Interview

17 Mental Health Counselor Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a mental health counselor, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Mental health counselors help people deal with and overcome mental and emotional disorders. They provide therapy, support, and guidance to their clients, who may be coping with conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or addiction.

If you’re looking to become a mental health counselor, you’ll need to be prepared to answer a range of questions during your job interview. Interviewers will want to know about your experience working with people who have mental health disorders, as well as your ability to empathize with and support them. They’ll also ask about your counseling style and how you would handle difficult situations.

To help you prepare, we’ve compiled a list of common mental health counselor interview questions and answers.

Common Mental Health Counselor Interview Questions

Are you comfortable working with clients who have severe mental health issues?

This question can help interviewers determine if you have the experience and skills to work with clients who may be experiencing more severe mental health issues. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention a specific client or situation that helped you develop your skills working with these types of clients.

Example: “I’ve worked with many different types of clients in my previous role as a mental health counselor. I find that each person has their own unique story and struggles, which makes every session interesting. One of my favorite experiences was working with a client who had schizophrenia. He would often get distracted during our sessions, but he always wanted to learn new ways to cope with his symptoms. We found some strategies that really helped him manage his symptoms.”

What are some of the most important qualities that a mental health counselor should have?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you possess the necessary skills and abilities to succeed in this role. When answering, it can be helpful to mention a few of your most important qualities and how they relate to the job.

Example: “I believe that empathy is one of the most important qualities for a mental health counselor because it allows us to understand our clients’ feelings and provide them with support. Another quality I think is essential is patience, as counseling sessions often require a lot of listening and understanding. Finally, I feel compassion is an important quality because it helps me connect with my clients and show them that I care about their well-being.”

How would you handle a situation where a client is not making any progress with their treatment?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your counseling skills and how you apply them in a variety of situations. In your answer, try to describe the steps you would take to help clients make progress with their treatment goals.

Example: “If I notice that a client isn’t making any progress toward their treatment goals, I first try to understand why they aren’t progressing. If it’s because they’re not following through on their treatment plan, I’ll work with them to develop strategies for remembering to complete their tasks. For example, if they forget to take medication, I might suggest setting reminders on their phone or computer so they remember to take their pills at the right time. If they don’t seem motivated to continue their treatment, I will encourage them to set small goals for themselves and celebrate when they reach those goals.”

What is your process for identifying and addressing your own mental health needs?

This question can help interviewers understand how you balance your own mental health with the needs of your clients. It also helps them determine whether you have a support system in place to help you manage stress and other challenges that may arise during your workday.

Example: “I take time every day for self-care, including exercise, meditation and healthy meals. I find this practice is essential to my well-being as a counselor because it allows me to be more present with my clients and remain calm when they’re experiencing challenging emotions. I also make sure to schedule regular appointments with my therapist so I can discuss any issues or concerns that come up at work.”

Provide an example of a time when you were able to help a client overcome an obstacle.

This question can help interviewers understand your counseling skills and how you apply them to help clients. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe a specific situation in which you helped a client overcome an obstacle or challenge they were facing.

Example: “In my previous role as a mental health counselor, I worked with a client who was struggling with anxiety. The client had been experiencing anxiety for years, but he hadn’t sought treatment until recently. He told me that his anxiety made him feel like he couldn’t do anything right.

I started by asking the client what he thought caused his anxiety. We talked about some of the situations that triggered his anxiety and discussed ways he could cope with those triggers. After several sessions, the client felt more confident in his ability to manage his anxiety. He even began taking on new challenges at work.”

If a client is resistant to counseling, how would you handle the situation?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your counseling style and how you interact with clients. In your answer, try to demonstrate that you are empathetic and willing to work with a client who is reluctant to participate in counseling.

Example: “I have encountered many clients who were initially resistant to counseling. I understand that it can be difficult for some people to open up about their problems, so I always make sure to create an environment where they feel comfortable talking. I also encourage them to take their time and not rush through the session. If they need breaks or want to talk more at a later date, I am happy to accommodate them.”

What would you do if you noticed another counselor was not following best practices for mental health counseling?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your ability to work as part of a team. In your answer, you can describe how you would approach the other counselor and encourage them to improve their counseling practices. You can also mention that you would be willing to help them learn more about best practices for mental health counseling.

Example: “If I noticed another counselor was not following best practices for mental health counseling, I would first try to speak with them in private. If they were open to my feedback, I would explain why it is important to follow these guidelines. If they did not seem receptive to my feedback, I would consider speaking with our supervisor or hiring manager about the situation.”

How well do you understand the different types of mental health disorders and treatments?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your knowledge of the field and how you apply it in your work. They want to see that you have a strong understanding of mental health disorders, their symptoms and treatments. In your answer, try to list as many types of mental illnesses as you can and explain what they are. You can also mention any specific experiences you’ve had with these disorders.

Example: “I am very familiar with the different types of mental illness. I took several courses on psychology in college, which helped me learn about all kinds of mental disorders. Some of my favorites include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. I find them interesting because there is so much we don’t know about them yet. I worked at a hospital for two years where I saw patients who suffered from these disorders. It was an amazing experience to be able to help people through such difficult times.”

Do you have any experience working with clients who have substance abuse problems?

Substance abuse is a common issue for mental health counselors to address. Employers ask this question to make sure you have experience working with clients who struggle with addiction and can handle the challenges that come with it. In your answer, share an example of how you helped a client overcome substance abuse. Explain what steps you took to help them and why those steps were effective.

Example: “I once worked with a client who had a severe alcohol problem. He was in denial about his drinking, so I started by asking him questions about his relationship with alcohol. This allowed me to learn more about his habits and understand where he was coming from. After our first meeting, I recommended that he attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He agreed and attended several AA meetings per week. Eventually, he realized he needed professional help and began seeing me regularly.”

When working with a client, how do you determine the best course of action to take?

This question can help interviewers understand how you make decisions and what factors influence your choices. Use examples from previous experience to show that you consider the client’s needs, as well as any relevant information about their situation.

Example: “I always start by listening carefully to my clients’ concerns and asking them questions to learn more about their mental health history. I also ask them about their goals for counseling so I can determine which treatment methods are most likely to help them achieve those goals. For example, if a client wants to reduce anxiety but has never tried therapy before, I might suggest starting with weekly sessions to build trust and establish rapport. Then, once they feel comfortable in our relationship, we can discuss other options.”

We want to improve our outreach to at-risk populations. How would you go about doing that as a counselor?

This question is an opportunity to show your leadership skills and ability to collaborate with others. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention a specific example of how you helped implement outreach initiatives in the past.

Example: “I think one way we could improve our outreach would be by creating more opportunities for community members to interact with mental health counselors. I have experience working on a team that created a series of workshops where mental health professionals spoke at local libraries about different aspects of mental health. We also had activities for kids and adults to participate in during the event. This was a great way to reach out to people who may not otherwise seek help.”

Describe your process for conducting intake interviews with new clients.

Interviewers may ask this question to learn more about your counseling style and how you interact with clients. When answering, it can be helpful to describe a specific example of an intake interview that you conducted in the past.

Example: “During my first meeting with new clients, I like to get a better understanding of their mental health history. I find that asking open-ended questions is often the best way to do this because it allows them to share as much information as they feel comfortable sharing. For instance, when conducting an intake interview for a client who was experiencing depression, I asked them what symptoms they were experiencing, if they had ever experienced these symptoms before and whether or not they have sought treatment for depression in the past.”

What makes you stand out from other mental health counselors?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your unique qualities and how they can benefit their organization. When answering, think of a quality that you have that makes you stand out from other mental health counselors. It could be something like having experience working with a specific population or being bilingual.

Example: “I am passionate about helping people who are struggling with addiction. I worked at an outpatient facility where we treated patients for drug and alcohol addictions, and it was the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. I feel that my experiences in that role make me uniquely qualified to help others overcome their addictions.”

Which counseling approaches do you prefer to use with your clients?

This question can help interviewers understand your counseling style and how you might fit into their organization. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention a few approaches that you have used in the past and why they were effective for you or your clients.

Example: “I believe that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to mental health counseling. I prefer to use a variety of different approaches depending on my client’s needs. For example, if a client has anxiety, I may start by helping them learn some relaxation techniques before moving on to more intensive therapy. If a client has depression, I may focus more on cognitive behavioral therapy.”

What do you think is the most important thing that mental health counselors can do to help their clients?

This question can help interviewers understand your philosophy of counseling and how you might approach working with clients. Your answer should reflect the values that are important to you as a mental health counselor, such as compassion, empathy or respect for the client’s individuality.

Example: “I think one of the most important things counselors can do is listen to their clients without judgment. When people come into counseling, they’re often looking for someone who will accept them for who they are and not try to change them. I believe it’s also important to be empathetic when listening to clients’ problems so that we can better understand what they’re going through.”

How often should you meet with clients?

This question can help interviewers understand your counseling style and how you plan to meet the needs of clients. When answering, it can be helpful to mention a specific number or range of times you typically meet with clients in a week or month.

Example: “I believe that meeting with clients at least once a week is important for maintaining progress and helping them feel supported. However, I also know that sometimes circumstances may arise where we need to change our schedule. In those cases, I try to communicate with my clients as soon as possible so they have time to adjust their expectations.”

There is a new treatment that has shown promising results for a client’s disorder. How would you approach recommending it to them?

This question can help interviewers understand your decision-making process and how you would apply it to a client. It is important to show that you are willing to research new treatments, evaluate their effectiveness and recommend them if they seem like the best option for your clients.

Example: “I would first do my own research on the treatment to ensure I am giving accurate information about it. Then, I would explain the benefits of the treatment to the client and discuss with them whether or not they think it could be helpful. If they agree to try it, I would monitor their progress regularly to make sure there are no negative side effects and adjust the treatment as needed.”

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