How To Become A Therapist?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the growth of the counseling industry and counseling psychology jobs from 2021 to 2031 is expected to be at a rate of 22%, showcasing the opportunity for individuals looking to enter the field. Becoming a counselor or a therapist can take around six to eight years, so understanding how to get started may benefit you as you plan your ideal future career in mental health counseling.
What Is A Therapist?
“Therapist” is a broad term that defines all mental health professionals offering, clinical mental health therapy and treatment through strategies such as talk therapy, art therapy, or another form of mental healthcare within the scope of mental health careers and career paths. There are generally a few broad categories of therapists, including the following:
LCPC: Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
MD: Medical Doctor (reserved for psychiatrists)
Ph.D.: Doctor of Philosophy
PsyD: Doctor of Psychology
LMHC: Licensed Mental Health Counselor
LCMHC: Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
MFCC: Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor
LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor
Each license title may have different educational requirements and career experiences, although all of the licenses above require a graduate degree. Often, counselors and social workers have a master’s degree, whereas psychologists may have a doctoral degree.
What Is The Difference Between A Therapist And A Counselor?
Counselors and therapists may use both terms to describe themselves. Both professionals complete advanced graduate degree programs to serve their communities and often work in the same types of modalities, they can diagnose a behavior disorder, help manage symptoms of disorders, improve communication skills, and help clients build self-awareness. However, if a therapist is a psychologist with a doctorate, they may have some differences from a counselor in how much they’re paid, the duties they have in their practice, or their abilities in the psychological industry.
Many psychologists do not work as therapists but in a niche field like neuropsychology, forensic psychology, or research. Some may go on to be philosophers or professors at a university. Psychologists who offer therapy and have a license to practice are called clinical psychologists.
Therapist Job Description
There are several types of mental health professions you can choose from after attending school. Understanding the job description of a therapist may help you decide if the job suits your goals.
There are often strict requirements in the US to practice as a therapist to ensure ethical standards are met and that therapy is high quality with standardized training and measured outcomes. Licensed therapists have a unique responsibility. These professionals are often tasked with formulating a compassionate and effective treatment plan for clients experiencing mental illnesses, distressing symptoms, and challenging life events.
A therapist can diagnose and treat various mental illnesses and specialize in many modalities. They meet with clients in person or online. Sessions with a therapist are often tailored to the individual’s needs, with routine follow-ups and adjustments whenever necessary. According to Indeed, the average salary for a clinical psychologist in 2023 is $108,710 annually.
Therapist Duties And Responsibilities
There are various responsibilities you might confront as a therapist, including the following:
Implementing integrated behavioral health principles, procedures, and philosophies
Following ethical guidelines outlined by the American Psychological Association (APA)
Providing intervention, education, and counseling
Observing and assessing client symptoms
Offering clinically appropriate treatments based on assessment and diagnosis
Documenting therapeutic outcomes, diagnoses, and treatment options
Participating in structured case consultations and supervised conferences
Engaging in staff development opportunities to ensure professional growth
Earning and maintaining licenses, certifications, and program performance courses
As a therapist, you may also try to keep a flexible schedule, offer community resources to clients, and keep your practice safe and client-centered.
Types Of Therapists
While many therapists may work with a wide variety of patients, there are many different areas that a therapist may specialize in after completing a master’s program. Including:
Marriage and family therapists – these therapists specialize in marriage and family therapy or counseling and work with couples and their family to improve communications and interpersonal relationships. Family therapists may offer family therapy done as a group.
Child therapists – a child therapist specializes in working with young children and may use strategies that are more developmentally appropriate.
Addiction therapists—these therapists work with individuals experiencing substance abuse. Substance abuse issues impact many aspects of a person’s life and an addiction therapist can provide strategies for managing addiction.
School-based therapists – some therapists practice therapy in a school setting and provide in school counseling to meet the mental health needs of students. A school-based therapist may need to collaborate with other professionals to provide support, such as occupational therapy or speech language pathology, when providing strategies to reduce symptoms of mental health disorders.
What Are The Educational And Career Requirements To Become A Therapist?
A master’s degree or higher is required to become a therapist within the US. Many providers start by receiving a bachelor’s degree in sociology, psychology, or human sciences. In graduate school, you can take a clinical social work or clinical psychology path. After graduate school, you might decide to get a PsyD or Ph.D. for further learning.
After school, you may be required to work under supervision in a clinical setting for a certain number of supervised clinical hours to be able to receive your license. Many employers looking for counselors may also want to see a year or two of experience in a professional mental health environment. Therapists can work in one-on-one practice, as contractors, or through a clinic as an employee.
How To Receive A License To Practice
The requirements for licensure vary by each state within the US. After graduating from graduate school and partaking in the specific number of supervised clinical experience hours required for a license, you can register to take the exam with your state psychology, counseling or social work board. The exam will be a test with questions on common mental health topics, treatment modalities, and psychology. After passing your state board exam, you will receive your license in the mail. Some boards may require more than one exam or license. Some counselors may elect to pursue a national board certification by completing the National Counselor Examination.
Five Paths For Professional Therapists
Once you have completed your clinical experience hours, all testing requirements, and received your license in the mail, you can select the therapist career that most fits your licensing, specialty, or career goals. Below are five options.
Clinical Social Worker
Clinical social workers are counselors trained in social work. These providers often have a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Social workers often provide therapy, community resources, case management, and referral.
Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors can work in various specialties and require a master’s degree or higher. These providers often provide talk therapy. A few types of counselors include the following:
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric nurse practitioners obtain a nursing degree before working in psychiatric nursing. Afterward, they may take additional courses in psychiatric training to be able to offer mental health care in medical settings like hospitals and inpatient mental health centers.
A clinical psychology degree is a doctoral credential requiring significant mental health and therapeutic methodologies training. Professionals in this field may focus more on providing mental health support, diagnosis, and analysis instead of working in research or education.
To become a psychiatrist, you must attend medical school after you receive your bachelor’s degree. Many individuals complete a pre-med bachelor’s degree with a minor in psychology. Medical school is an additional four years and requires an internship as a psychiatric assistant. After medical school, psychiatrists are assigned to a residency which may last one to two years. They may also receive complete training in psychopharmaceuticals and specific therapeutic modalities. The full path takes around 12 years.
What Attributes Should A Therapist Have?
It may benefit professionals to be engaging, professional, approachable, and organized in their practice. Networking with other professionals, completing higher learning courses, and keeping your license up-to-date can help you provide research-backed comprehensive treatment to your clients. Becoming a therapist is a serious commitment, so taking your job seriously and understanding the importance of ethical care can also be crucial.
Career And Educational Counseling Options
If you’re looking for support as you consider your educational or career path, talking to a professional might benefit you. Licensed therapists have gone through the process of becoming a therapist and can counsel you as you start your journey. You can try online counseling if you’re looking for a convenient and affordable way to find this type of support.
Through a platform like BetterHelp, you can indicate your preference for a career counselor or another type of provider and get matched with one of 30,000 therapists. In addition, you can receive resources like worksheets, educational documents, and journal prompts as you work through your goals. You do not have to have a mental health diagnosis to try therapy. One study showed that online career counseling interventions could help college students make more confident career decisions.
Frequently Asked Questions
How I became a therapist?
What is it called when you wanna be a therapist?
Why do therapists ask how are you?
How do you ask someone to be your therapist?
Is it hard to study to be a therapist?
Is a therapist a job or career?
What skills do you need to be a therapist?
Is therapist a good profession?
Why do people choose to be therapists?
What do therapists say?
What does a therapist think about you?
Do therapists have all the answers?
Can I ask my therapist why they became a therapist?
How do I say I need a therapist?
Can a therapist treat someone they know?
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