Careers

There is a wide range of careers in community mental health including both service providers and operational personnel. Jobs for both types of work are posted on this web site. Click here for Job Postings.

There are no standard job classifications with the community mental health sector. Mental health organizations may use different job titles for similar positions or use a general job title such as 'mental health worker'.

Service providers are directly involved with providing mental health services to clients. Community mental health services can be provided in a variety of settings such as primary health care settings, the agency's office, the client's home, the workplace or in public settings like a coffee shop.

Some service provider jobs require specific academic qualifications, such as a nursing or occupational therapy degree and some require experiential knowledge, for example peer support workers. In addition to academic qualifications, community mental health organizations highly value experience and knowledge of the mental health system and the particular client group they serve. This can include prior volunteer work, and student placements completed during academic programs.

Cultural competencies are also important in community mental health services and organizations often look for this skill set.

Organizations also require and hire operational personnel such as administrative staff, maintenance workers or accountants.

Operational personnel provide management, administration and technical support to the organization.

The operational staff employed by agencies varies based on agency size, location, and mandate. Examples of these positions include: Executive Director, Program Director, Finance Officer, Administrative Assistant, Research and Development Coordinator and Volunteer Development Coordinator.

Aboriginal mental health providers

Elders, healers and cultural counsellors are vital parts of many Aboriginal mental health services, and other members of a treatment, and/or mental health and wellness staff, assist them in providing service to Aboriginal people and communities.

Some practitioners, however, exclusively use traditional Aboriginal healing methods.

Aboriginal Cultural Counsellors

These community-based workers develop, provide, facilitate and/or co-ordinate a variety of local programming relating to cultural revitalization and Aboriginal mental health promotion. Examples of programs include:

  • community-based family violence awareness and prevention education campaigns or activities in local settings. (e.g., schools)
  • cultural events (e.g., powwows and Aboriginal health fairs)
  • referrals to or service co-ordination of counselling, legal and/or treatment services for individuals and families experiencing a crisis or trauma, including liaison with non-Aboriginal services to facilitate case management
  • Elder/Healer visits to Aboriginal agencies, communities and/or organizations

Cultural counsellors may also be called Traditional Counsellors, or Indigenous Wellness Workers, or other similar job titles. These positions are not available at every Aboriginal organization, although they are becoming more common.

Training for these positions is often provided at Aboriginal specific Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology programs, or Aboriginal versions of social work programs at universities. Click here for information on Aboriginal Community Worker college programs. In addition to post-secondary education, most Cultural Counsellors also spend time with Elders, learning traditional teachings and Aboriginal history.

Aboriginal Elders

Elders are sought out for their wisdom and advice, including their input into Aboriginal mental health services. They are not merely counsellors, although they often fill this role, but also educators and advisors. Their input helps Aboriginal mental health services remain and/or become culturally appropriate, culturally competent, and links mental health service to revitalization of Aboriginal cultures.

Elders are generally not employed in salaried positions. They are typically provided with an offering of medicine, and honorariums that cover the costs of travel, room and board, and other expenses.

This role of Elder is held in great esteem and takes decades of training and preparation outside of academic settings. The process of selecting Elders may vary amongst regions and cultures. Often, a council of Elders designates community members as Elders when those individuals demonstrate in-depth knowledge of their history and culture, alongside great accomplishments achieved while serving their communities.

Aboriginal Healers

Names like Medicine People or Shaman are sometimes used to describe traditional Healers, but the terminology will vary between regions and cultures. However, the rigorous training necessary to become a Healer is common amongst most Aboriginal cultures. Traditional Healers train for years by apprenticing with another Healer. They learn to offer plant medicines, rituals, ceremonies and teachings that will help the ill find balance.

Healers explain how and why an imbalance was achieved and suggest ways to create balance. This advice includes information that explains how to ensure that the illness does not return.

Healers, like Elders, are often not employed in salaried positions, although they are a vital part of Aboriginal Mental Health Services. Instead, they are invited to visit communities, agencies, schools, Provincial Territorial Organizations (PTOs), or anywhere that Aboriginal people meet. The Healers are typically provided with an offering of medicine, and honorariums to cover the costs of travel, room and board, and other expenses.

Case Manager

Case managers work one-on-one with individuals, meeting with the person as required in various settings such as the client's home, a coffee shop, workplace, etc. They work with people to access the services they wish like medical care and psychosocial rehabilitation in areas such as acquiring new skills, finding jobs, strengthening and establishing relationships. A case manager's role may also include counseling or working with the person in particular areas of the individual's choice such as in overcoming addictions or re-establishing family relationships.

Qualifications required for case managers vary among community mental health organizations and the needs of the people receiving services. In general, case managers require an undergraduate degree or diploma in a related area of study such as health care, social sciences or health human services or comparable demonstrable experience. Intensive case management services may require a Master's level degree in a relevant discipline such as nursing or occupational therapy or comparable demonstrable experience.

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Crisis Counsellors

Crisis services are provided through telephone distress centers, mobile crisis teams, drop-in crisis programs and other settings. The qualifications for crisis workers vary greatly and are linked to the type of crisis service in which they work.

Crisis workers' qualifications can include, for example, clinical disciplines such as psychology and social work for mobile crisis teams or a social service diploma for a drop-in crisis program.

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Dietitian

Dietitians' work includes assessment of people's nutrition and resulting conditions and treatment of them by nutritional means. Registered Dietitians work in a variety of areas including programs that provide mental health services.

Dietitians are a self-regulated profession and must belong to the College of Dietitians of Ontario in order to call themselves a Registered Dietitian

Some community mental health programs that often include a dietitian as a member of the multi-disciplinary team are eating disorders programs and mental health services for seniors. Dietitians working in these areas have in addition to their training a particular interest in and/or experience with individuals with mental health issues.

Several Ontario universities offer programs of study for dietetics, click here for more information.

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Housing Support Worker

Housing Support Workers work with people with mental illness within a supported living environment that is client-directed with a focus on prevention, support, health promotion and providing an alternative to hospitalization.

The support may be in a 'group home' setting, where on-site support is provided. Supports may also be in a client's home or through a homelessness initiative as needed.

Housing support workers support persons with a mental illness to live independently through providing psychosocial rehabilitation, personal support, training in homemaking skills, life skills and service coordination. Workers may also provide support with problem solving, relations with fellow tenants and advocacy with landlords and government offices.

Training to become a housing support worker can be through a variety of educational programs including a degree or diploma in an area of health human services, social services or comparable experience.

Mental Health Promotion Worker

A mental health promotion worker involves local people in a process that is essentially controlled by them, and responds to the resources and needs of their communities. The objective is to improve people's mental health using strategies selected by community members. Mental health promotional activities may be applied to the general population or targeted to specific groups within that population. Examples of mental health promotion work include presentations to schools or community organizations, public education and awareness campaigns and coordinating community networks of supports.

Mental health promotion workers can have a variety of educational backgrounds and experiences. In general, training and skills beneficial to becoming a Mental Health Promotion Worker include:

  • excellent interpersonal skills;
  • a degree or diploma in health or social services;
  • direct personal experience of the mental health system;
  • work experience with people with serious mental health problems; and,
  • proficiency in a language other than English.

The roles and qualifications required can vary significantly among community mental health organizations. Some Ontario universities offer a graduate degree in Health Promotion, such as the Master of Health Science Program in Health Promotion in the Department of Community Health in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

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Nurse

There are several different classifications of nurses in Ontario:

  • Nurse Practitioners (NPs) also known as Registered Nurses (Extended Class) (RN (EC) are experienced Registered Nurses that have additional academic training
  • Registered Nurses (RNs) require a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BScN)
  • Registered Practical Nurses RPNs (also referred to as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) require a two-year diploma in Practical Nursing from a College of Applied Arts and Technology as a basic educational requirement.

After graduation nursing students in all classifications must write a national certification examination. Once they successfully complete this exam, they are registered by the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) in the appropriate category.

The designation Advanced Practice Nurse(APN) or Clinical Nurse Specialist is a global term used to refer to nurses with additional training and expertise.

Nurses provide services, including mental health services, according to their level of training or scope of practice as defined by their regulatory body, the College of Nurses of Ontario.

NPs, RNs, APNs and RPNs providing mental health services in the community can be found working in a variety of services including multi-disciplinary teams, such as an Assertive Community Treatment Team, mobile crisis support teams and primary health care teams.

Nursing professionals assess and assist the person to manage symptoms through a variety of methods, including preparation and administration of medication, consultation with the person's psychiatrist and/or medical doctor as well as any or all of the other service providers and the development of a respectful and trusting relationship. In addition to the provision of medical or psychiatric services, nursing professionals provide a variety of case management supports including assistance in finding housing, accessing financial aid, psycho-education, advocacy and crisis intervention.

Nursing professionals in the community adopt a client-centered approach and psychosocial rehabilitation values, and are able to exhibit excellent skills in assessment, counseling, management and crisis intervention.

Many Ontario universities and colleges have educational programs for nursing, click here for more information.

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Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists focus on the occupational lives, defined as how people occupy time and space (i.e. anything an individual does, meal preparation, banking, hobbies, work) of the people whose daily activities and social participation have been compromised by health conditions.

In community mental health, occupational therapists work to enable a successful balance of meaningful self-care, leisure and productivity among people experiencing (or at risk of experiencing) mental health problems. The training of occupational therapists prepares them to understand, evaluate and intervene to address the multiple underlying factors that are responsible for successful and satisfying occupational roles and activities. Therapists have a particular interest in minimizing disability and social marginalization.

Occupational therapists work collaboratively with their clients to establish goals and assess the factors that can facilitate or challenge these goals. Occupational therapy interventions typically focus on "doing" as a means to support change. Interventions may include:

  • building skills and resources in activities of daily living, including budgeting and meal preparation, receiving feedback from employers and managing social conflicts;
  • evaluating a workplace environment to develop reasonable accommodations to support employment;
  • improving specific personal capacities, such as remediation for cognitive impairments that are interfering with performance at school; and
  • functional and safety assessments around the capacity for independent living

While they do not communicate diagnoses, occupational therapists often educate people about mental illness and what it means to live with it and how it impacts on daily life. Occupational therapists are also involved with advocacy and community development in the mental health area.

Most Assertive Community Treatment Teams have an occupational therapist who frequently has the role of case manager.

Many universities offer programs in this area, click here for more information.

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Peer Support Worker or (Peer Specialist on Assertive Community Treatment) Teams

Peer support workers are sometimes referred to as or peer counselors or peer specialists. They have direct experience with mental illness and provide non-clinical services and supports as part of a mental health team, including: information and referral, skills training, emotional support, goal setting and attainment, advocacy, role modeling, and interpersonal skills.

Peer support workers are people who have experienced emotional difficulties and are interested in helping others with similar difficulties. By listening empathetically, sharing their experiences and offering suggestions, peer support workers are able to help others.

Personal Support Worker (PSW)

Personal support workers are unregulated health care providers working under the supervision of a regulated health professional or supervisor or in an independent living environment under the direction of the person receiving services. PSWs are not regulated health professionals and often work under the direction of a regulated health professional such as a nurse.

Personal support workers provide clearly identified personal care, routine activities of living and home management services by following/care or service plans and established polices and procedures.

Personal support workers often work through Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) to provide services to people in their homes or provide services in long-term care or other residential facilities. Personal support workers working with individuals with mental health issues have, in addition to their training, familiarity with the needs and requirements of this area of service.

Many colleges offer programs in this area, click here for more information.

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Psychologist

Psychologists often work in community mental health within the context of a multi-disciplinary team or provide consulting services to community mental health providers. They also work in Assertive Community Treatment Team, mobile crisis support teams and primary health care teams.

Psychologists assess behavioural and mental conditions, and diagnose neuropsychological disorders/dysfunctions, psychotic, neurotic and personality disorders and enhance and maintain physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and interpersonal functioning and are authorized to communicate a diagnosis.

Psychologists are regulated health practitioners under the Regulated Health Practitioners Act. To practice psychology in Ontario, a person must complete a doctoral degree in psychology and hold a certificate of registration from the College of Psychologists of Ontario.

However, not all doctoral degrees in psychology prepare students for licensed practice as a pyschologist. Programmes in social or experimental psychology, for examples, typically do not where programmes in clinical, counselling, school or neuropsychology typically do.

Many universities offer programs in this area, click here for more information.

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Psychological Associate

The College of Psychologists of Ontario first began registering Masters-level providers in psychology in 1994 under the title psychological associate. Psychological associates are registered on the basis of appropriate coursework in psychology, a minimum of five years of relevant professional experience after completing the Masters degree, and, the passing of two written and one oral examination.

Psychological associates provide a variety of services including counselling, assessment, diagnosis, therapy, and consultations.

As members of the College of Psychologists they are licensed for autonomous practice in specific areas such as clinical psychology, counselling psychology, school psychology, and neuropsychology. Their scope of practice includes communicating a psychological diagnosis.

Many universities offer programs in this area, click here for more information.

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Psychiatrist

The Canadian Psychiatric Association describes psychiatrists as medical physicians with training in both medical and psychological aspects of behaviour. They have additional unique skills to identify and treat medical disorders that interfere with or affect thought processes, mood or behaviour.

Described broadly, psychotherapy provided by a psychiatrist is a treatment interaction (usually verbal) between an individual and a psychiatrist whereby the psychiatrist works with the person to effect change in thought processes, mood or behaviour. The treatment interactions are planned and the participants understand the goals. The psychiatrist has available the tools of diagnosis, psychological and biological theory and interventions.

Psychiatrists are often employed by community mental health organizations to work on Assertive Community Treatment Teams or provide consulting services to providers.

Psychiatric training is available at Ontario universities with medical schools, click here for more information.

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Psychosocial Rehabilitation Worker

Psychosocial rehabilitation describes services that aim to restore the person's ability to function in the community. It not only includes medical and psychosocial treatment but also ways to foster social interaction, promote independent living and encourage vocational performance. The goal of psychosocial rehabilitation is to teach skills and provide community supports so that individuals with a mental illness can function in social, vocational, educational and familial roles with the least amount of supervision from the psychosocial rehabilitation worker.

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Social Work

Social workers practice in a variety of community mental health settings. Their focus is assisting people to use their own and community resources to resolve problems and enhance their own and community wellbeing. In many instances social workers are members of multidisciplinary teams. Social workers are employed by community mental health agencies in a variety of jobs, such as case manager, crisis counsellor, court support worker, mental health promotion worker, as well as in operational areas such as management, policy development and training.

Social workers are regulated practitioners and must be registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers in order to work as a social worker in Ontario.

Many universities offer programs in this area, click here for more information.

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