Even within the healthcare industry, many professionals find that a career in the public health sector can offer a greater sense of reward and better job stability than private or clinical practice. This is appealing to people in a number of specialties as community health concerns can range from treatment and prevention, to safety measures and research. Mental health services for the public sector are increasing greatly as the social need for psychological care is becoming more apparent.
One career path in public and mental health that addresses the need to understand this social trend is that of a mental health researcher. For individuals who already hold a PhD. in psychology, the shift to mental health researcher can provide the means to not only propose better treatment options, but to act in terms of being interventive in addressing this public health concern.
What Is A Mental Health Researcher?
In the field of public health, a mental health researcher is a doctor of psychology who studies how mental health conditions affect populations, and how demographic, environmental, and social factors can affect the course and expression of psychological conditions. Mental health researcher will engage in clinical practice as a course of studying the effects of intervention, but primary concerns are to understand the causes of psychological disease and the influences that exacerbate them. This will also translate into a greater ability to provide effective treatment and prevention services for the public.
Mental health researchers will be expected to perform the following duties within the scope of their job:
- Identify trends in mental health conditions within the community.
- Develop experimental protocols for the study of specific issues to better understand causative factors.
- Gather data through observations and interactions with the public.
- Conduct testing to detect relationships between cognitive and emotional functions.
- Develop and test theories regarding intervention, treatment, and prevention.
- Report findings to other healthcare professionals in an effort to better address community needs.
The following personal qualities will also ensure that you enjoy success in a career as a mental health researcher:
- Critical thinking: You will need to be able to identify trends and find causal pattern in the patients that you are observing.
- Problem solving: This can range from developing and testing your initial experimental protocols to considering unknown variables and methods for prevention.
- Communication: Interactions with your subjects and the identification of community needs will be largely based on interviews with subjects or gathering information from other mental health caregivers.
- Observation: Your other mode of gathering information will be based on watching how your subjects behave and noticing triggers or influences that are beneficial to the condition.
- Interpersonal skills: You will be interacting not only with the people you are studying, but also with other mental health professionals, the general public, and family members. This will require diplomacy and patience, as well as the ability to build trust.
Nature Of The Work
Mental health researchers will most often work in conjunction with public mental health facilities to access a sub-population of the community to observe. This will include working with the clinic staff to be able to interact and record observations with the patients. You will also have access to public health outpatient services in order to address a greater scope of psychological concern. While the majority of the research is conducted in a practice setting, you may also need to seek support from the community to conduct studies while offering treatment as well.
Field work for this position would include direct interactions with the public to identify emotional health concerns within the larger population. You may also need to communicate with family members of your study subject and conduct interviews regarding habits and behavior patterns to get a clearer picture of all factors that are involved. When testing treatment and prevention theories you will still be operating from this structure, and your records and conclusions can provide information for all health service professionals.
Education And Training
Most mental health researcher positions require that you have a post-graduate degree and have completed your clinical internship and residency program. Further, you will need to be licensed to practice as a psychologist, which involves passing the board exam in your specialty. Although some public mental health researchers are able to work with only a Master degree, if this is the case, you will still need to have clinical experience through an internship.
Mental health researchers are looking at a 12% increase in job creation over the next ten years, which translates into nearly 19,000 jobs across the nation. The demand for preventive measures in addressing mental health concerns is an exciting field, as treatment has been the primary intervention, and public services for mental health are just beginning to gain attention in communities. This career path has high advancement potential through federal grant funding, but average salaries are between $53,000 and $110,000 annually.