How To Become A Therapist?
Updated January 06, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa
Therapy is a noble profession. It provides aid to countless individuals who are suffering, struggling, or otherwise going through something difficult in life. Without therapists, it’s safe to say that the world would be considerably worse off.
If you are interested in becoming a therapist or unsure of the steps and requirements involved, you have come to the right place. Only by knowing what it takes to become a therapist can one determine if this profession is the profession for them. Having the proper education and credentials certainly plays a role in becoming a therapist, but this line of work requires so much more.
Becoming A Therapist: The Education Factor
There are many branches and subsections of therapy. However, individuals interested in this line of work are required to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology or another similar field of study, according to Positive Psychology Program. When you are studying to be a therapist, you can earn any degree during your undergraduate education. However, your master’s program must focus on social work, mental health counseling, psychology, and/or marriage and family counseling. Furthermore, most prospective therapists must continue their education and earn master's degrees in psychology or another similar field. After individuals have earned the required credentials they must then earn their professional licenses. It's worth noting that the educational side of entering this profession takes years. Many people may think they want to become therapists, but they must be willing to put in the time, effort, and hard work to make it. This part of the process tends to weed out certain folks who are not as up to the task as they initially thought.
All in all, becoming a therapist can take between seven and 15 years.
Becoming A Therapist: The Personality Factor
There are a series of personality traits that can be beneficial to someone interested in becoming a therapist. These traits moreover come in handy as one begins practicing therapy and working with patients.
Empathy is one of the most paramount traits one must possess to become a therapist. Therapy involves sitting down with people, working with them, hearing their stories, and helping them improve their lives. A good therapist knows how to assist their patients in rising above issues in life and overcoming setbacks, difficulties, and other challenges that present themselves. Empathy cannot be taught, purchased, or earned in an educational facility. One either has empathy, or they don't.
No matter how many degrees, credentials, and licenses one has, if a therapist lacks empathy for patients they will not be able to complete their job effectively. Empathy is something one should ensure they have before pursuing a career in therapy.
Therapy is not always easy. Depending on the patient and the nature of the circumstances that brought them to therapy, the job can be challenging, trying, and time-consuming. This is where patience comes into play. If a therapist becomes agitated easily or is unable to remain professional when interacting with difficult patients, then this line of work simply may not be for them.
It's easy to be patient when everything is smooth sailing. A therapist's level of patience will be truly put to the test when confronted with someone living with deep, dark trauma and in need of help. A therapist's patience will be significantly tested when a patient is hesitant to open up or when someone requires time before divulging into everything that attracted them to therapy.
The ability to communicate effectively is vital for anyone who is serious about becoming a therapist. During therapy, the patients are not the only ones who will be communicating. Therapists are responsible for asking questions in appropriate manners, listening to the answers, and observing how patients conduct themselves when certain topics are raised.
How a therapist communicates with a patient will largely determine how well the therapy session goes and whether improvements take place. People who go to therapy can pick up on certain things from their therapist; if something feels off or if they are uncomfortable with how the therapist communicates, the therapy process is unlikely to go well, and the patient may cease working with that therapist altogether.
The ability to listen to patients is another critical skill set therapists must possess. You can learn a lot from someone by listening to them. Many people are talkers; they could gab until the cows come home, but this is not always appropriate when working in the field of therapy. Granted, there is a time for talking and time for providing solutions to the challenges patients face but listening must come first. A therapist who is unable to listen may not be a therapist for very long.
Listening in therapy does many things. It shows patients that they are being heard and that what they are saying matters. It also builds rapport and sets up a comfortable environment for patients to open up and confide in their therapist. Human beings have two ears and one month; some have interpreted this to mean that we should all listen twice as much as we talk. For therapists, this is inarguably important.
Being organized is critical for anyone who wants to become a therapist. Individuals who choose therapy as a line of work are usually working with multiple patients. Therefore, they will need to keep track of and manage any paperwork, notes, or other documentation associated with their patients. Being organized saves therapists a lot of time, energy, and potential disasters.
When a therapist is organized enough to properly manage all the documentation regarding the patients they are working with, it speaks volumes about their professionalism. The organization can take time, but it's ultimately always worth it and makes the therapist’s job and the processes of working with patients considerably easier and less stressful.
Resourcefulness is another critical trait for therapists to have. Practicing in this line of work is more than just sitting down with patients and listening to their stories. After that part has been done, therapists must develop individualized solutions that are suitable and best suited for the patients they are working with. This is where resourcefulness comes in.
The educational training required before becoming a therapist greatly contributes to resourcefulness and the ability to come up with the proper solutions to solve problems and improve the lives of patients.
The Time Factor
It takes time to become a great therapist, and it takes even more time to become a world-class therapist. However, by having the proper education and the right personality traits and skill sets, therapists will have the opportunity to learn, grow, and perfect their craft in this profession.
No two patients are exactly alike. Each experience will be different. While patients are getting the help they need from therapy, therapists are also learning and growing from working with different people who have different needs, situations, and things going on in their lives. At the end of the day, time will certainly play a role in becoming an exceptional therapist. Training, licenses, and degrees are impressive but being out in the field and doing the real work is what ultimately makes a therapist great.
All these factors are very important for anyone to know if they are serious about pursuing a career in therapy.
Countless individuals have benefited from therapy, and there will be countless more who will have their lives, relationships, and situations improved due to therapists’ work. Therapy is a very noble profession. It says a lot about someone serious enough to undergo the training and check off the various boxes required before one can begin practicing as a therapist.
No matter who you are or your line of work, therapy is valuable, especially if you are having a tough time or going through something trying or challenging in life. If this sounds like you, then don't hesitate to reach out to a counselor. Research shows that electronically delivered therapy is as effective as traditional face-to-face counseling, which makes it an incredibly convenient option. This study, conducted by Brigham Young University researchers, found that technology-based therapy provides other added benefits, too, including “lower cost, no travel time, easy access, no waitlists, and trackable progress.”
BetterHelp has an elite team of therapists who would be thrilled to work with you and help you improve regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what your story is. The professional, licensed therapist at BetterHelp can provide ongoing daily support via email, chat, or video conferencing, which means you can select the best format for you. Your correspondence will always be kept confidential so you can feel safe discussing any sensitive or challenging issues directly with your counselor. Read these testimonials from patients like you who’ve made real progress with their BetterHelp counselors.
“Lisa was excellent! I especially loved her gentle, educational approach to counseling. She makes mental health feel accessible and positive. I highly recommend her!”
“Marguerite has been a great counselor for me. She’s helped me manage stress, anxiety, communication issues, and setting boundaries. She’s down to earth and easy to talk to. I would definitely recommend her for your mental health needs.”
Asking for assistance and guidance is always the first step to making the rest of your life the best of your life. You can get started with BetterHelp by clicking here.
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