Therapists are responsible for helping people navigate their mental health issues or disorders. They can also help people rationalize different aspects of their lives in a way that’s both guided and practical. When someone needs support to live a happier and healthier life, a therapist can really make a huge difference. Overall, there are many benefits to therapy, and anyone can gain from taking better care of their mental health with the support of a health care professional. There are also different types of therapy you may hear about, including individual, family, relationship, and group therapy.
But what kind of qualifications do therapists have? What do they know that your best friend doesn’t? If you’re already in therapy, you might be wondering to yourself, “What educational background does my therapist have?” Below, you’ll learn about what it takes to become a therapist and how many years they typically spend in school.
Before we get into credentials, let’s begin with distinctions. Psychologists have the highest educational qualifications, requiring a doctoral degree. But for therapists, their education usually consists of having both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree or a doctoral degree. For example, a therapist may have an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in mental health counseling or even applied behavior analysis. With accredited BCBA programs online, those who are looking to make promising careers in mental health, special education, or school counseling can complete an online program for BCBA certification. The University of Cincinnati, for example, offers an online ABA program with a focus on individuals with learning disabilities, such as anxiety, mood disorders, and autism. When it comes to counselors, educational requirements tend to vary depending on the field. Some, like rehabilitation counselors, usually require both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. But others, like substance abuse counselors, usually only need a bachelor’s. Below, you’ll find some more detailed descriptions of the educational background of a typical therapist.
Talking to people and making recommendations to improve their quality of life requires higher education. That’s why all therapists complete a bachelor’s degree first in order to get into their respective programs. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is done through an accredited school, and most therapists major in clinical psychology, counseling, or other related fields. Attending college in-state will likely have more affordable tuition for undergraduate programs.
Before any therapist can become licensed, they must have a graduate degree after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. This is where most therapists choose a specialty. For example, a therapist who is interested in a career in individual therapy may choose to get a master’s in counseling psychology to help individuals in a specific age group with their personal issues. Some might choose to pursue a master’s in marriage and family therapy or school psychology. Choosing the right master’s degree will depend on location, specialty, convenience, training, or experience, but this is a minimum requirement to become a licensed therapist.
Obtaining a doctorate allows a therapist to also be a psychologist. Getting a doctorate can take at least five years and requires a specific number of clinical hours. These programs also tend to require a research component. One can obtain a PhD, or a Doctor of Philosophy, which is mostly centered on research. Another option is to obtain a PsyD, which is a Doctor of Psychology. The latter involves a focus on clinical work as opposed to research. Both types of degrees allow psychologists and therapists to work with clients. These programs are intense commitments, considering how long it takes to complete them.
To become a therapist, it isn’t just important to have the correct educational background. It’s also about having empathy, compassion, and proper listening skills, and being able to effectively communicate with others.