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How to Become a Therapist (What You Need To Know)

how to become a therapist

Do you have your sights set on becoming a therapist?

This career gives you the chance to help people solve their issues and improve their lives. Working as a therapist gives you the opportunity to make a real difference in the world. However, this career can be very challenging and emotionally draining for people who do not have the necessary personal skills. 

It also takes time and dedication to become qualified and find the right area of specialization. So, let’s take an in-depth look at how to become a therapist and the skills you need to do this job well. 

What Does A Therapist Do? 

This role usually involves providing therapy to clients in a group setting or on a one-on-one basis. Therapy sessions typically last for an hour and involve listening to clients as they talk about their issues. You also need to provide advice on actions to take and ways to resolve different situations.

This is usually a full-time job that takes place in a clinic or private practice. On occasion, it may be necessary to visit different institutions to meet with groups. Some therapists also work for themselves and establish their client base and schedules. 

Essential Therapist Skills And Attributes

Before you even think about getting qualified, you need to make sure you have the right soft skills. While you can learn the different therapeutic techniques, the necessary skills and attributes relate to your personality. Here are the main skills and attributes you need to develop to do this job well. 

Read more: How to Become a Marriage Counselor?

Active listening 

Active listening 

This is one of the most important skills for any type of therapist to develop. While clients are looking for advice and solutions, they also need to talk through their problems. You need to know when to simply let clients talk while showing them that you are listening. In many cases, clients will answer their own questions, while you also need to ask insightful questions. 

Communication skills

You need to be able to choose the right way to respond to your clients. When a client tells you about an issue they are having; you need to determine if they are seeking a solution. When providing instruction or advice, you must be able to communicate as clearly and simply as possible. 

Critical thinking 

Critical thinking 

You need to be able to analyze and evaluate different situations when your clients are talking. It is only natural for clients to try and present themselves in the best light when telling stories. However, there are at least two sides to every story, and you need to be able to work out what is going on. 

You also need to be able to use your critical thinking skills to evaluate the symptoms of clients. 

Problem-solving skills

Once you have examined and evaluated different situations with your clients, you need to help provide solutions. This involves talking through different options with your clients and seeing how they respond. You must be able to use your problem-solving skills to find the solution that meets your client’s unique needs. 



Giving good advice involves being able to put yourself in the place of your clients. You need to be able to identify with their situation to understand what they are going through. This will allow you to guide your clients to the best course of action without making them feel judged. 

Time management

Each therapy session consists of a certain amount of time, and you need to keep a subtle eye on the clock. You need to be able to guide patients during sessions so that they get the treatment they need. It is also essential to be able to manage your workload effectively, allowing enough time for updating records. 

How To Become A Therapist

It takes time, dedication, and hard work to become qualified to work as a therapist. It is a good idea to map out your career path as early as possible and remain focused on the end goal. Here are the main steps you should take to become a licensed therapist

Gain a bachelor’s degree

Gain a bachelor's degree

It is important to choose an accredited school and a therapy-related field for your bachelor’s degree. Take the time to check out different programs to see if they meet your education needs and goals. Some of the best subjects to choose from include psychology, counseling, and sociology. 

Earn a master’s degree

You will learn about a wide range of types of therapy during your bachelor’s degree course. When the course is complete, it is time to think about choosing a specialization. Your master’s degree should be focused on your specialization to provide specialist knowledge and advanced skills. 

Complete clinical work

Complete clinical work

You need to complete between two thousand and four thousand supervised clinical hours. It is important to make sure you choose a clinical environment that will contribute to the area you want to work in. You will work closely with a fully licensed and experienced therapist while interacting with clients. 

Apply for licensure

Once you have gained the necessary education and experience, you are ready to apply for a license. The requirements for licensure tend to vary considerably from state to state. However, you should be ready to apply for licensure when you have completed the required supervised clinical hours. 

How To Become A Therapist – Choosing A Specialization

There are lots of different types of therapy, and each requires specialist knowledge and experience. While the basic steps to becoming qualified are generally the same, there are often a few key differences. Let’s check out the main types of therapist roles and how to become qualified to practice each one. 

Behavioral Therapist 

Behavioral Therapist 

This type of therapy involves helping people to overcome self-descriptive and unhealthy behaviors. This can range from anger management to helping people overcome severe emotional trauma. 

The role often involves working closely with people who have cognitive disabilities like autism and people with obsessive-compulsive disorders. It can also involve working with people with substance abuse issues and alcohol dependency issues. 

A Master’s degree is essential…

Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, it is possible to start work. You can gain work experience as a behavioral disorder counselor before taking your career to the next level. Once you have gained the necessary experience, you need to earn a master’s degree in psychology or counseling. 

You need to apply for licensing through the governing board of your state. They will be able to advise you of the exact requirements that you need to meet to qualify for licensure. If you live and work in California, you need to contact the Board of Behavioral Sciences.

CBT Therapist 

CBT Therapist 

This type of therapy also involves helping clients to overcome their destructive behaviors. However, in this case, the main focus is on potentially harmful thoughts and patterns of thought. This typically involves helping clients to identify the thought patterns behind destructive behavior. 

After earning a bachelor’s degree, it is important to choose a master’s degree that focuses on different types of CBT techniques. You can then choose to become accredited in psychotherapy and begin offering CBT programs if you wish. The other option is choosing to become accredited in CBT therapy.

Put those clinical hours in!

If you choose the second option, you need to complete a special CBT therapy course and apply for licensure. You will typically need to complete at least two hundred hours of supervised clinical experience. The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies is a good source of information for anyone planning to become a CBT therapist. 

Recreational Therapist 

This role mainly involves working with clients with physical or mental health issues to improve their quality of life. This can include visiting people in nursing homes and simply spending time with them. It can also include helping people who have been in an accident to learn how to be more independent. 

The first step to practicing as a recreational therapist is gaining a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy. It is then possible to earn Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist certification through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. To gain this certification, you need to pass a special exam and make sure your knowledge remains current. 

Child therapist

Child therapist

This type of therapy involves working directly with children who are experiencing certain types of issues. Child therapists are often assigned when children are having difficulty focusing in school or lashing out. They work with children to uncover the root of the issue and help resolve it.

This can include helping to diagnose children who are suffering from mental health disorders. Once the disorder has been recognized, child therapists work closely with children and their families.

Expressive art as therapy!

It is important to make sure that children have a solid support system while receiving the treatment they need. After earning a bachelor’s degree, it is necessary to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology or child development. It is then necessary to complete clinical experience and training, focusing on child-centered therapy techniques like expressive art therapy. 

Family Therapist 

Family Therapist 

This role focuses on helping couples and families to resolve their interpersonal issues. This starts with listening carefully to family members and determining the causes of different issues. In some cases, this can include diagnosing and helping to treat mental health issues. 

After earning a bachelor’s degree, family therapists need to complete a special master’s degree. The best master’s degree courses for this specialization are marriage and family therapy or counseling psychology. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy provides advice on the best type of clinical experience to complete. 

Occupational Therapist 

This type of therapy involves helping clients to become more independent in their daily lives. This includes helping clients to overcome mental and physical challenges that are holding them back. 

This can include teaching clients how to interact with family members or use a wheelchair to get around independently. It is also necessary to work closely with caregivers and family members, so they understand the needs of patients. 

Not until you get your license…

After earning a bachelor’s degree, it is necessary to complete work experience in an occupational therapist’s office. It is then necessary to earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy and complete an occupational therapist license. The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy provides details of the best license to apply for. 

Creative Arts Therapists 

Creative Arts Therapists 

Art therapy is a special practice that is used to treat mental distress and psychological disorders. It is ideal for introverted patients who have trouble talking about their feelings and trusting other people. It can involve art, dance, music, and drama to aid communication and promote self-awareness. 

The requirements and training for this specialization can vary widely, depending on the state you live and work in. The American Art Therapy Association can provide full details on the further education you need to complete to become qualified and licensed. This typically involves earning a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree and around four thousand hours of clinical practice. 

Licensed School Psychologist

It is usually necessary to earn a doctoral or specialist degree in school psychology to work as a school psychologist. In many states, it is also necessary to complete an internship. As a result, it can take up to eight years to become qualified to work as a licensed school psychologist.

Once qualified, you will be able to use your specialist knowledge of psychological principles to treat issues related to education. You would typically work with students who are experiencing social, academic, and psychological issues.

Working closely with parents…

Working closely with parents

 It is also necessary to collaborate closely with parents and educators to create a unified approach for individual students. If helping people is what you love and the human mind has always intrigued you, then a career in Psychology could be just the thing for you!

Let’s Delve Right Into Psychology!

If you find psychology as fascinating as we do, you’ll want to begin with an Introduction to Psychology, the Foundations of Physiological Psychology, as well as another Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior, or Psychology: A Complete Introduction, an Introduction to Clinical Psychology, and finally, an Introduction to Abnormal Child and Adolescent Psychology.

From there, you can choose any specialization, for example, Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence, or perhaps Educational Psychology, or Social Psychology, along with Criminal Psychology, and even Abnormal Psychology, which is particularly interesting to read about!

About to begin your studies? Congratulations! I highly recommend using A Degree in a Book: Psychology: Everything You Need to Know to Master the Subject, which will cover it all! Once done, why not try Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Take You for some guidance, as well as, Your Undergraduate Degree in Psychology: From College to Career, all available online in 2023.

How To Become A Therapist – Final Thoughts

While it takes around eight years to become fully qualified, this can be a very rewarding career.

The average salary for a therapist is around $62,000 per year. However, choosing a specialization can give you access to a much higher salary. Experienced pediatric therapists and family therapists can easily earn at least $100,000 per year.

Once you have gained experience and a solid reputation, you can also choose to open your own practice. In addition to the opportunity to set your working hours, this also allows you to set your hourly rate.

All that’s left to say is…” And how does that make you feel?”

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