How to Become a Therapist

therapist session

If you enjoy giving your family and friends advice, and helping them resolve their mental or emotional issues, you might be interested in becoming a therapist. This career can be rewarding, as therapists help clients lead happy and fulfilling lives. Obtaining this career requires a bachelor’s and master’s degree, possibly more, depending on what you want to specialize in.

To obtain this career, you’ll need to follow the following steps:

  • Decide what kind of therapist you want to be
  • Earn your undergraduate degree in psychology or a related subject
  • Earn the appropriate graduate degree
  • Complete any required residencies, internships, or clinical hours
  • Obtain any necessary licenses

Types of Therapists

Because therapists help all kinds of people, there are many specialties you can choose from. Some examples of therapy careers include:

  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Cognitive behavioral therapists
  • Mental health therapists
  • School counselors
  • Guidance counselors
  • Rehabilitation counselors

Education Required to Become a Therapist

Any career in therapy or psychology usually requires significant schooling, depending on what kind of psychology you want to practice. It is generally a good idea to get your undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field, such as sociology or social work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, becoming a therapist requires at least a masters degree, however, other careers require a doctorate degree or more. Find out just how long it will take you to become a psychologist.

Clinical Hours and Licenses

Once you have finished your formal education, you will probably also need to complete a certain number of supervised clinical hours before you can practice on your own. You may also be expected to receive specific licenses and qualifications. These requirements differ depending on the kind of therapy you want to practice and the state you want to practice it in.

The kinds of licenses you get will also be determined by the kind of therapy you practice, but they are all required before you can start accepting clients. You will need to find out what kind of licenses you need, where to get them, and what the requirements are. For example, marriage and family therapists must be licensed by a state board or organization.

The licensing requirements vary, but generally, you can expect the following:

  • Advanced degrees in appropriate fields and proof of graduation
  • Completion of supervised hours and evidence of them
  • Passing a national exam

Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

There are many types of careers in psychology and therapy, and the field is quickly growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Marriage and family therapist jobs are projected to increase 23 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than the average for all other jobs. General psychologist jobs are expected to increase 14 percent in that time, which is still faster than the average.

Despite the levels of education required for psychological careers, their salaries stay between $40,000 and $80,000 a year. In May 2017, the median salary for mental health counselors was $43,000, while marriage and family therapists made almost $49,000. Psychologists—who usually are required to earn a doctorate degree—made $77,000.

There are many different options when it comes to choosing a career as a therapist. As you consider your decision, keep in mind the amount of schooling you will have to finish, the residencies and clinical hours you will have to complete, the exams you may have to pass and the salary you will end up making. More importantly, think about the impact you want your career as a therapist to have on those you help.


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