What is behavioral health?
Behavioral health encompasses a wide range of services, including mental health promotion, substance use prevention and treatment, and recovery support. It is inclusive of mental health disorders.

Who is eligible to be a behavioral health worker?
Do your friends and family say you’re a great listener? Is your passion giving back to the community and organizing community-wide efforts? Do you have personal experiences that would enable you to provide peer support? Do you like to create positive systems change? Do you enjoy working with youth? Do you like to work on health policy? If so, you might be a great candidate for a behavioral health career.

There is more of a need than ever for a strong behavioral health workforce for both substance use disorder prevention and treatment, as well as mental health needs. We need a diverse workforce who represent Washington residents and who can use their unique experiences to make a difference.

What skills do I need?
The specific skills will depend on your job, care setting, and level of experience. Certification and educational programs are designed to give you the skills you need to be successful in your career path, and often include hands-on, supervised training along the way.

What type of degree do I need?
You can also begin a behavioral health career with an associate degree with the option to progress through your master’s and beyond.

Typical majors include psychology, sociology, behavioral health sciences, human development, early childhood education, public policy and administration, prevention science, public health, community health education, health and human services, social sciences, communications, or social work.

A master’s degree is required to become a fully licensed behavioral health practitioner, however there are many career tracks that do not require an advanced degree. Some jobs may require a license to provide direct or unsupervised patient care.

What is a substance use disorder prevention and mental health promotion professional?
Substance use disorder prevention and mental health promotion professionals typically work at the school, community, county, regional or state level to delay and reduce the onset of youth substance use and misuse, as well as prevention mental health disorders.

Prevention and promotion professionals are housed in local schools, youth serving organizations, family support organizations, community coalitions, county health departments, public health offices, universities, research labs, and hold positions at the state and national level to advocate for the system of prevention.

Prevention and promotion professionals can work in local schools, nonprofits and Tribes to directly provide support to youth and families; work in public organizations to mobilize communities into action to address their needs; work on systems change and policy efforts at in public agencies. Prevention and promotion professionals work to protect the health and well-being of the young people, families, and communities around us.

What is a licensed behavioral health counselor?
Licensed behavioral health professionals require some of the highest levels of education on the educational spectrum for behavioral health careers. While you can work in the field with an associate degree (or even a credential in some cases), licensed workers have the highest level of certification and can work the most independently, including developing and implementing treatment plans, as well as supervising others.

Becoming a licensed behavioral health counselor or provider requires a master’s degree in a related field, a minimum of 36 months of full-time/3,000 hours of post graduate counseling under supervision of a licensed practitioner. Applicants must also pass a National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) exam.

What is a peer counselor?
In Washington State, certified peer counseling is a service that pairs individuals in recovery with trained counselors who share their life experiences. It is a great work opportunity for people to use their own experiences to help their peers find hope and support.

Learn more about what peer counselors do and how to become certified.

What if I want to change careers?
It’s very common for behavioral health workers to come to this path as their second, or even third career. There are options depending on your past work or educational experience. However, even if you have never worked or studied in a related field, you can still get started on your career pathway to making a difference today. There are also many on-the-job training opportunities available too.

What if I need financial assistance?
Financial assistance may be available for current and aspiring behavioral health workers. There are loan repayment options for certain career paths and care settings to help offset educational costs in exchange for your service. Undergraduate students may also be eligible for financial aid or scholarships.

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