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Alternative Practice Settings for Mental Health Professionals

A national shortage of qualified mental health professionals along with technology advancements have enabled these clinicians to be choosy about their practice settings. If you would like to explore settings outside of a private practice or traditional healthcare facility, there are a variety of other choices to consider that  may provide lifestyle benefits or increased job satisfaction.

Telepsychiatry--The growth of telepsychiatry has enabled mental health professionals to practice within the privacy of their own homes and offices, expanding the markets they serve and helping patients in rural or underserved areas have greater access to a wider range of mental health services. To learn more about telepsychiatry, read our article on telepsychiatry basics. The American Telemedicine Association also provides a resource for those considering beginning a telehealth practice: Practice Guidelines for Video-Based Online Mental Health Services.

Correctional Health--Working behind the walls of a correctional facility can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. If you've never considered practicing in a correctional facility, you might be surprised at the sense of security and job satisfaction many mental health care practitioners enjoy from the work. The National Commission on Correctional Health Care offers a certification in correctional health care for professionals who focus specifically on working with incarcerated patients.

Veterans Affairs--To assist the nation's veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that it is investing in building a larger mental health services workforce. The VA has established a page on its website to recruit mental health professionals and share assessment tools that clinicians across the country can use to help them better treat patients with military backgrounds.

Indian Health Services--According to the Indian Health Service (IHS), American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) are significantly more likely to report past-year alcohol and substance use disorders and have higher suicide rates than any other race,. The IHS Division of Behavioral Health has developed strategic plans for improving mental health services to native populations, including curbing substance abuse and preventing suicides. The plan includes creating rotation opportunities at Indian Health System facilities for behavioral health professionals and other integrated health providers.

Medical Missions--If you've ever felt burned out or underappreciated, consider short-term volunteer work in the U.S. or abroad where you can employ your clinical training in a very rewarding way. Many medical mission opportunities are available for mental healthcare providers during crisis situations, such as natural disasters, or in remote and underserved areas of the world.