Fighting for Mental Health: How to Become a Therapist

A staggering 25 percent of adults suffer from some form of mental illness each year.

Yet, less than half receive the help they need. In the face of this alarming reality, there has never been a more pressing time for competent, compassionate individuals to step into the role of therapists.

If you’ve ever found yourself drawn to understanding the human mind or have felt touched by a desire to help people navigate through life’s rough waters, this could be your calling.

But what does the journey to becoming a therapist look like? What qualifications and skills are required? To clear up your confusion, we have put together a guide. Keep reading to find out more.

Learning About Different Kinds of Therapy

To embark on a career in therapy, the first step is understanding the various paths you can take. Each therapy type requires different skills and focuses on different aspects of mental health.

A few of the prominent types include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, and psychoanalysis. Your career path in psychology can be significantly influenced by which of these types resonates with you the most.

If you’re interested in how our thoughts and behaviors affect our mental well-being, cognitive-behavioral therapy might be your path.

Family therapy might be a better fit if you’re fascinated by interpersonal relationships.

Check out this informative article on a psychology degree if you want to find out how long it will take you to become a licensed psychologist.

Getting a Bachelor’s Degree

After familiarizing yourself with different therapy types, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree. This degree doesn’t necessarily have to be in psychology.

It is possible to choose a related field that provides a strong foundation for later studies. Relevant degrees could include sociology, human development, or even biology.

On the other hand, you should steer clear of degrees with little connection to therapy or mental health. They may not provide the prerequisite knowledge necessary for a master’s program.

During your undergraduate years, take the opportunity to explore different facets of mental health.

This exploration can give you a clearer vision of which therapy type aligns with your interests. If you’re unsure, an advisor or career counselor can help guide your choices.

Getting a Master’s Degree

Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree, the next step is pursuing a master’s degree in a specific area of therapy. You could choose counseling psychology, clinical psychology, or marriage and family therapy.

Finding the right school for your master’s degree is crucial. Factors to consider include the school’s reputation, the curriculum, faculty expertise, and the success of its graduates.

You should also consider the specific programs and specializations offered. Some schools may focus more on research. Others emphasize practical experience.

Completing Post-Graduate Supervision Hours

After completing your master’s degree, you will need to complete post-graduate supervised experience. This requirement varies by state and specialty, but typically involves 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised practice.

One common mistake to avoid is not properly documenting these hours.

Maintaining accurate records is critical to demonstrating your experience when applying for licensure. Another mistake is failing to receive supervision from a licensed professional in your field.

Without proper supervision, your hours may not count toward licensure.

Passing the Licensing Exam

The next step towards becoming a therapist is passing the licensing exam. These exams assess your understanding of your specialty and readiness to practice independently.

You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the different licensing requirements between states.

Each state has its own regulations and standards. Some states require additional exams or continuing education. Be sure to check the specific requirements of the state where you plan to practice.

Consider a Doctoral Degree

Beyond a master’s degree, some therapists opt to pursue a doctoral degree. This can open doors to advanced roles related to academia and research.

Doctoral degrees often involve a more in-depth study of psychology. You will also need to complete a significant number of additional clinical hours.

The main downside of pursuing a doctoral degree is the extra time and cost. This type of degree usually takes four to seven years to complete. It will demand a significant commitment.

Understand the Top Challenges for Therapists

A career in therapy can be rewarding. But it’s not without challenges. Therapists often deal with high levels of stress due to the emotional intensity of their work.

It can be challenging to detach from the struggles of their clients. Plus, therapists may struggle with time management. They need to know how to juggle client sessions, documentation, and continuing education.

It’s essential to understand these challenges when deciding to pursue a career in this field.

Start to Practice

Once you’ve completed your education, clinical hours, and licensing, it’s time to start practicing.

This could be in a mental health clinic, hospital, school, or private practice. As a therapist, your role is to help individuals improve mental health, overcome challenges, and achieve personal growth.

Even though this is a demanding career, it is a fulfilling line of work that can truly make a difference in people’s lives.

How to Become a Therapist

If you want to become a therapist, it is essential to familiarize yourself with what the process involves.

You will first need to learn about the different types of therapy that exist. It will then be necessary for you to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Understand that most people choose to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees after graduating from college.

Do you want to find out more about what it’s like to pursue a psychology degree? If so, make sure to check out the Education section of our website.