Career Paths in Community Mental Health: What Are Your Options?

Posted by Kompass Professional Development on Oct 2, 2020 10:12:29 AM
Kompass Professional Development

Updated December 2022

Canada is in the midst of a mental health crisis. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 per cent of Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness this year. By age 40, half the population will have, or have had, a mental illness. 

Never has demand been higher for skilled mental health counselors, clinicians, advocates, and organizers. We need support at every level, from grassroots community mental health organizations to policymakers and clinical practitioners. 

Are you considering a career in community mental health? Wondering what your job options are, or what training you need to get started? 

Explore some common community mental health careers. Compare roles, learn about educational requirements, and which skills you'll need to succeed in this field.


Community Mental Health Worker  

A community mental health worker helps implement a variety of social assistance programs to support people with mental illness and psychotic disorders  

They are employed by social service and government agencies, mental health agencies, group homes, school boards, correctional facilities, and other establishments.  

Community mental health workers are often part of a team that may include psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, and clinical program managers. Typical responsibilities of this role include: 

☑️ Performing mental health assessments and intakes 

☑️ Developing an individualized plan of service based on each client’s needs and goals 

☑️ Coordinating emergency housing/shelter for people in crisis 

☑️ Helping clients access available financial resources 

☑️ Providing employment support  

☑️ Liaising with other mental health providers, mobile crisis teams, hospitals, physicians, community workers, and family members on behalf of clients 

☑️ Helping clients improve their daily living skills 

☑️ Performing ongoing mental health monitoring and assessment 


Education requirements:  Bachelor's degree or social services diploma or community mental health certificate. Many employers prefer candidates who have a few years of work experience with psychiatric patients and people suffering from mental health disorders. 


Crisis Support Worker 

This role focuses on managing and stabilizing crisis situations where people are experiencing acute psychosocial challenges.

A crisis support worker collaborates with community agencies and other healthcare providers to de-escalate emergencies and deliver follow-up support. 

They usually work under a manager/supervisor, and carry out the following responsibilities: 

☑️ Responding to clients in their homes or in the community, using crisis intervention and mental health first aid strategies 

☑️ Assessing risk factors and evaluating the severity of each situation 

☑️ Determining the best course of action (phone contact, mobile response) 

☑️ Conducting evaluations, such as mental status screening or suicide risk assessment 

☑️ Developing a personalized crisis management service plan for each client 

☑️ Collaborating with family, physicians, police, crisis clinics, and other community agencies  

☑️ Linking clients to follow-up services and advocating on their behalf 


Education requirements: Degree or diploma in community services or community mental health training In this position, experience counts. Many employers are looking for a three-to-five-year track record of effective crisis intervention. 

Additional credentials, such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, are often required.


Child & Youth Worker 

As the title suggests, this role focuses specifically on supporting young people with mental health and concurrent disorders. Employers include hospitals, residential care facilities, group homes, schools, and other community-based agencies. 

Child and youth workers provide mental health services to children, including therapeutic activities and individual or group counselling. They often support young people who are struggling with homelessness, domestic abuse, sexual violence, and addiction. 

Typical responsibilities for this role include: 

☑️ Assessing and screening for common childhood mental health disorders (ADHD, anxiety, depression, behaviour disorders, etc.) 

☑️ Intervening and de-escalating crisis situations 

☑️ Providing therapeutic recreational and developmental programming in both individual and group settings 

☑️ Implementing behaviour management programs 

☑️ Delivering addiction counselling 

☑️ Helping children and youth build life skills 

☑️ Helping clients set and achieve life goals 

☑️ Coordinating with social workers, clinicians, and family when appropriate 

☑️ Connecting clients with appropriate community programs and services 


Education requirements: It’s important to note that some child and youth worker positions are reserved for social workers and require a masters degree in social work.  

This level of training is required to provide mental health assessments and implement evidence-based treatment plans for children and adolescents 

However, there are a variety of child and youth worker jobs available to those without university degrees. Many positions require a diploma in the social services field combined with some kind of mental health training.   

Experience working with at-risk youth is always considered an asset (most job postings call for one to two years at minimum). 


Mental Health Outreach Worker 

A mental health outreach worker is primarily focused on supporting at-risk adults and youths out in the community.

This could include working with activist and lobby groups to improve mental health services or delivering educational presentations at elementary and high schools on topics like sexual violence, racism, addiction, and mental health. 

Thirole may also include supporting people with mental health issues in their own homes. Some outreach workers make home visits to monitor the client’s progress, check on the client's physical and mental well-being, and define goals for continuous improvement. 

Typical responsibilities for mental health outreach workers include: 

☑️ Organizing community mental health awareness campaigns and initiatives 

☑️ Implementing individual and group counselling 

☑️ Making home visits to adults and youth with mental health disorders 

☑️ Facilitating mental health workshops for parents, teachers, and youths 

☑️ Providing assessments and interventions at schools and other community organizations 

☑️ Securing donations and sponsors for community outreach events 


Education requirements: This role requires a degree or diploma in a social services-related field. Many employers prefer candidates with community organizing experience.  

Assets include public speaking and event coordination skills and the ability to connect with diverse communities—including LGBTQ+, BIPOC, Metis, Inuit, and First Nations. 


Mental Health Clinician 

Mental health clinicians counsel and support people with mental illness. Clinical assessment, crisis intervention, case management, diagnosis, and treatment planning skills are key for this role. 

Clinicians provide support for individuals and families, including psychotherapy, rehabilitation, and recovery programs. Some mental health clinicians specialize in serving children and youth with mental health issues. 

Typical responsibilities for this role include: 

☑️ Performing intake, clinical interviews, and screening of clients with addiction and mental health disorders 

☑️ Developing recovery plans and goals 

☑️ Providing treatment and support, including individual and group therapy 

☑️ Making referrals when special services are needed (medication evaluation, psychiatric hospitalization, in-home services, psychological testing, etc.) 

☑️ Training and supervising interns 


Education requirements: To qualify for this job, you need a degree in nursing, occupational therapy, psychology, psychotherapy, or social work.


Learn more about Community Mental Health training 

Want to build on your social services diploma or degree in order to specialize in the field of mental health? 

Consider the Community Mental Health & Addictions Certificate offered at Kompass. This online course is taught by highly experienced mental health professionals and can be completed at your own pace between three and six months.

Is this certificate right for you? An admissions advisor can help you decide.

Click below to explore the program in more detail and chat live with admissions.

Explore the Community Mental Health & Addictions Certificate


Topics: health and safety

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