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Skills for Mental Health Care Workers

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Mental health workers can include individuals with limited education who provide hands-on care -- such as psychiatric aides -- or highly educated professionals such as counselors, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. Each of these individuals needs certain core skills to provide services and care to people with mental illness and behavioral disorders. Some skills are required of all mental health workers, while the need for others may be limited to a particular occupation. The two skills all mental health workers need are interpersonal and communication skills, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Important Skills

Interpersonal skills describe an individual’s ability to build rapport with others, develop productive relationships and work effectively with many different types of people. Communication skills include not only the ability to speak clearly and communicate complex topics in simple terms, but also the ability to listen carefully with full attention to the client's needs and problems. Mental health workers may also need observational skills to watch for signs of problems such as changes in behavior. A mental health worker often serves multiple patients, and must be able to manage her time well to ensure people don’t have to wait for services or are inadequately served due to the worker’s limited time. Psychiatrists also need leadership skills, as they often direct the mental health team.


Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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