“A failure is not always a mistake; it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.
- B. F. Skinner
Not everyone who goes to college is sure of what they are getting themselves into. We are rather just pushed into a field due to factors other than desire. It also so happens that we develop an inclination or interest toward a particular subject after experimenting or experiencing a different field. Irrespective of whether you were pushed into a field that wasn’t your preference or you realised your calling post your studies, it is truly never too late to pursue your dreams. And without a doubt, psychology is also a field that can be pursued even if you have been exposed to a different field all this while.
Take a look at some of these questions. ‘Whether I would have to start from scratch?’ ‘Whether I would have to start from the beginning and pursue another bachelor’s degree?’ ‘Whether I am too late to enter the field?’ ‘Whether I can become a mental health expert and be regarded for my work?’
If you could feel related to any one of these questions or you know people who are going through a career switch situation, do keep reading to know how to excel in psychology without having a conventional background in it!
Mental health experts and therapists
The word ‘therapists’ is used to define various kinds of mental health professionals who provide mental health services to people. These services may differ from professional to professional depending on their speciality. For example, a sports psychologist and a counseling psychologist offer different services to different sets of people (according to their demands and goals).
Fortunately, there are other specialities like substance abuse, child psychology, de-addiction or even relationships that are opted by aspiring psychologists. There are also licensed social workers who work with a broader community helping people in all aspects of adjustment. By selecting the sub-field that suits you and resonates with you the most, you can offer personalised services to the special demands of the people. It is entirely your choice or what you think fits the skill set you possess, be it serving children, forensics, abuse, corrections, public health, or the general community.
These are just some of the specialisations that can work out well for you, among many other options available. Make sure you decide your field and have discussions with mentors, family, and friends to weigh out your options for a clearer road map.
Basics of becoming a mental health expert
Here are a few common steps to becoming a mental health professional. Let us look at them for a sense of clarity:
1. Bachelor’s degree from a good institution: The basic step involves pursuing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. This makes your foundation strong and yes, in the conventional sense, a clearer path towards making a career in psychology.
2. Master’s and above: This level is more crucial and relevant with respect to your future aspirations. According to the kind of specialisation you want to go for, a suitable master’s degree in psychology is highly recommended.To become a mental health expert, you don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, the level of master's and doctoral studies is required to carve your place in the field. Many colleges in India itself provide master’s degrees to students with a non-psychological background.
4. Work experience: To practice as a mental health expert, you will have to gain relevant work experience in the field. Before the process of licensing begins, you must be well equipped with practical aspects which is why experience is very important.
5. Licensing: The next and final step is to get licensed as a psychologist or counselor, subject to your choice of field.
Psychology is a rewarding field and people who are passionate about the subject are the ones who wish to pursue it as well. However, in order to become a successful mental health expert, you need to have a relevant master’s or postgraduate degree and a license to practice. For instance, if you wish to be a clinical psychologist, a master’s degree is essential and further academic qualifications like Ph.D. are also preferred. A clinical psychologist cannot practice without a license.
Having said that, there are a few essentials skills that you must possess to be a successful mental health professional, some of these are given below:
2. Good communication skills
3. Critical thinking ability
4. Ability to set boundaries
It is ultimately your great skills combined with your qualifications that are going to determine your path toward psychology. Apart from these, there are other skills required to become a mental health expert, some of which are taught to you in our training period.
Unconventional ways to become to mental health expert
You might have decided to become a mental health expert but the self-actualisation doesn’t end there. While becoming a mental health expert might be your goal, you must assess your interests in a way that combines your skills and strengths.
Once the finishing point of your professional journey is clarified, it will be easy for you to work with the options and opportunities around you.
The easiest way to enter the field is by enrolling for a suitable master’s degree in an acclaimed college, especially one that is UGC certified. As mentioned earlier, there are many colleges and universities in India that provide post-graduation degrees for an undergrad from any stream!
Even if you are a working professional or someone who cannot accommodate a full-time course, there are other flexible options available now, like distance education, online degrees (from foreign universities), and a hybrid model of both online and offline. However, ensuring that you are pursuing your degree from an accredited institution is essential.
Another way to improve your portfolio in psychology is by getting practical exposure through internships. According to your strong suit, you can start by applying to places that offer you training or internship opportunity. For instance, if you want to pursue child psychology or maybe educational psychology, you can apply to schools and mental health centres where you can get trained under a working professional. Internships are a great way to learn and grow within your field. This way, even if you have a bachelor’s degree in some other field and are pursuing your master’s, you will have a better understanding of practical aspects and would be able to ace any interview of your liking.
Here are some common places where an internship would be a great impetus for our mental health career
1. On-campus counseling centers
2. Hospitals and health clinics
3. Mental health facilities
4. Schools and other educational settings
5. Correctional facilities
6. Nursing homes
You may also gain experience by interning with academicians, advisors, and counselors for support and guidance. With the right help and direction, nothing can stop you from chasing your dreams!
With the advent of Ed-techs start-ups, education is no longer restricted to just traditional classrooms. Not only are there certified courses available for subfields in psychology, but there is also a huge number of ed-techs that provide more nuanced pieces of training.
The lack of attention and placement support in traditional ways are overcome by such initiatives that target skill building along with practical knowledge to give your career the right push it requires.