Careers Working With the Mentally Challenged

You can find careers working with the mentally challenged in a variety of roles and settings.
You can find careers working with the mentally challenged in a variety of roles and settings. (Image: Andrea Morini/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Caring for the mentally challenged takes a compassionate, kind, caring and patient person. If you are interested in a career working with people who have developmental disabilities, you can find roles designed to provide care, counsel and help to those who are mentally challenged or disabled. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing careers in mental health counseling showing double-digit growth through 2018.


A caregiver, by definition, takes on the responsibility of caring for another individual. For the mentally challenged, a caregiver can provide everything from the basics of living, such as feeding, bathing and dressing to helping a person look for a job or maintain a dwelling. The disability spectrum ranges widely, from the lowest levels of communication to high functioning, and the range of caregiver roles can vary, too. You will find work as a caregiver providing in-home care, group homes, long-term care facilities and nursing facilities.


Counselors working with the mentally handicapped or challenged provide clinical and life services, helping patients adapt to the life in the world. If you are interested in becoming a mental health counselor, you’ll need to earn your licensing and higher education degrees in areas such as psychology or counseling. As clinicians, counselors work with adult and juvenile patients, teaching life lessons and taking a holistic approach to healing both the mind and body. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, 113,300 people were employed as mental health counselors, with a growth rate of 24 percent expected through 2018. Counselors can work in institutional settings such as care facilities and as hospitals, as well as schools and camps.


Therapists for the mentally challenged can work in areas such as speech, occupational, fine and gross motor, as the patients they are treating generally have more than one disability. As a therapist, you will work with a wide range of patients, helping those in your care attain levels of achievement that will allow them to live independently. You’ll typically be part of a team, working with counselors, social workers, teachers and clinicians to provide supplemental and fundamental support. You can find work in school systems, government agencies, private institutions and care facilities dealing with the mentally challenged.

Social Worker

Mental health social workers are one of the most common types of social work jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 137,300 social workers were employed in mental health in 2008. Social workers have with a care team to provide support, guidance and monitor care in the home to make sure the patient and the patient’s family is getting the necessary care. Social workers typically take on long-term cases, monitoring the mental health of those in their care. Government agencies are the most common setting for social workers, who can also find work in hospitals and other health care institutions and social organizations.

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