Land a job in mental health therapy with this resume guide

A resume guide for mental health therapists. Topics covered include the best formatting option, how to write an effective resume summary, types of specialized skills to earn and include, expanding work experience with clinical hours, and how to properly list education. 

Becoming a mental health therapist requires a high level of empathy alongside the more technical skills of providing emotional support, counseling, and treatment. With such specific and noble intentions in mind, creating a resume that stands out as a mental health therapist requires you to balance the technical aspects with the interpersonal details. 

In this guide, we will discuss the key elements of a resume to focus on tailoring specifically for the mental health industry.

Following this guide will teach you how to

  • Pick the right resume format for your experience level
  • Detail your strengths and goals in your resume summary
  • Use your skills to highlight your specializations
  • Include clinical hours to expand your work experience section
  • Include your educational credentials and accomplishments

1. Pick the right resume format for your experience level

The amount of experience you have will vary depending on if you have been working in the field previously or if you are entering for the first time into your first formal position as a therapist. 

For our newcomers, there are two main formatting options to choose between: reverse-chronological and functional. 

Reverse-chronological resumes are focused almost entirely on your work experience. While you will have skills and education sections as well, work experience is the key element for this format to work. If you are a student or recent grad, chances are you do not yet possess the proper amount of experience to fill this format. 

However, if you frame your clinical hours worked correctly and include internships within work experience, you may be able to make the reverse-chronological format work. 

Functional resumes, comparatively, place the focus of the resume on education, skills, and unpaid experience. Though this type of resume is not as standard as the reverse-chronological, it works well for applicants with limited relevant experience or gaps in their resume. 

Ideally, you want your resume to be in a reverse-chronological format as a mental health therapist – but, the functional format can absolutely create an effective resume when written well. 

2. Detail your strengths and goals in your resume summary

A resume summary is a brief statement at the beginning of a resume that helps to introduce you, as the applicant. This is the perfect opportunity to showcase your best skills and achievements. If you have written a cover letter as well, the resume summary can be an excellent place to echo those sentiments.

To help illustrate how to write a compelling resume summary, here is an example of a weak resume summary and an explanation of how to correct it:

Incorrect mental health therapy resume summary example:

"Mental Health Therapist with over one year of experience working in a clinical office. Recently graduated with a Master’s in clinical social work. Completed a 32-week internship at a local clinical practice working with professional social workers."

What's wrong with this example? Here, the applicant is clearly a recent graduate with limited formal work experience. The wording in this summary is a bit passive and unspecific. To correct this, we would want more exact details about the experience the applicant has, specifically with the internship. 

Corrected mental health therapy resume summary example:

"Ambitious Mental Health Therapist who recently graduated from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill with a Master of Social Work. Recently completed a 32-week internship with responsibilities such as preparing agendas, evaluating client needs, and assisting in case management."

Why is this better? This summary offers the reader a lot more clarity and context surrounding the applicant’s work experience. It also introduces that the applicant is a recent grad, setting the stage for the applicant to use a functional resume format. 

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3. Use your skills to highlight your specializations

In mental health fields such as psychology and counseling, there are many different specialized subjects, topics, and treatments. Throughout your academic and professional career, you likely have taken an interest in specific parts of a patient’s mental health. 

The skills section of your resume is a fantastic place for you to note these special interests – or specializations if you have the proper licensing and certification. 

Best hard skills to include on a mental health resume:

  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Trauma work
  • Grief counseling
  • Knowledge of mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, ADHD, autism, etc.)

4. Include clinical hours to expand your work experience

What’s most important to potential employers is how much time you have spent with clients and what relevant and valuable skills you have gained from that experience. 

Even if you are fresh out of school, you will likely have hours upon hours of clinical field experience to talk about on your resume. It is especially helpful to emphasize instances in which you worked independently with a client, though co-working with a licensed therapist is also valid experience. 

Regardless of what resume format you are using, you can frame your unpaid clinical hours or internship experiences as work experience if you worked directly with clients. The key is to showcase your most technical responsibilities and any accomplishments you achieved. 

Additionally, when it comes to any sort of clinical rotation you include, it is pertinent to only add 2 or 3 of these to your resume. Leave the rest of the space for more formal internships or jobs – or for other sections in a functional resume.

5. Include your educational credentials & accomplishments

Education is important on a mental health therapist’s resume – especially if they are newly graduated and potentially entering the mental health workforce for the first time. 

If you haven’t done so in a larger section already, it may be wise to include some of your clinical rotations within your education section. This will help you build out your resume, especially if you are lacking work experience.

The education section can also be a good place to include additional credentials and accomplishments, such as certifications earned through your college studies. 

Example of an education section on a mental health resume:

Education

M.A. Clinical Psychology | Specialized in Substance Abuse Counseling
Boston University | Boston, MA

Certifications

Published on Dec. 1, 2021

A journalist by trade, a writer by fate. Nikoleta went from writing for media outlets to exploring the world of content creation with Kickresume and helping people get closer to the job of their dreams. Her insights and career guides have been published by The Female Lead, College Recruiter, and ISIC, among others. When she’s not writing or (enthusiastically) pestering people with questions, you can find her traveling or sipping on a cup of coffee.

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