Would you like to help people to improve their mental wellbeing? Are you interested in psychology, emotions and the human mind? Then becoming a therapist might be a great career for you.
In this article, we will explore the different ways to becoming a therapist, and look at what a therapist actually does. We will also look into some of the most common questions, like:
- How many years does it take to become a therapist?
- What qualifications are needed?
- Can you be a therapist without a degree?
- How much does it cost to become a therapist?
What is the job of a therapist?
A therapist, also sometimes referred to as a mental health counselor, coach or counselor, performs the following activities as part of their function:
- Helps individuals and families to deal with difficult emotions, mental health disorders or trauma
- Treat conditions of depression, fear, anxiety, phobias, eating disorders, anger, stress and grief.
- Provides therapy and coaching
- Helps patients manage stress, transform difficult emotions and change behavior patterns
- Employs many different methods such as talk therapy, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, guided self-help, interpersonal therapy, eye-movement, mind-fullness, NLP and many other types of psycho-therapy
- Helps the patient define and reach wellness goals
- Communicates and listens
A therapist comes in many different shapes and sizes. Some therapists have a masters degree in psychology and psychotherapy, others have taken an online course, paid for a shorter course or simply start counseling others as part of their personal experience and skill set.
How to become a therapist
The steps to become a therapist typically are very different:
- Learn about the field of mental health, and find your own place in this big field.
- Most therapists come from university graduate degrees, building on a high school and then a college education. This also gives the option to become a licensed therapist. State licensing requirements vary a great deal and are not the same in different countries such as United States (America), UK or Australia. Earning a masters degree can take somewhere between 5-7 years.
- Other therapists have paid for and taken different types of shorter courses to complement a personal skill set. It is not a protected title. There is a lot of therapists out there.
- There’s a type of therapy for everything, so don’t get too much hung on titles. You can do art therapy, animal therapy, talk therapy and psychotherapy.
- Personally, you need to be a people person, be a good listener, think analytically, be an altruist and enjoy helping people. Perhaps you have your own experience and even struggled with mental issues yourself.
- As a therapist, you can find employment in hospitals, day care facilities, nursing homes, schools, universities and community centers. Many work in private practices and provide therapy in private homes.
The many different types of therapists
Therapists come in many different shapes and sizes. Here are just a few:
- Marriage and family therapists
- Career therapists
- Rehabilitation therapists
- Mental health therapists
- Guidance and self-help therapists
- Substance abuse therapists
- Therapists specialized in disorders like eating disorders, OCD, anger etc.
- Educational therapists
- Animal therapists
- Physical therapists
The difference between therapist, psychiatrist and psychologist
Often the titles are used interchangeably, but there is a difference
- A therapist (this article) is a broad term used for someone who employs psycho-therapy or other therapy methods in their work. It is a very broad term used for many types of therapy professions.
- A psychologist (see how to become a psychologist) is a more scientific and academical profession, and requires a masters or doctorate degrees for the use of the title.
- A psychiatrist requires training as a medical doctor first and typically work in private practices, clinics or hospitals. One key difference is that they can assign drug treatments.
Also see what is the difference?
- The work of mental health counselors (Chron.com)
- Become a therapist (Goodtherapy)
- Thinking of therapy? (Guardian.com)
- How to become a psychotherapist (Verywellmind.com)