20 professional development ideas for counselors, social workers, and other mental health clinicians
By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
Professional development encompasses all activities that provide or strengthen professional knowledge/skills. Ongoing professional development is a requirement for mental health practitioners in order to maintain competency and for keeping up-to-date on the latest research and evidence-based practices in an ever-changing field.
Listed below are several ideas for counselor professional development.
1 Find a mentor (and meet with them at least once a month).
4 Keep up-to-date on the latest research. If you are a member of a professional organization, take advantage of your member benefits; you likely have access to a professional journal. You can also browse sites like ScienceDaily or use an app like Researcher.
5 Facilitate professional trainings or manage a booth at a conference.
6 Read counseling and psychology books (such as On Being a Therapist by Kottler or Mindsight by Siegel).
7 Practice awareness. Know your values, limitations, and personal biases.
8 Become familiar with local resources in your community.
10 Join a professional counseling forum and participate in discussions. The ACA has several. You could also go the reddit route (i.e. r/psychotherapy).
11 Review your professional code of ethics on a regular basis. (Link to the ACA Code.)
12 Attend webinars, trainings, and conferences. Stay informed by subscribing to email lists, participating in professional forums, and searching Eventbrite for local events; search “mental health.” PESI is another source, but the seminars can be costly.
14 Subscribe to psychology magazines like Psychology Today or Psychotherapy Networker.
15 Further your education by taking classes or earning a certificate.
16 Pick a different counseling skill to strengthen each week. (You can even use flashcards to pick a new skill or simply review!)
20 Practice self-care on a regular basis to prevent burnout. Why is self-care included in a post on professional development? Because self-care is crucial for counselor wellness; a counselor experiencing burnout puts his/her clients at risk.
(Updated 4/30/20) A list of online education courses and trainings for mental health clinicians (some offering free CEs!)
Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
Are you looking to expand your clinical knowledge or do you need CEs to renew your license? In-person workshops and seminars are ideal for learning up-to-date practices and the latest research, but they’re often expensive and/or require travel. And while there are plenty of online programs that offer CEs, most charge a fee.
The following list is comprised of over 50 sites that offer free online courses and webinars. Please note that only a few of the sites offer CEs. However, all of the courses offer opportunities to grow as a clinician and expand your knowledge.
A free 20-hour course with seven comprehensive classes that teaches how to navigate the SSI/SSDI application process with clients with mental illness, who are at risk of homelessness, have a medical impairment, or a co-occurring disorder. CEUs offered for NASW.
Access archived webinars on topics related to treatment services for the lesbian, gay, and transgender population. You can also access a monthly webinar series held on the 4th Friday of each month. CEs may be offered.