Steps to Become A Therapist | 2024 Guide

March 13, 2024
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13 Minutes
Modified on:
March 12, 2024
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Written by:
Swati Bucha
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In today’s world, mental health awareness is growing rapidly. The percentage of persons who have undergone mental health treatment at any level increased from 19.2% to 21.6% between 2019 and 2021. With this rise, the demand for therapists is increasing daily in 2024. If you are someone who cares about other's mental health, makes a great connection, and provides honest and right advice, then you can choose a career as a therapist. 

Are you wondering how can I become a therapist? Do not worry! In this detailed guide, you will find answers to all of your questions. As the demand for this career is rising among youngsters, it is the right time to step into it and make a successful career.

Understanding the Role of a Therapist

A therapist is a trained professional who provides emotional and psychological support to individuals who are suffering from mental health issues. Therapists assist clients in understanding their thoughts, feelings, and habits through various therapeutic techniques and methods to improve their mental health and general well-being.

A therapist focuses on behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, marital and family therapy, or other specialty areas. They assist individuals in resolving a variety of concerns, including trauma, sorrow, relationship difficulties, anxiety, and depression. Therapists provide a private, secure environment where clients can express themselves, acquire new ideas, and find ways to deal with life's obstacles.

Responsibilities of a Therapist

Therapists are also known as mental health counselors or psychotherapists. Their job is to assist anyone who is facing any mental health issue like depression, anxiety, etc, and help them overcome their emotional obstacles. To get them to overcome their health issues and stress, they use various kinds of therapeutic techniques. Let's look at the responsibilities of therapists: 

  1. Prepare Initial Assessments: One of the first tasks of a therapist is to conduct an initial assessment and gather as much information as possible to learn about the client's background, current concerns, and therapeutic goals. Besides, during the initial assessment, therapists assess the client's mental health condition to identify any potential mental health conditions. Accordingly, therapists lay the groundwork for the entire therapy process. 
  2. Create Personalized Treatment Plans: After assessing the client's mental health and concerns, the therapist sets short-term and long-term goals, like managing daily anxiety and overcoming past traumas to reach the therapy's objectives. The therapist designs a treatment plan that includes a number of sessions, techniques to be used, and any other resources that might be required to reach the therapy goals. 
  3. Suggest Therapeutic Interventions: Therapists utilize different evidence-based therapeutic techniques to help clients address their problems. These techniques include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to challenge maladaptive thinking, psychodynamic therapy to understand early-life experiences, and family therapy to open up and communicate with family members. 
  4. Monitor Progress and Evaluate Outcomes: Another important aspect is monitoring your client's progress toward their therapy goals. This involves tracking the change in the client's emotional state, thinking and behavioral patterns, and overall well-being. According to the results of assessments, the therapist adjusts the treatment to ensure effectiveness. 
  5. Tell Your Patients or Clients About the Importance of Self-Care and Coping Tips: One key aspect of a therapist's job is to educate clients about coping tips and explain the importance of self-care. This requires teaching stress management techniques, anger management tips, and others to help clients build healthier thought patterns and focus on problem-solving strategies. It even involves guiding the clients about sleep hygiene, physical activity, and mindful activities to manage their mental health. 
  6. Handle Emergency Situations Calmly: A Therapist encounters many situations where the client expresses suicidal thoughts or other harmful intentions. This calls for crisis intervention. It would involve assessing the risk, providing immediate support, mobilizing emergency services, and offering resources, like crisis hotlines and mental health clinics, for clients who are in danger.

Types of Therapists

There are different kinds of mental health professionals with varying specializations who practice as therapists. Here are some of the common therapists:

  • Psychiatrists

Physicians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental diseases are known as psychiatrists. In their profession, they frequently combine medication and psychotherapy, and they are qualified to prescribe medication.

  • Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists have training in the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of mental health issues. They assist people in managing and overcoming psychological difficulties by using psychotherapy and other therapeutic approaches.

  • Counselors

Counselors can specialize in various areas, including career counseling, marital and family counseling, and substance abuse counseling. They usually offer direction and assistance to people dealing with particular difficulties related to their personal or social lives.

  • Psychotherapists

Professionals from various backgrounds, including social workers, psychologists, and counselors, can work as psychotherapists. They assist people in exploring and controlling their feelings, ideas, and behaviors through talk therapy.

  • Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists help people with mental health issues improve their quality of life and everyday functioning, even if they are not only focused on mental health.

Difference Between Various Therapist Roles

The following are the key differences between various types of therapists:

Therapist Role Educational Background Treatment Focus Place
Psychiatrist Medical degree, like an MD or DO with a specialization in psychiatry Medication management, psychotherapy, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illnesses Hospitals, clinics, private practice
Clinical Psychologists Doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D) in clinical psychology Psychotherapy, psychological assessments, diagnosis, and treatment planning Hospitals, clinics, private practice, academic settings
Counselors Masters in counseling or related field Guidance, support, and counseling for specific issues (e.g., marriage, career, substance abuse) Schools, community centers, private practice
Psychotherapist Varied (Psychology, Social Work, Counseling, etc.) Talk therapy, addressing emotional and behavioral issues Private practice, clinics, community mental health clinics
Occupational Therapist Master's degree in occupational therapy Focus on improving daily functioning and quality of life through activities Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, community settings

Qualifications to Become a Therapist

Getting the right education is the first step to starting any career, including a career as a therapist. You must have a bachelor's and a master's degree to be a certified therapist in social work, psychology, counseling, etc.

1. Basic Qualification

A bachelor’s degree is the starting point on your journey to becoming a therapist. To pursue this career path or any other in psychology, you must finish a 3-year B.Sc. degree in psychology program. This degree is a foundation for your future in the field of therapy.

2. Higher Education 

Usually, one needs a master’s or Ph.D. degree to work as a licensed therapist. You have to obtain a master's degree in psychology and counseling, such as a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), MSW(Master of Social Work), or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology). These programs provide training and supervised clinical experience to all the pursuing candidates.

3. Specialization

There are many different specializations in therapy, including marriage or family counseling, divorce therapy, child therapy, and youth therapy, so it is necessary to choose a specific field. Choose the one that best suits our interests and professional objectives.

4. Internships and Workshops

Getting practical experience is essential to become a licensed therapist. Internships and workshops under the guidance of a licensed professional are usually offered in master's programs. Through these hands-on learning experiences, you can apply your theoretical knowledge in the practical world by dealing with real-life experiences.

5. License and Certifications

Once you have earned the required degree and gained practical experience, now is the time to become a licensed therapist. To become a licensed therapist, passing the licensing exam is the essential step. Exams like Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) certification and Licensed Professional Clinical Counseling (LPCC) certification are required to obtain the license. You can take the help of the previous year's questions to get an idea of exams and prepare thoroughly to pass them.

How to Become a Therapist?

The following are the steps involved in becoming a licensed therapist:

  • To begin, pursue a bachelor's degree in social work, psychology, counseling, or a similar discipline. 
  • You can choose an educational specialty or area of interest, such as social work, clinical psychology, counseling, or marriage and family therapy.
  • Obtain a PhD or Master's degree in the field of your choice. Master of Social Work (MSW), Master of Counselling, Master of Clinical Psychology, Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees are among the often granted degrees in psychology.
  • A lot of programs incorporate internships or supervised clinical training within the curriculum. Get practical experience while working with clients under the supervision of qualified experts.
  • Learn about and be familiar with the state or national licensing regulations. While there are differences in licensing standards, most of them involve passing a licensing exam and finishing a predetermined amount of supervised clinical hours.
  • Seek more certifications or specializations in particular therapeutic approaches or patient populations, depending on your area of interest.

Key Points to Be a Successful Therapist

You can start your career as a professional therapist after receiving the license. Here are some key points that can help you to become a therapist:

1. Make Connections And Build Relations

Networking is the most important way to build connections in any field, including therapy. Attend conferences, join professional groups, and connect with experienced therapists. By doing so, you can learn from others' experiences and implement the teachings to build your career as a therapist. 

2. Stay Up-to-Date 

It is necessary to stay current with changing therapy methods and innovative strategies to solve mental health issues. One must be committed to lifelong learning to remain competent in the workplace.

3. Expand Your Specialization

It is better to extend your specialization with time. You can consider expanding your specialization in a specific area by mastering any required degree or by taking training. This will help you diversify your expertise and knowledge.

4. Take Advantage Of Technology

The use of technology has significantly increased in this digital era. It is the best way to reach your customers globally at any time. To reach more individuals, utilize social media platforms and digital tools and give online therapy sessions. Adopting technology can improve your service's effectiveness and availability.

Wrapping Up

In 2024, becoming a therapist is a commitment to professional development. By pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree and taking license exams, you can earn a licensed degree in the field of therapy and provide services to help individuals suffering from mental health issues. 

You can surely be a successful therapist by making connections and building relations, keeping yourself up to date with ongoing therapy methods, and taking advantage of technology. The therapy industry is always changing, but with the correct attitude and preparation, you may have a long-lasting influence on the lives of people who need help and direction.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many years does it take to become a licensed therapist?

It can vary depending on your degree, but on average, it takes 3-4 years for a bachelor’s degree, 2-5 years for a master’s degree, and 1-2 years to complete internships and other training. So, depending on your education choice, it can take around 6-10 years.

2. Can I practice therapy without a license?

In most countries, it is illegal to practice therapy without a license. A license guarantees the highest level of care and ethical behavior. To obtain a license, you can take the exams and clear it to start practice therapy.

3. Does specialization help in becoming a therapist? 

Specializing in a particular therapy field is unnecessary, although it can improve your knowledge and professional aspects. You can select your preferred specialization while still in school or after a certain amount of experience. It is best to examine different specializations, think about your skills and professional objectives, and select the one that aligns with your skills.

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