Skills & Characteristics of Mental Health Human Services Workers

Last Updated: 17 Apr 2020
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Personal characteristics of a human services professional can be both essential and detrimental for success. Essential characteristics of a professional do not make the job easier. However, they create a higher tendency for the professional to work successfully with clients. An open-minded professional recognizes differences between themselves and clients. They treat those differences with respect and include them in treatment according to the clients’ desires. Judgment can be appropriate in a human services setting. For example, a counselor may judge a recently relapsed client by revoking privileges within a clinic.

Patience is the most essential characteristic. A professional must be able to deal with relapses in negative behavior. They cannot let human weakness impede progress. Professionals who choose the human services field in order to help people make genuine progress with clients. They maintain connections that benefit both parties. Detrimental characteristics of a professional do not make the job impossible. However, they can impede a professional’s relationship with their client when unchecked. A narrow-minded professional does not recognize differences between themselves and clients.

They assume that differences result from a harmful lifestyle on the clients’ behalf. Judgment becomes inappropriate when it results in ill-informed assessments of the client. For example, judging a mother as incompetent without a full assessment is inappropriate. Impatience from professional to client can cause the professional to rush the clients’ progress. Internalized impatience within the professional can cause a lot of mistakes. Professionals who choose the human services field mainly for money make artificial progress with clients. The quality of their work is usually lacking.

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On the one hand, understanding both types of characteristics can provide a platform for change. On the other hand, that understanding merely provides a distinction for self-limitations. Aspiring professionals need to have or develop specific skills prior to employment in the human services field. Organizational skills are key to updated client information as well as clients themselves. A personal system – however ordered or disordered – must be easy for the aspiring professional to access and peruse. They must be able to find information as soon as they need it for whatever reason.

Communication skills are key to creating connections with clients. Active listening includes physically and verbally showing the client that their message is being received. An aspiring professional must be prepared to create a report with their clients. Their ability to communicate effects the process of their relationship. Professional writing is key to documenting communication with and progress of the client. The aspiring professional must be prepared to use this skill daily. Moreover, other professionals may need to understand the writing.

So if the aspiring professional uses shorthand, they must be prepared to provide a legend. Basic recognition of symptoms is key to referring clients to other professionals. For example, a nurse who encounters a patient who seems to need a referral to the behavioral health unit. When questioned, he or she must be able to provide specific rather than vague reasons. Safety training is key to effectively responding to emergency situations. Basic firefighting and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) abilities are essential to potential to saving the lives of one’s self, clients, and fellow professionals.

Overall, an aspiring professional must understand how to preserve life until more qualified professionals arrive. These specific skills will not only help professionals develop effective, positive relationships with their clients. They will also help professionals overcome personal roadblocks to successfully carrying out their work. Skills become more effective as they develop. Even an aspiring professional who naturally has these skills can only benefit from continually developing them even after entering the human services field. Primary and secondary education (K-12) teach students organization skills and practices.

Aspiring professionals can use these techniques as foundation for adult application. They can take the basic and develop them according to their individual needs. An institution of higher education (i. e. college or university) provides students with in-depth lessons for communication and professional writing skills. They help students work effectively and successfully within a professional setting of various sorts. Many employers in the human services field expect aspiring professionals to have a basic recognition of symptoms as well as safety training.

Therefore, many provide continuous training for employees after they have obtained employment. Consistent development of these skills ensures the relevance and ease of their application. It also ensures that the professional will easily recall the lessons when needed. Learning is fundamental, but practice is vital. Actually putting learned lessons to use when applicable ensures ease of use by the professional with continued practice. Constructive criticism measures the effectiveness of practice from an outside point of view. It informs the professional of how their practices are perceived by others.

Application of feedback combines learning, practice, and constructive criticism. This assemblage is important to the formation of a successful human services worker with their given field. As long as skills are continually developed within accredited settings, then the specific location of development does not matter. That the skills are developed is most important. Yet, while some aspiring professionals have some difficulty developing these skills, others will have an easier time. They are “natural born helpers”. “Natural born helpers” (NBH) exist.

An NBH is someone with a set of traits that easily lend themselves toward helping others in the human services field. On the one hand, these traits will develop naturally mentally, psychologically, and emotionally as the individual matures into an adult. On the other hand, the environments in which the individual matures can be conducive in the advancement of these traits. An NBH tends to be somewhat sociable. They can be outgoing and conversational when necessary. Active listening is a skill that an NBH naturally has a tendency toward from birth.

An NBH usually develops the ability of understanding in their environment because they naturally tend toward it. An NBH is born with the ability to be resourceful then naturally develops it as they mature. An NBH tends to either be aloof or overly-friendly in response to being overloaded with human service-like needs (i. e. counseling). Drama tends to naturally gravitate toward an NBH because their need to help is apparent. The tendency toward helping many people concurrently leaves an NBH with little time for themselves.

As a result, an NBH usually has a reputation as being meddlesome. An NBH needs to find a healthy balance between being aloof and friendly with clients. An NBH must learn early on how to tell whether or not they can help someone. Delegating time between self and others is crucial for an NBH in order to maintain healthiness. Finally, the desire to help should never challenge a person’s desire to be left alone. Some people are born with attributes that either make it easier to work as human services professionals or that drive them toward the human services field.

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Skills & Characteristics of Mental Health Human Services Workers. (2016, Aug 20). Retrieved from

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