to really get stuck in and to learn because it's your project and you can run it how you want, and you learn a lot sometimes through your mistakes, but you do learn a lot. There are, again, this is a good way to test. If you're thinking about working in private practice, where you don't have that kind of support network around you doing that kind of project will be ideal there.

And all of these volunteering examples are really great way to test it out in a very low key environment, because you can do the volunteering. If you like it, then you know, that, that something that you want to expand on. And if you don't like it, then you haven't really committed to anything because it's not your job. You're not embarked on the training course. You're just doing it as a volunteer. And it's relatively easy to get out of that in comparison to the other two options, you might also want to consider the online volunteering opportunities. So something like seven chat takes volunteer listeners, which is a chat service for people struggling with their mental health. And you can go through that relatively brief online training and then become a listener with them. So you could volunteer from your own home. Finally, then moving on to the work aspect as we discussed you, can't just directly work as a psychotherapist as a counselor because there's a level of training required involved in that, but there are job opportunities.

So for example, if you already have a degree in psychology, you could work as an assistant psychologist, and that would often involve working with clients under the supervision of a practitioner psychologist. You could also take a variety of jobs related to mental health. So for example, signing up to work for a mental health charity, it might start in quaint admin answering the phones role, but generally that opens up opportunities to move into more client facing more mental health dealing roles. And even gypsy working in admin in a mental health charity, you're going to be encountering service users, and you're going to be getting some of that exposure. Similarly, something like mental health services, like our act in the UK, which is the NHS mental health scheme of countries will handle their mental health differently. You could get involved in there, again, doing the screenings, doing the very entry level things and assisting the practitioners and getting a little bit of exposure through work.

The advantage of is that it's been your job, so you're getting paid for it. It's a sustainable way. It doesn't take away your evenings weekends. And again, you get to experiment around and see if it's something that you enjoy, or maybe it isn't something you enjoy. Now, of course, the downside is that they tend not to be very glamorous roles. They're generally quite poorly paid, and it's not really doing what you want to be doing because you're probably doing some entry-level job that isn't quite what you want, but it is a great doorway in and genuinely opens up to bigger and better opportunities. And if your only time is you have to combine the option with the work because you've got caring commitments around work, things like that, then it could be one way to transition in. And it's a great way to, if you're doing something like social care, then it's a very fulfilling job feels good. And you can know that not only are you getting exposure and potential avenues for working mental health later, but you're also doing a good thing for society.

So let's summarize what we've covered here. If you're looking to get into mental health, then there's probably three main tracks that you can do. You can go into the training can be a lot of fun and can get you the qualifications quickly, but it also can be a big commitment of time and a big commitment of money because a lot of training is part-time full-time or at least part-time, and then you're taking time away from work. And obviously having to, to hand out the cash before, you know, if it's really something you want to do or not, then as volunteering, this is a very low key way to get involved. So it's a really good way to find out if it's really something you're interested in. Obviously it does again, take a bit of time commitment and you're not getting paid for it. But it is a good way to just ease yourself in, in a way that it's easy to get out of.

If you decide that it isn't for you. And maybe it's just that the thing you're doing right now, isn't for you and you want to go work in a different area of mental health. Finally, there is the work avenue. So here we can take a job, probably not directly in the field we want, but around the field, we want hoping that that will then lead to further avenues later. And we can, again, find out if working with service users is something we enjoy and if it is, then we can move on and take the next step.