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Do you feel called to become a therapist? Therapists enrich people’s lives by helping them them cope with situational distress, depression and anxiety, and mental illness. There are many paths open to people who want to pursue a career in therapy; some people might specialize in an area like marriage and family counseling, others choose to go into social work, and still others hold positions in schools and other institutions. Learn about different types of therapists, educational requirements for becoming one, and how to start a therapy career.


[Edit]Understanding the Psychotherapy Field

  1. Know the available opportunities. Therapists share in common the will to help people by providing them with council, but there are many different jobs that fall under this umbrella.[1] Consider the following therapy-related positions:[2]
    • Counselors help specific populations in places like schools and churches. A counselor does not need specific training to establish a practice, but most do take specific courses to earn credentials.[3]
    • Social workers have master’s degrees and are typically employed by agencies to work with individuals or families requiring counseling. Some social workers specialize in counseling children.[4]
    • Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) often have private practices and provide couples therapy in addition to therapy for individuals and families.[5]
    • Psychologists have PhDs and study major approaches to therapy, including cognitive, behavioral, humanistic and psycho dynamic approaches, and work with individuals experiencing depression and other illnesses. Psychologists conduct psychological tests and provide talk therapy to their patients, but in most cases can’t prescribe medications or other medical interventions.[6]
    • Psychiatrists are actually medical doctors who study psychiatry after finishing medical school.[7] Psychiatrists conduct medical tests, prescribe medications and work with primary physicians and other psychotherapists to devise a course of treatment for their patients.[8]
  2. Talk to therapists. If you’re deciding which type of therapy will be the right fit for you, conduct research by talking with therapists who have chosen a variety of different career paths.
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    • Different types of therapists have different strengths and skill sets. Psychologists, for example, spend time conducting research on different types of therapy. Social workers often enter intense situations and serve as mediators between upset parties. Shadow different therapists to decide what’s right for you.
    • Ask therapists about the educational paths they took to get to their positions.
  3. Begin crafting a plan for a career in therapy. Some degrees take many years to pursue, and it takes extra time to find the right job and build a practice. As soon as you know the general area that interests you, lay out a plan for yourself.[9]
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    • Get a college degree. No matter what type of therapy you decide to pursue, you’ll need to start with a bachelor’s degree. Consider majoring in psychology, and study both the sciences and the humanities, since both areas play into the work of a therapist.
    • If you know exactly what graduate program you want to pursue, make sure you take all the prerequisite courses.

[Edit]Educational Requirements for Therapists

  1. Earn a graduate degree.[10] Apply to graduate programs that will prepare you for the career you have chosen. Complete either a master’s or PhD program.
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    • Most programs will include classroom work, research, fieldwork and supervised psychotherapy.
    • Keep your career goals in mind as you pursue your degree. Choose classes that will help you learn as much as possible about the type of therapy in which you plan to specialize.
  2. Get clinical experience. The requirements for clinical experience vary according to the degree you obtain, but in most cases two years of experience working as a therapist in a clinic or private practice is mandatory before you can become a licensed.
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    • The experience must be at a postgraduate level and take place under a licensed therapist’s supervision.
    • Clinical requirements are much more rigorous for people pursuing psychology and psychiatry.
  3. Get licensed. Most states require that therapists pass a licensing exam in addition to obtaining a master’s degree and at least two years of clinical experience.[11]
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    • Research the exam requirements in your state in order to prepare for the exam and pass it.
    • Renew your license every year according to the laws of your state.

[Edit]Finding a Job as a Therapist

  1. Work for an institution. Look at job listings for candidates with your education level and experience at schools, public health clinics, hospitals, and other places that hire therapists.
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  2. Work as part of a group practice. Many therapists share office space in collectives, using their different areas of expertise to serve the needs of a community of clients. Research collectives in your area and contact them to find out if you might join them.
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  3. Start your own practice. As you build confidence and form relationships with clients, you may want to start an independent practice. Rent office space in a building or meet with clients in your home.[12]
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[Edit]Related wikiHows


[Edit]Quick Summary

To become a therapist, start by deciding what field of therapy you want to pursue, such as social work, psychiatry, or family counseling. Then, get a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, and a graduate degree in your chosen specialty. You’ll also need to get clinical experience by working in a clinic or private practice for at least 2 years. Afterwards, take the licensing exam required by your state to become a licensed therapist. For more advice, including how to start your own therapy practice, keep reading!

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