How Mental Health Counselors Can Cultivate a Sky-High Income

Jul 31, 2018 by

For the most part, careers in mental health do more good for clients and the community than they do for counselors. Though those with the most training and prestige, i.e. psychiatrists, can easily earn six-figure incomes, more common and practical mental health professionals, like counselors and social workers, must hustle if they want to make more than a living wage.

Fortunately, it is possible to earn a relatively high income without devoting too many years to advanced education. Here’s how those in the mental health field can create multiple income streams and enjoy comfortable wages.

Prepare with Adequate Training

If it were possible to make millions with minimal training and effort, everyone would be a billionaire. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists devote decades to education, and as a result, they are often among the top-earning mental health professionals. Though counseling is a much easier mental health career path, requiring little more than a bachelor’s degree to find entry-level positions in the field, counselors need at least a master’s degree to function in a clinical capacity and qualify for top-earning jobs. Those transitioning into counseling from another career might prefer to complete a counseling master’s online, which provides the same education with minimal time and money commitments.

Additionally, counselors should seek as much real-world training as possible, applying for internships and shadowing positions throughout their undergraduate and graduate studies. This experience will help aspiring counselors better understand the variety in the field and become familiar with specialization options, especially those that provide higher incomes than the rest.

Understand Active Income

For counselors, active income is typically generated through one-on-one or group services with clients. Active income demands counselors to be present, either in the room with their clients or on the phone or internet chat.

On the one hand, these sessions are profitable, often demanding high hourly rates; on the other hand, active income such as this is severely limited by a counselor’s available time and energy levels. Thus, illness or a busy non-work schedule can hamper a counselor’s ability to improve their income. Worse, grinding out active income in an attempt to improve one’s earnings dramatically increases the likelihood of burnout, which can reduce earnings to zero during necessary rest and recovery.

Push Active Income Further

When active income is a person’s primary income, the best way to increase earnings is to increase the amount paid for each project. For counselors, that means charging clients a higher hourly rate or transitioning to more profitable forms of counseling. For example, group counseling, intensive outpatient program management, group training, public speaking, coaching, webinars, retreat management and similar services often demand higher payments than traditional counseling.

Counselors might also consider founding their own practice instead of working for another practice or organization. A practice is a business, and it requires business skills to run successfully, but with the right leadership, a private counseling practice can be abundantly profitable for founders and partners.

Develop a Passive Income

The direct opposite of an active income, a passive income brings earnings without demanding physical presence or immediate effort. Many counselors enjoy healthy passive incomes even while they actively devote time to clients, speaking engagements and similar pursuits. For counselors, sources of passive income might include book royalties, product sales, commissions and pre-recorded webinars or white pages.

Once counselors’ active income streams become more stable, it is common for them to begin establishing passive incomes. The most profitable passive income for one counselor might not suit another, so it is wise to explore all possible options before devoting effort to a particular passive project.

Track Income Consistently

It is impossible to understand how one’s income is relative to other counselors – or relative to where it began – without data collection and analysis. Counselors should be diligent about tracking their own income, working to pursue greater projects when earnings start to flag. Counselors who aren’t adept at money management should consider enrolling in personal finance courses or taking advantage of PFin software, like Mint or Quicken. Then, all counselors should commit to strategies for improving income, such as a 10-year plan for starting a private practice or a five-year plan for transitioning into the speaking circuit.

Mental health counselors don’t have to settle for entry-level earnings. With a bit of hustle, counselors can earn as much as other mental health professionals, so they can live comfortable and satisfying lives.

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