How To Become A Therapist?
Updated June 01, 2020
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, the world would be considerably worse off.
If you are interested in becoming a therapist or unsure of the steps and requirements which are involved, then 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 right career path 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 who are interested in this line of work are required to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology or another very similar field of study, according to Positive Psychology Program. When you are studying to be a therapist, you can have any degree during your undergraduate education. However, you need to complete your required years in a master program in 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 the right credentials have been earned, individuals must then earn their professional licenses. After getting the proper education, earning the right licenses and undergoing supervision, one can then go on to be a therapist. 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 to fifteen years.
Becoming A Therapist: The Personality Factor
There are a series of personality traits which contribute to one 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 which 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 issues which tend to present themselves.
One can only do an excellent job at this if they are an empathetic person. Empathy is something which 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 they lack empathy for the patients which they are supposed to be working with, then they will not be a good therapist. Empathy is paramount, and it's something which one should make sure they have prior to pursuing a career as a therapist.
Therapy is not always an easy or smooth sailing process. Depending on the patient and the nature of the issues which brought them to therapy, it can be challenging, trying and time-consuming. This is where patience comes into play. If a therapist gets agitated easily or is unable to remain professional with difficult patients, then this line of work simply isn't for them.
It's easy to be patient when everything is smooth sailing. It's easy to be patient with someone who is eager to open or talk about things which are not all that troubling, but what about patients who are dealing with other issues.
A therapist's level of patience will be truly put to the test when they are confronted with someone who is dealing with deep, dark trauma and in need of help. A therapist's level of patience will be significantly tested when a patient is hesitant to open or when someone requires time before divulging into everything which attracted them to therapy.
Believe it or not, the ability to effectively communicate is paramount for anyone who is serious about becoming a therapist. During therapy, the patients are not the only one who will be communicating. Therapists have the responsibility of asking questions in appropriate manners, listening to the answers, observing how patients conduct themselves when certain topics are brought up.
How a therapist communicates with their 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 which 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, time for providing solutions to the problems which patients face but listening must come first. A therapist who is unable to listen will 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 great environment for patients to feel comfortable enough to open 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 paramount.
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 which 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 job of the therapist 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 come up with individualized solutions which are suitable and best for the patients they are working with. This is where resourcefulness comes in.
The educational training which is 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 various patients.
The Time Factor
It takes time to be 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, and 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 a renowned, exceptional therapist. Having all the training, licenses and degrees is great, but being out in the field and doing the real work is what ultimately makes a therapist.
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 the work of therapists. Therapy is a very noble profession, and it says a lot about someone serious enough to undergo the training and check off the various boxes which are required before one can begin practicing as a therapist.
No matter who you are or what your line of work is, 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 BetterHelp. We have 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.
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.