Are you curious about how to become a therapist or what a career as a therapist is like?
It could be one of the best decisions you make. Therapists can help people overcome obstacles and manage severe mental health disorders. A career as a therapist is an excellent choice if you need to help others.
Before you spend any money or time choosing your path to therapy, you need to understand what a therapist does and what a career as a therapist entails. Then, you can decide which direction is best for you.
This article will reveal how to become a therapist in 7 steps and share some other vital information to help you reach your goal:
What is a therapist?
Therapists are licensed mental healthcare professionals that treat people with mental disorders. They help them develop coping strategies, increase emotional skills, and ease symptoms.
What do therapists do?
They assist individuals who have a diagnosable mental disorder. They can also help someone trying to get over a wall. The therapist’s job, in any case, is to help them understand and cope with their condition.
The therapist cannot solve the client’s problems for them.
Therapists offer clients a safe place to explore the root causes of their difficulties or distress. Therapists ask the right questions. They gently guide the client to learn new, more effective ways to deal with different problems.
Apart from psychiatrists and psychologists, psychotherapists can deal with mental illness. Psychotherapy is used to treat the root causes and symptoms of mental disorders.
Therapists can also help those without a diagnosable mental disorder. Psychotherapists can help individuals, couples, or groups with various issues. In addition to assisting them in controlling their thoughts and beliefs, therapists can help patients manage their stress, manage different emotions, and communicate with others. And they also help solve any other problems they may have.
These are some of the duties that a therapist might perform:
- Assessing clients and creating a therapy program to address their particular issues
- Assisting their clients in developing skills for success in therapy.
- Communication with their clients and joint therapy sessions for families and couples
- Therapy consultations: Recording sessions, taking notes, and recording them
- Provide education and resources for specific conditions or experiences
Essential Soft Skills for Therapists
You can develop soft skills as you work with patients. Your mentor, professors, or clinical supervisor will help you. These are the most common skills that therapists use.
- Have Compassion: Therapists use empathy to understand their clients and help them see the bigger picture.
- Be an Active listener: Therapists need to pay attention to their clients’ words to help them understand what they think, feel and say.
- Excellent Communication: Therapists use communication skills to give feedback and suggestions to clients. Therapists may need to be more general in explaining complex concepts or adapt their communication style to better suit their client’s needs to create a more comfortable session.
Many therapists need specific skills to fulfill their duties. We identified the most commonly required skills for this job by looking through resumes. Many resumes included details oriented, agility, and physical stamina.
Is a therapist similar to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor?
In what way do therapists differ from psychiatrists, psychologists, or counselors?
The term “Therapist” can be used to refer to a variety of mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and even psychiatrists.
Psychologists usually hold a doctorate in psychology. These therapists offer “talk therapy,” which involves a client sharing their thoughts, feelings, and challenges. Since psychologists are social scientists and are often involved in academic research and studies, they can diagnose mental disorders and work with doctors to determine treatments and medications.
Psychologists have medical degrees. They use psychological testing to diagnose patients. They can prescribe medication or recommend alternative therapies if necessary.
They may also be involved in research to advance the science, medicine, and general understanding of mental disorders. You can decide whether to study to become a psychotherapist or a doctor who focuses on mental health.
Therapists can choose from a variety of careers, including counseling individuals, couples, families, and groups. When referring to therapy and therapists, sometimes the terms “counseling” and “counselors” are used.
How to become a therapist
There are many paths to becoming a therapist. Some people start therapy training right after graduation, while others work in different fields for years. There are many topics that therapists learn in college and graduate school.
Not all therapists have to study the same college major. All therapists must be passionate about helping others and have received significant counseling and psychology education. They also need to be licensed in the state where they want to practice.
Below is our guide on how to become a therapist:
1. Find out more about mental health and discover your potential for success in the counseling profession.
Talk to psychologists and read psychology-related blogs, books, and websites. While you don’t need to know anything about psychology or therapy in order to start your education as a therapist, you can learn more about it and gain the knowledge you need to succeed in your classes.
Learning more about yourself and understanding your motivations for becoming a counselor can help you become more self-aware, which is a vital trait in the therapy profession.
As a client, you can also learn a lot about therapy and work on any personal issues that may affect your future success as a therapist.
2. Get a high school diploma and then go to college.
Major in a psychology-related subject during college. This could be child development, neuroscience, social work, or psychology.
Although you don’t have to be a psychologist to apply to graduate school, it will increase your chances of being accepted. It can also give you the knowledge and background that you need to succeed in school.
Graduate school admissions are competitive, so getting good grades in all classes is essential. You can be a strong candidate for graduate school by building strong relationships with your professors, writing outstanding papers, participating in extracurricular programs and internships, and publishing in an undergraduate research journal.
3. Apply to graduate school at a university that offers a program in your field of study.
Choosing the type of therapist you wish to become is essential. You might decide to become a clinical social worker or marriage and family therapist.
You should choose an academic focus that will help you learn skills relevant to your chosen career. For example, future child therapists might opt to study developmental or child psychology. To become a therapist, you will need at least a master’s degree. However, some therapists go on to pursue doctoral-level degrees.
On average, a master’s degree takes two to three years. A doctorate, such as a Ph.D. degree, can take up to five years. You will also need to complete a dissertation that presents new research. A committee of experts will review your dissertation.
There are many graduate schools in psychology available across the United States. They offer a variety of programs, including online school, part-time coursework, and specialty concentrations. It would be best if you chose a school that meets your professional and personal learning needs.
4. Completion of all graduate coursework.
Graduate schools often require future therapists to complete clinical work during school to gain field experience. You may also be able to meet the state licensing requirements for counselors or therapists in certain states by doing an externship or internship.
You will have the opportunity to practice and learn fundamental clinical skills while completing your graduate studies. For some graduate programs, students must write a thesis or dissertation to graduate.
5. After you graduate, apply for licensure.
You will need to verify with the state organization that regulates your profession. State licensing requirements can vary. If you are interested in becoming a marriage and family therapist, contact the licensing board for marriage therapists.
You will need to pay a licensing fee and show that you have completed all required coursework. Additionally, you must complete supervised clinical hours in order to become a licensed counselor. You might need to pass a licensing exam to prove your training and knowledge.
6. Network with other professionals.
It is crucial to meet people in the industry you choose to work with once you have decided to become a counselor or therapist. Referrals may be required if you work in private practice. In some cases, these referrals can be sent by mental health professionals.
It is also important to be familiar with psychiatrists and counselors in your local area to whom you can refer patients who require medication or other services. Knowing others in the field can help you get a job as a therapist or for a mental healthcare agency.
7. Keep up-to-date with your profession.
Each state has its requirements for therapists to renew their licenses. You will need to take three continuing education classes per year, depending on where you practice.
It would be best if you considered continuing education classes related to your practice area, clientele, and research interests. Your continuing education courses can be chosen to help you learn about new developments or research trends in your field.
It takes many years of education and extensive training to prepare for a therapist career.
Be sure to keep in touch with your support network, including family, friends, academic counselors, advisors, and your therapist. You learn how to work ethically to achieve others’ goals and improve their well-being as you prepare for a career as a licensed professional.
Do you have what it takes to become a therapist?
Are you ready to put in the effort and time necessary to become a therapist?
Kudos to you! One last thing: What does it take to be a great therapist?
Research has shown that it is not enough to learn the theory of helping people. To become a great mental health therapist, you should develop these skills and characteristics.
- Good therapists have sophisticated interpersonal skills. They possess empathy, warmth, acceptance, and perceptiveness. They also have the ability to create a safe and non-judgmental space.
- A skilled therapist is aware of the psychological reactions triggered by therapy.
- You need to be able to communicate your professional knowledge and expertise to your clients to be an effective therapist. You will be able to communicate with clients about their distress and avoid stigmatizing mental health disorders.
- Your clients should be motivated to participate in their healing process. Not just as passive recipients.
- Be optimistic. A therapist who is compelling and persuasive can be convincing.
- The best therapists are genuinely interested in their clients and the environment in which they live.
- Don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations. While your client may try to avoid the most troubling issues, it is up to you to address those parts of their mind.
- Flexibility, knowledge, and a willingness to learn are essential qualities.
Do you have the Traits?
Therapists who are good at listening and communicating with patients are skilled in communication and analysis. These skills enable therapists to communicate effectively with patients and make appropriate recommendations.
Therapists Also Need Tools
Therapists may take notes during client sessions with pen and paper. They must transcribe these notes to a digital platform to protect patient data. To prevent data loss, therapists should also know how to backup patient notes.
Private practice therapists may require additional skills. These professionals manage small businesses and must be familiar with essential marketing and accounting to ensure success. These therapists may also be self-employed and can hire contract workers or employees to help with these tasks to concentrate on their practice.
Therapists need to keep track of patients and take detailed notes. Therapists should also be familiar with the names and treatments of mental illnesses.
Online therapists require technical skills because they use computer software to video chat with clients. Therapists often use software to automate their business processes. Software can be used to allow patients to pay their bills and book their appointments online.