Professional Mental Health Careers
Oct 16, 2017 at 11:08
There was a time when symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorders were considered to be demonic possession and other superstitions, leading to public outcasting, ostracizing and in some cases execution of the one questioned. But even today there is a certain stigma, incoherence, and ignorance around mental health related illness and problems. This is exactly why we need more professionals in this area. Our expert, Jitin Chawla helps us decode mental health careers in India
Medicine and surgery have been largely focused on and glorified as the high paying occupation with which the ‘serving the society’ quotient are added on. Mental Health, thus loses out to the largely sought out physical health related job opportunities.
What is a Mental Health Illness? Mental Health Illnesses are conditions that pertain to the cognitive and behavioral aspect of the human mind. These illnesses can be acute or chronic and do not restrict to any age, gender or residence. Though there can be a specific reason for certain behavior changes, Mental disorders are known to be caused by a complex interaction of biological, social, environmental, cultural and economic factors, thus one cannot pinpoint one reason. The main focus is that people with mental health issues have problems in dealing with society and being social, if not treated appropriately. Also, if the illness is not looked into and the person is left without any help, they wouldn’t be able to function in their day to day life. What does a Mental Health Professional do? As a mental health professional, you will be diagnosing people with mental health illnesses and helping them to cope up with their illness, by various methods which can be medical, psychotherapeutic, psychosocial or as a combination of various methods. 
These areas of jobs can be of - counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, rehabilitation officers, and researchers. The main objective is to provide assistance and get them back on to lead normal social lives. Psychiatrists and psychologist will be studying the behavior patterns of the patients. The psychiatrist will be conducting various tests and provide the diagnosis based on the symptoms. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors and therefore they can prescribe medicines and psychologists focus on therapy sessions for the patients. They can prescribe a few medicines if they have studied psychopharmacology. A counselor’s job is to take the patient through the therapy. Therapy sessions will differ from illness to illness and there will be various methods used, but the most important thing for a counselor will be to listen to what the patient has to say. They have to make sure that the patient does not get affected in anyway, and have to conduct themselves in order to get successful results. Rehabilitation officers, help the patients, who have been under the care of psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors, and have now shown signs of getting back to leading normal lives. These officers will have to be very patient, understand the situation of each patient, but at the same time be strict with them. 
After 10+2 one can opt for either MBBS or Clinical Psychology/ Psychology-H. Psychology is generally of 3 years & MBBS for 5 ½ years. For admission in psychology there are two ways - clearing the cut off marks or entrance tests and for MBBS one has to go through NEET entrance exam. 
Following the undergraduate course (Psychology), one will have to take up a Masters course, which will be M. Sc/M.A. in Psychology. There are various types of postgraduate course, with a focus on clinical psychology, abnormal psychology, counseling, organizational psychology, child psychology. Following the masters, one can follow up for a Post-doctoral degree and continue their research and practice. 
After MBBS, one will have to get a post graduate degree or MD in Psychiatry. A diploma course or DPM in psychiatry can also be taken up, but the master’s course is given more value when it comes to qualification. There is a third option, which is Diploma of National Board Exam (DNB) conducted by The National Board of Examinations and is equivalent to an MD.
Let us look at some careers where employment opportunities are available after courses in psychology. First of all you have to understand these & choose one of them in specialization in Master.
a) Hospitals : After a Masters and/ or an diploma in Clinical Psychology an individual can work with hospitals in the capacity of a counselor.
b) NGOs work in several sectors and with several groups. Those NGOs that work with special children, victims of abuse, on addiction, with elders etc may employ full-time counselors. An individual must be ready for all kinds of scenarios while working in settings like these. Several universities offer advanced diplomas in clinical/counseling/social psychology which can be pursued after a Masters. It would be ideal to begin working with NGOs in various sectors after graduation and decide what kind of groups you would like to and then choose to do a Masters and/advanced diploma accordingly. Although true for any career related to psychology, one has to have an extremely sensitive attitude towards individuals being counseled.
c) Helplines: Several organizations, right from education boards such as CBSE to ones like the National Population Stabilisation Fund have helplines where students/individuals can dial with queries/anxieties and get a listening ear to solve their doubts. As mentioned earlier, a postgraduation and/or a diploma with a specialisation in clinical/counseling/ social psychology will be extremely beneficial and enhance career prospects.
d) Correction Homes/Juvenile Homes/Prisons: Juveniles (below the age of 18) charged with crimes are not sent to prisons but to correction homes/juvenile detention facilities. An individual, having done a course in counseling/social psychology can choose to work with these individuals. Similarly, prisons across the country may employ counselors on a full-time/part-time basis to work with inmates/organise special counseling sessions for them.
e) School Counselor: More and more schools are waking up to the realisation that they may need to employ full-time/part-time counselors to help students deal with everyday issues with school life. As a school counselor you may also come across children with attention deficit disorders, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, violent behaviour, attention- seeking behaviour etc. to name a few. A specialisation in counseling psychology at the Masters level will be extremely beneficial.
f) Independent Clinical Practise: With a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, one can also consider practising independently (along with a psychiatrist) as a psychologist. Since a psychologist practising independently may also have to treat patients suffering from depression, schizophrenia etc which may require medication along with counseling, they need to work with a licensed psychiatrist (a doctor who has chosen to specialise in psychiatry) to be able to prescribe medicines.
Premium Institutes for Psychology:-
• Delhi University
• Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai
• Ambedkar University
• Jamia Millia Islamia
• St. Xaviers –Mumbai
• Banasthali Vidyapeeth
• Mumbai University
• Punjab University
• SNDT University
• Christ University
Premium Institutes for MBBS:-
• All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
• Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP)
• All India Institute of Medical Sciences- New Delhi
• All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation- Mumbai


In Defence of Mediocrity
Somebody has to start speaking up for us, and rather urgently at that!

Mansi Tikko