Author Topic: Any mental health counselors out there?  (Read 2292 times)

MountainTown

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Any mental health counselors out there?
« on: January 27, 2019, 09:17:57 PM »
Hi,

I have been working a government job in a finance field for about 9-10 years now. I used to work in Child Protection Services and had plans to become a mental health counselor, preferably a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.  At the time I was doing investigations, which is what lead me to my current job(sort of conducting financial investigations). Anyways, it was a long road.

Where I am at now is I have had a new manager for about 2 years and it has not been pleasant. I think I always intended to go back to graduate school but this guy is really driving it home for me. It's been kind of crushing as my FI journey was really doing well with the $82k a year salary.

I hesitate to go back to the social work field sometimes because in my state(montana) it was just so darned underpaid. At the time I was making $32,000 as a CPS worker. Anyways, I am looking for some encouragement, especially from those in the field. I am pretty unhappy in my current position but feel kind of trapped.

I have applied to the local Counselor Education department(to be a mental health counselor) and am considering also throwing my hat in for an MSW program(which would allow me to be a clinical social worker).

I guess I am just wondering what people think of the career in general, the school process, the licensing process, and of course the salary. The BLS stats are kind of off I think? From what I understand people in private practice can make around $65k to 85k pretty easily. Is that true? I figured if I could get up that salary after school I might have a chance of reaching FI still. And added bonus...I might not want to retire early if I enjoy my job more!

MountainTown

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2019, 09:22:09 PM »
I should also mention a few quick details about our FI status/progress:

Wife. married. No kids.
Me: 35, her 31
Income: Me, 82k, her 45k

Stash: $350k in mostly retirement accounts. About $34k of that in recently inherited IRA. About $60k in cash(which is included in 350k).

House: Rent

We could pay cash for school which is nice. But the cash was what i had hoped to use for a down payment some day. Lately I haven't been so sure about that as I am considering such a big transition.

pbkmaine

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2019, 09:24:16 PM »
Why can’t you just look for a new job in finance?

mozar

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2019, 09:29:50 PM »
I say go for it. Money isn't everything.

MountainTown

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2019, 09:55:09 PM »
Actually my degree wasn't in Finance. It was in Psychology. I got into this job haphazardly and climbed the ranks. To be more specific I work for the IRS. The problem is I don't have a CPA or any accounting credits so it's not so easy to get a similarly well paying job in this field for me.

lollylegs

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2019, 10:46:15 PM »
just go for it, I changed careers to mental health counselling when I was in my early 40's. never regretted it, love the work just frustrated with the organisation but planning on going back to private practice in the next year or two. I'm in Australia so can't really comment on training/opportunities elsewhere, but in terms of satisfying rewarding work it fits the bill for me.  I've actually just made the decidion this week to take on a post graduate degree. It will impact the finances but I am really missing the challenge of study and it will upgrade me for when I leave. If you have a heart for this type of work its worth making the change.

MountainTown

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2019, 10:59:42 PM »
Thanks lolly!

Can I ask how much or in what ways it impacted your FI journey? Do you mind sharing what you average now for income?

Are you pursuing a PHD in counseling?

lollylegs

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2019, 11:20:18 PM »
I earned good money in private practice, approx $120,000 before taxes about10 years ago, but illness meant I ended up having to close up and go back to work. So financially we had difficulties for a few years ( wasn't able to have income protection insurance), not able to save much. My student loans took about 8 years to pay back, but in Aus we do that via the tax system so I didn't get much back at tax time during those years which slowed our ability to save.

 Now at work I earn just over $100,000pa and have very good conditions with 7 weeks leave, 3 weeks sick leave and one week professional leave so that has been good. I love the work but can't stand the organisation as it is basically a non profit that is being privatised so different values the last couple of years.
I max out pre-tax contributions and work at getting the maximum tax deductions. So in the last 9 years we've bought two investment properties, I have $120,000 in retirement savings ( hubby has $300,00). My plan had been to stay there about 4 more years then just do some private work but now I've decided two years is probably enough then I'll go back to private practice.  I also combine my holidays with attending training or conferences and this is a tax deduction, I take hubby and we have had some fantastic international holidays this way - most of it claimed back on tax, but it might be different in US.

Despite frustrations in the workplace and various legislative changes that impact negatively on my earning capacity in this profession, I have never regretted it as the work is really challenging, satisfying and always interesting. When I started uni I was almost 40, oldest in the class :)    so don't think you're too old, time is going to pass anyway, might as well spend it working at something that you enjoy if possible, finances are important but not the most important thing in life.

edited to add, not a PhD, have a masters in counselling, getting another post grad diploma in a specific  type of therapy - also hubby earned approx 50-60K over those years.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2019, 11:28:18 PM by lollylegs »

MountainTown

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2019, 11:23:36 PM »
thanks for the info lolly

SunnyDays

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2019, 09:15:14 PM »
I'm wondering why you don't get your master's in psychology instead of social work.  Wouldn't you have more prerequisites for that?  I would think the job prospects would be fairly similar.  I have a master's in Clinical Psychology but spent my career in the Behavioural field, mostly because that's about all that was on offer at the time I graduated, and once that's where one's experience lays, it's harder to move around.  In my province in Canada, a master's degree can pretty easily command at least 65K a year and in private practice, much more.  I worked for the provincial gov't and made 80K plus generous benefits and 6 weeks vacation time when I retired in 2016.  I mostly enjoyed the job, although it can be stressful dealing with other people's problems all day long.  You have to be able to maintain emotional detachment to do this kind of job long-term, in my opinion.  Another option for you might be to get the CPA-type training that will allow you to move up in your current field.  Good luck whatever you decide.

dcozad999

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2019, 09:30:24 PM »
Unfortunately, Masters level Clinical Psychologists in the US don't have the same opportunities as Social Workers in the US.
I believe they can only practice in 9 of the 50 states. The various state psychology boards are a bunch of assholes. 
My wife often wishes she had gone the Social Work route instead.

FireAnt

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2019, 07:17:35 AM »
MSW here! I currently work for county government at a community mental health although have had several jobs in child welfare. I am thankful to have a higher than average paying job in this field. I have a good friend who has owned her private practice for about 5-6 years (also has MSW) and have had multiple discussions with her since it was something that had interested me if/when I semi-FIRE. I was thinking it may be a good part time gig although I waver at this time. She is very successful and has other therapists under her now. Yes, you can make the amount you state, although you are not factoring in healthcare, retirement, or vacation/sick time. You getting paid depends on if they show up. (i.e. the entire state was practically closed during the arctic freeze therefore all her clients cancelled and she did not get paid). She also talks about the love to travel and the flexibility of going when you want to and not having to ask your employer for time off. But again, you don't get paid during that time. Lastly, she has had numerous health issues the past 2 years and her insurance plans and deductibles are quite high. So she has told me that at the end of the day, she doesn't make anymore than someone who makes around $50-60K.

Personally, I have a lot of student loan debt. I am on track to get them forgiven, but the amount I owe is a lot (or at least to me it is). I would caution to put yourself in debt for a field that does not pay equal to the requirement amount of education.


MountainTown

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2019, 09:16:11 PM »
Thanks. I am having trouble mustering up the courage lately.

I got accepted into one school so far. It is in my hometown which would require a move. This isn't my wife's preference to be clear...

I am applying at local schools and will find out in 30 days if I get in.

Dangit I am really struggling with the financial side of all this. She only makes 45k at her current job so she isn't exactly able to support us in full. Luckily I have about $68k in cash saved up so between that and hopefully scholarships, working, etc I should be fine. Mind you....I don't want to burn all that of course. The tuition here is about $8000 to $11000 a year depending on the program I choose. Not cheap but not that bad as far as tuition goes.

Has anyone else made a leap like this for something that was their dream job? I have wanted to do this since I graduated and just wussed out because of my student debt. Now 10 years later....I am in a career that I never intended to be. It pays well and I was steadily promoted. I had a great boss and great coworkers for years. The last 2-3 years I have seen most of those coworkers leave or retire, the office has become increasingly isolated, and the manager changed. He has been extremely difficult to work under and I have been pretty depressed about work lately. I am always fearful of making a mistake because I don't feel like the manager has my back...it's almost like the way he reviews is with "gotchas" instead of seeing the whole picture.

Long story short the job situation has just gotten negative and it has been a good time to look again at what I always intended to do.

But I keep wondering am I following a pipe dream? I know some people think it's silly to just go with your passion...but it is something I think about a lot. And it's also a calculated risk...I have researched the career, saved the money for tuition, established some retirement savings, and lived cheaply.

here are my numbers briefly:

380k net worth(including 68k in cash). The rest is pretty much in retirement accounts. I am also fortunate to have inherited about $30k to $34k this last year. Sadly my father passed. Maybe another reason to rethink my life goals. Anyways, it's worth noting that this money can be accessed without penalty if necessary. So in a sense I have almost $100k that can be liquidated if needs be.

I make $81k a year now and my wife makes about $45k. We have been saving roughly $50k to $55k a year so maybe 40% savings rate.

Thanks for any tips, inspiration, or feedback.

F.I.Life

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2019, 10:45:07 PM »
I am not a mental health counselor but speaking from experience, sometimes our judgment and decision making ability are impacted under stress. My recommendation would be to hold off from making a quick decision right now and take some time off (FMLA?) to really think over the pros and cons (worst scenario - can you live with it) of your decision. There are always trade offs. Good luck!

FireAnt

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2019, 07:54:52 AM »
Have you considered going back part time? I know there are several programs in Michigan that cater to those who work full time. MSU is a big one for their MSW program. It's mostly online, but requires in person classes once a month or so on a Saturday as well as 1 week during the summer. It would take longer, but then the financial aspect wouldn't be as stressful. The other thing to consider is if you are eligible for the Advanced Standing program so you can skip some of the fundamental classes- this is largely based on your undergraduate degree and GPA. The only downside is that you would still be at a job you hate. Maybe it's time for a new job in a similar field until you get your graduate degree and establish clientele as private therapist?

MountainTown

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2019, 09:33:12 PM »
I definitely have. That would be lovely. I work for the type of employer who....would never offer that and probably would only accept it at the time of resignation(that's a big maybe). And...honestly my job is so demanding and stressful I am not so sure I could do either school or the job well with my time split. I think I would just end up overworking to make up for lost hours as the demands might be similar.

I don't mean to be negative. I mean it's a hail mary that I intend to throw out there...but not sure how that would go. I agree that even doing that for a semester or two would ease me into the transition.

Unfortunately I am not eligible for advanced standing.

As for getting a more similar job...yes I have thought of that. And most likely would once I get back into school. But here those types of jobs are pretty dismal. I would probably be making 30k a year if working FT and 15k a year if working halftime in most social service jobs(without an MSW or Masters of Counseling).



me1

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2019, 12:24:18 AM »
Why isn’t your wife able to support you at $45k? What is your FIRE goal? Would you have a lot more than that coming in from your investments?

Linea_Norway

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2019, 01:39:06 AM »
I worked for 12 years in a field that I didn't have formal education in. I was also afraid that I couldn't switch jobs without formal papers. I did let my boss pay for a few days course which gave me formal paper for some aspect of my job. It turned out not to be that difficult to switch to another job in the same field (IT). Maybe that course paper helped. My next boss paid for another few days course for a more advanced paper and since then the head hunters are very interested.

If I were you, I would give it a try to look for other possible jobs, if it is only your boss who is the problem, not the work itself.

FireAnt

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2019, 07:47:02 AM »
I definitely have. That would be lovely. I work for the type of employer who....would never offer that and probably would only accept it at the time of resignation(that's a big maybe). And...honestly my job is so demanding and stressful I am not so sure I could do either school or the job well with my time split. I think I would just end up overworking to make up for lost hours as the demands might be similar.

I don't mean to be negative. I mean it's a hail mary that I intend to throw out there...but not sure how that would go. I agree that even doing that for a semester or two would ease me into the transition.

Unfortunately I am not eligible for advanced standing.

As for getting a more similar job...yes I have thought of that. And most likely would once I get back into school. But here those types of jobs are pretty dismal. I would probably be making 30k a year if working FT and 15k a year if working halftime in most social service jobs(without an MSW or Masters of Counseling).

I agree working full time plus going to school part time is difficult. What about school part time (or full time if you're up to it) and finding a job that may pay less, but brings in some income so you're not relying solely on your wife's income. If you can get insurance through your wife, you may be able to get paid slightly more part time because the employer would not have as much overhead costs they are responsible for as a part time employee over full time. My husband worked part time moving boxes for a company for $18-20/hr 25 hours a week while he was going through school. It didn't involve any education or brain power, but it was perfect for what he needed at that time. Just trying to be creative- I know how it is to be in a job that is stressful- it impacts your physical health, relationships, and mental health.

MountainTown

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2019, 10:50:49 PM »
Italianant,

Surely at this point moving boxes for 18/ hr might be a relief! I am totally open to that--don't get me wrong. All I was saying is that my current job demands more than my agreement...right? It's not a 40/hr week job. So frankly even if I were to get PT(which is unlikely) I think that the demands would be high.

Anyways, I can move forward with school and make some considerations regarding PT work for the same employer. Who knows?

I guess I was looking for more encouragement or support or feedback from people who had quit lucrative work to go back to school for a passion. I know that's not very FIRE friendly though as it is ultimately spending 10-20k for sure.

Budgie

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #20 on: February 20, 2019, 11:41:18 PM »
I went back to school for a career change in my 40's and am now an LCSW. Not at all familiar with Montana as far as clinical licensure, the economy, or social work rules and regs, but here's my .02

--Are you male? I don't want to presume. As a male therapist your practice will quickly get full. There are far fewer men in the field and many clients are looking for a male therapist. If private practice is your goal you will likely want to add specialized training, e.g. motivational interviewing, trauma/EMDR, DBT, ACT or something to provide you with a selling point to referral sources as well as to potential clients who are looking for a particular skill set. Working with adolescents you might well be swamped with clients as many single parents want their boys to see male therapists IME.

--If you are not male, look at how saturated your area is with female therapists, and look carefully. What is a niche that needs served in your area (eating disorders, DBT, SPMI are some that will always be sought out/sent referrals from therapists who won't see those clients, while general depression/anxiety/life stressor populations may be overserved already and you might have trouble distinguishing yourself from the pack/staying full.

--after you graduate, you will need to do at least two years as a CSW before getting your L (in my state, anyway). Salary will be lower at this time (here they start in the lowish 40's) and you may have to pay for clinical supervision if your employer does not provide it, so factor that into your costs.

--if you are AT ALL entrepreneurial, you can likely double++ your current salary once you have your L and a few years of work in your community. Open a private practice and rent offices to another couple of therapists, or hire 1-2 contract therapists to take your overflow, and pay them 50% of what insurance pays you, build this out and up as far as your market will support. Bring in an APRN so you have a prescriber handy and that will bring people in. Or, instead of an outpatient therapy office, open up sober living or other intensive/residential treatment programs. One guy moved here from another state, quickly got connected to law enforcement/court system, and now provides virtually all the court-ordered domestic violence or drunk driving related services in a multi-county area, with his crew of recent graduate CSWs who are getting less than 50%.

In short, it can be as much of a business as you want it to be, or as little. But unless things are very different in Montana, as a male LCSW you will have every advantage whether you go the private practice, sole practitioner route, build your own agency, or want to become a director of an existing agency. If you're a female, you may need to strategize more carefully to have a full practice in your early years, but the entrepreneurial part will still be true.

FireAnt

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #21 on: February 21, 2019, 07:23:52 AM »
Quote
I guess I was looking for more encouragement or support or feedback from people who had quit lucrative work to go back to school for a passion. I know that's not very FIRE friendly though as it is ultimately spending 10-20k for sure.

I say go for it then :) Life is too short to be unhappy. I think that is a large chunk of what FIRE is. Just realize it would delay the RE part. Looks like it would be worth it than being unhappy for years until the point of RE.

Treb3

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #22 on: February 21, 2019, 05:18:05 PM »
I left a $75k+ job that required 24/7 on-call. I was frequently woken up and we were always understaffed. I now make 32k and only work 40 hours a week unless I choose to do overtime. To me, 100% worth it to preserve my health and sanity. Not your field fyi

civil4life

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #23 on: February 21, 2019, 09:25:42 PM »
I read your post but none of the responses.

I just finished reading a book that I think would be very helpful in this situation.

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
By BILL BURNETT & DAVE EVANS

MountainTown

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #24 on: February 21, 2019, 11:53:58 PM »
Thanks Civil, I will check that out.

Wow Treb....would love to hear more. I mean how hard is it that this has slowed down your FI journey? this is what I struggle with.

Budgie, thanks so much for all the insight on the field. I am a male...yes. I have heard this would help. Perhaps I could PM you? Would love to hear more specifics about your job satisfaction. It's also worth noting I am between two licenses...msw/lcsw or masters of counseling/lcpc. I have heard MSW is more versatile but I don't have a school with a strong clinical emphasis here. There is only one, but it is three times the cost(a private, satellite school).


Treb3

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2019, 01:08:42 AM »
So, long version...

Yes, it has impacted my FI journey. But I am more interested in FI than RE anyway and usually enjoy working. It is the security side of FI that appeals most to me. When I was in the depths of despair...I thought of RE a lot, but that was because I was so overwhelmed. I could do my current job for a LONG time and be pretty happy. My old one was literally destroying me.

I am a 33yo single female, $300k investments, just bought a house with a large down payment a month ago.

I actually posted on the forum somewhere when I was trying to make this decision. It was a difficult decision for me to make because I went from a higher status and paying job to a much lower one. But I also went to a Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For company and moved back to my hometown. It was part of a whole life change. But I was so stressed out from my old job that I was crying all the time, I wasn’t sleeping because of patient emergencies/deaths that I had to deal with, I gained a lot of weight and health problems, and I was almost never off. Senior leadership had the perspective that it didn’t matter how much salaried workers worked, and our promised bonuses were cut almost in half.

Life is worth more than that. I could have kept holding out for a comparable job in my hometown but a) I needed to get out asap and 2) I was afraid of leaving the skillet for the fire! I left the industry my degree is in and that I have worked in for 10 years.

My standard of living hasn’t changed that much because I was saving a lot before (that’s a whole ‘nother story). I am pinching pennies harder. And my cute little house is much cheaper than my old expensive apartment. But honestly, I do struggle some with how comparatively little I am adding to my investments each month and I often think about how much more I would like to add to my house pmt each month. And I would really feel much more comfortable if I made even an extra $1k per month that I could save. But that is nothing compared to the relief I feel now. It has been six months since I left that place.  I can breathe and sleep again. And I am slowly beginning to rebuild a life that fell apart in the last 2 years.

Nobody can really answer this for you— only you know how miserable you are, how important FI is to you, and how important a certain career field is to you. I think a big part of it for me was almost that I felt like I needed permission from others to leave. That those I respected wouldn’t look down on me for doing less. That I wouldn’t look down on myself for not being able to “handle it.” But it was an untenable situation. A few people have looked at me funny, but SO MANY PEOPLE have been so supportive.

I would honestly continue to wrestle with this if I were in your shoes. I would write it out, talk it out with your wife, pray, meditate, whatever it is you do. Sure, it’s not a life or death situation, but it could have a very real impact on your future. Do whatever gives you and your wife the most peace. When I think about what I gave up.... I can usually regain peace pretty easily by consciously thinking about all of the small joys I have gained.

Budgie

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #26 on: February 23, 2019, 02:42:07 PM »
Budgie, thanks so much for all the insight on the field. I am a male...yes. I have heard this would help. Perhaps I could PM you?

Sure!

MountainTown

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Re: Any mental health counselors out there?
« Reply #27 on: February 24, 2019, 03:44:30 PM »
Thanks for the long response. Sorry I have been skiing most of the weekend but hope to catch up on replies today!