How To Become a Therapist in the U.S.

How To Become a Therapist in the U.S.

Are you finding an ideal career for yourself? If yes, you’re at the right place. While many determine to become psychologist, therapists, and counselors, there is a fine line that they miss between them. To become a therapist, one can be a psychologist or vice-versa. But, no hard and fast rule makes the two careers interchangeable. The hierarchy of the three of them follows as a psychologist at the highest position, supported by a therapist, and then a counselor. 

Read related guides on becoming a psychologist or a counselor

How to Become a Psychologist

How to Become a School Counselor 

Who are Therapists and What Do They Do?

A person who trained and qualified to treat an individual using some form of therapy is a therapist. The job of a therapist is to help people through change. So, the first thing a therapists does when a client walks in for their appointment is to ask them what is it they would like to change. It sometimes gets difficult for some clients to answer as they come to a therapist without wanting to change anything at all. Such clients may seek an order from the court-of-law to seek therapy from a therapist. Plus, some clients get a push by their partners or spouses to attend therapy sessions to sought out personal issues. Hence, clients have no clue what is it; they must change when they walk into a therapist’s office. Some of them get angry and upset about the whole idea of attending these therapy sessions with no idea in particular. 

When such situations arise, a therapist will remain calm and listen to whatever a client has to say since they do not want to change anything in them. Then, therapists will begin to convince these clients to improve in areas that caused them to visit them in the first place.

What Kinds of Therapists Are There?

There are two kinds of therapists. One is a directive therapist, and the other is a non-directive therapist. The directive therapist’s job is to listen to what clients have to say as some only want to talk, so such therapists give them their ear. A non-directive therapist listens and speaks to their clients and helps them with change.

Therapists will also help people who have overcome alcohol and drug addictions. They will recommend such clients first to overcome their problem and then attend therapy sessions. Still, they cannot and will not stop you from doing something like what rehabilitation centres do to help addiction patients.

There are therapies such as group therapy, mental behaviour therapy, dialectical behaviours therapy, clinical therapy, e.t.c. People consider therapists as their long lost friend except that this friend only helps those who need help.

What Are the Roles of Each Kind of Therapists?

Now, if you want to know how to become a therapist as per the determined job roles, here is a list of all that you’d need, the source of data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the year 2015. 

Occupational Therapist

By becoming an occupational therapist, your main task will be to help people with temporary disabilities to get back to normal functioning. They’ll live more self-dependant on a day-to-day basis. 

Recreational Therapist 

A recreational therapist makes use of arts and crafts to help people improve their general well-being. 

Marriage and Family Therapist 

A marriage and family therapist helps the couples, families, and other individuals to resolve their interpersonal issues. 

Behavioral Therapist 

By becoming a behavioral therapist, people change their behaviors and works for people with behavioral dysfunctions.

CBT therapist 

A CBT therapist might help determine thought patterns, which lead to destructive habits in their life and then help change those thought patterns (Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies).

Child Therapist 

Finally, a child therapist can help a child cope with a behavioral or emotional disturbance. By becoming a child therapist, you’ll help them in finding a better and healthier life. 

How Much Do Therapists Earn?

A therapist’s salary will depend on the kind of therapy she/he offers, although the salaries between therapists will be marginal. Yet, the average starting salary of a therapist is $32,000 per year. If they have some years of experience like one to four years, they will earn about $40,000 to $55,000 per year. On crossing more than five years in the same field, they will earn about $45,301 to $65,000. Now, going beyond ten years, they will earn between $70,000 to $110,000 per year. Therapists who have 20+ years of experience could be way rich by now.

Therapists working for the federal government earn much higher salaries than ones working in prisons, schools, clinics e.t.c. The ones who do self-practice are the ones who take the majority of the brunt as they earn the least.

How to Become a Therapist

Becoming a therapist is rewarding both monetary and emotional grounds as you would be helping hundreds of people during your span of practice. The word therapist is a generic reference to professionals who seek qualification to treat mental problems in the people. Since you want to become one, you must choose your treating audience such as children, families, criminals, e.t.c.

Educational Qualifications to Become a Therapist

To begin with, you must finish high school in subjects related to science like chemistry, biology and physics. Then it would help if you looked for a reputed college that offers a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. Keep a check that the college you choose to seek accreditation by APA (American Psychology Association), which will be for four years. Make sure it is a B.S and not a B.A program as B.S will have more science-related subjects which will make more sense to your science-related career. After you enrol into college, you must ensure that you know the field in which you want to specialize.

Make sure you study hard and score well in your B.S degree as the GPA scores you need is 3.0 (min) to get into a master’s degree program. Since a master’s degree is a must for becoming a licensed therapist, you must get along with a good college. After you complete your bachelor’s degree, you must sit for the GRE and score well. Now enrol into a master’s degree program accredited by APA, which will take two years to complete.

After the completion of the M.S degree in psychology, you will have to sit for a state licensure exam to practice. In conclusion, please check with your state on the licensure requirements to practice as a therapist.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Therapist?

Now that you know the educational qualifications needed to become a therapist in the first place, you must know the total time it takes. So, after graduating, a nominal person will have seven to fifteen years to become a licenced therapist in the U.S. 

To count the years involved, you must know the span of each degree. A bachelor’s degree will take four years, masters will take 2-3 years, and a doctoral will take 4 to 10 years. 

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