HOW TO BECOME A THERAPIST: Types, Requirements & Best Paths for Becoming a Therapist”

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A career as a therapist can be a wonderful fit for you if you’re passionate about helping others and have an interest in psychology. Before you pursue a career in this field, it’s important to understand the key responsibilities of the role as performing as a therapist requires specialized training. Learning more about the job of a mental health therapist will help you choose whether this path fits your abilities, knowledge, and skills even without a degree.

How to Become a Therapist 

A licensed mental health professional (LMHP) known as a therapist works with patients who have a variety of mental health issues to help them build coping mechanisms, hone their emotional intelligence, and lessen their symptoms. These are some tasks that a therapist might perform:

  • Evaluating their patients and constructing a therapy regimen that takes into account their unique problems
  • Helping their clients acquire the necessary skills to be successful in their therapy
  • Interacting with the client’s loved ones and providing combined family and couple therapy sessions
  • Capturing sessions, taking notes, and keeping records of treatment consultations
  • Supplying tools and resources for learning about particular ailments or experiences

Many therapists provide non-clinical services, but some have specialized education or training that enables them to diagnose ailments and prescribe medications. They concentrate on helping their patients think critically and objectively about their experiences as well as providing them with helpful guidance for dealing with issues related to their diseases. Depending on their specialty and level of training, therapists offer a variety of services.

Requirements for Therapists

The following are some standard prerequisites for becoming a therapist:

#1. Education

A master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or the practice area they wish to pursue, such as marital and family counseling, is typically required for therapeutic jobs. A bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or a comparable discipline is frequently obtained by candidates.

#2. Training

Although specific training requirements for therapists vary by specialty, most graduate degree programs require students to complete supervised clinical work. Some positions in this industry might also call for on-the-job training, especially those in specialized settings like prisons or organizations serving veterans.

#3. Licenses and Certificates

Every state mandates that therapists keep their licenses current. All states require therapists to pass an exam, but the application and renewal procedures vary. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), a nonprofit organization that conducts general and role-specific exams including the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), is frequently used by state boards to compel candidates to take exams.

How to Become a Therapist for Mental Health

In a secure setting with qualified mental health specialists by their sides, mental health therapy enables people and communities to address their emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues. What does a counselor for mental health do? The duties and responsibilities of a mental health counselor may include diagnosing mental, behavioral, and emotional illnesses, creating therapies, and offering therapy to

  • Individuals
  • Couples
  • Families
  • Groups
  • Specific populations such as children or the elderly

You may have the choice to concentrate on any number of specializations if you choose to pursue a career as a mental health counselor and become an LMHC. People who want to become mental health counselors should conduct their own research and choose the license type and pathway that are best for them and their state of practice.

Below are some ideas on how to get certified as a mental health therapist:

#1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree

Students who want to work as mental health counselors typically start their education with a degree in a counseling-related field, such as psychology or sociology.

Early in your career, enrolling in a mental health counseling curriculum that includes classes like lifelong human development and abnormal psychology may provide you an advantage as you move on to your doctoral study.

#2. Earn a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling.

The name of this degree may vary by program, but in most states you need a master’s in counseling to work as a mental health counselor. It is a sign that the program’s content and quality satisfy the high standards demanded by the mental health professional if you receive your degree in mental health counseling from a school that has been granted accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Although CACREP is the most popular accreditor, not all states demand graduates with CACREP accreditation. For more details, be sure to contact your state board.

#3. Pass Licensing Exams

Applicants for mental health counseling must pass one or more National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) tests in every state, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Such as the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) and the National Counselor Examination (NCE). State-specific exams may also be needed of applicants, though this will vary by state.

#4. Completion of a Supervised Clinical Experience

You must do graduate and postgraduate internships under the supervision of certified counselors in order to gain practical experience prior to becoming licensed to provide mental health counseling.

#5. Request a License  

A significant milestone in your journey is passing your licensure exam. The next step is to submit an application for your state’s mental health licensure. This will be regarded as a license for independent practice. It is crucial to adhere to the state’s counseling board regulations because specific licensure criteria differ between states.

#6. Pursue Further Certifications in Mental Health Counseling

One option for applicants is to use the NBCC to apply to become a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Although it might be required in some states before licensure, this is typically voluntary. However, certification requirements and licensure requirements might not be the same, so applicants should check with the NBCC for more details.

#7. Maintain Your Licensure as a Mental Health Counselor

You might wish to keep abreast of developments in the mental health industry as a licensed mental health counselor. You might be able to give your customer the best care if you keep learning. Your state might also mandate that you accrue continuing education credits on a regular basis because of this.

How to Become a Therapist in Texas

You must become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in order to work as a therapist in Texas. An overview of how to do this is provided below:

#1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree.

No matter what kind of therapist you want to be, getting your bachelor’s degree from an approved institution is the first step. No particular degree field is necessary, although it’s a good idea to pick a subject that corresponds with a therapist’s responsibilities. For instance, It might be advantageous to take courses in psychology, ethics, and research.

Typical undergraduate degrees for aspiring therapists include the following:

  • Psychology
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Sociology
  • Communications

#2. Complete a Master’s Program.

The conclusion of a graduate degree from an accredited institution comes next on the list of prerequisites for becoming a therapist in Texas. Your master’s degree might be in counseling, psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy, or a comparable discipline, depending on your intended job path.

The Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council mandates that suitable graduate programs provide 60 graduate semester hours and curriculum in subjects like:

  • Irrational human actions
  • Psychological theories
  • Counselor conduct
  • Counseling for addictions and research
  • Families, unions, or couples
  • Psychopathology

Make sure your master’s program has a supervised practicum experience or internship if you want to be eligible for a Texas LPC license. At least 100 of the practicum’s total 300 hours or more must be spent in direct client contact.

#3. Completing the Required Post-Graduate Supervision Hours

You’ll need to gain focused, post-graduate experience in professional counseling under supervision in a work context after completing your master’s program. Texas LPC candidates must complete a minimum of 3,000 hours of supervision, including a minimum of 1,500 hours with clients, all under the guidance of a qualified supervisor. Usually, it takes 18 to 24 months to finish this process.

#4. Pass the Certification Test

Applying for your LPC license, which requires passing the Texas Jurisprudence Exam and the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE), is the penultimate step to becoming a licensed therapist in Texas. The National Board for Certified Counselors administers the 200 multiple-choice questions that make up the NCE. This test is intended to evaluate the applicant’s knowledge, abilities, and potential for providing counseling services that are effective. The Texas Jurisprudence Exam is an online, pass-or-fail test that determines if an applicant is conversant with the regulations of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors.

#5. Start Working Out and Registering for School.

You are formally authorized to work as a therapist in Texas once you have finished the procedures indicated above. All of your education and motivation can now be put to use in a fulfilling career that benefits others. You must renew your license every two years if you want to keep your Texas LPC status and keep practicing. In order to do this, you must pay a renewal fee and finish 24 hours of continuing education every two years.

How to Become a Therapist Without a Degree

Some counseling careers call for bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees. There is, however, a way to become a counselor without having a degree. To find out what training and work experience you need to become a counselor without attending college, go through this list of steps:

#1. Ascertain the Counseling Professions you can Practice Without a Degree.

You can practice as a counselor without a college degree in a few crucial areas. The most typical choices are:

  • Peer advisor
  • Life skills instructor
  • Counselor for alcohol and drugs

#2. Investigate the Certification Possibilities Available.

For counselors without degrees, there are numerous colleges, universities, and professional organizations that offer online certifications. The duration of these certifications can be anywhere between a few days and a year. The website of the health department of your state government is another excellent place to look for certification programs.

#3. Choose the Program that Best Matches your Needs.

Choose a certification program that fits your schedule, budget, and career objectives after analyzing a few possibilities. This can assist you in reducing your options and making a decision.

#4. Think About Taking a Job in a Similar Field While You’re in School.

Consider working in an entry-level position that calls for a high school diploma as you pursue a certification program. This can entail working as a home health aide, office assistant, or receptionist at a mental health clinic, for the aged or handicapped. You can improve your qualifications for future work by acquiring one or more professional experiences related to your career aspirations.

#5. Fill Out Entry-Level Job Applications

Before submitting an application for entry-level counseling positions with your state government, social services organizations, and non-profit organizations, highlight your credentials and additional professional qualifications on your resume and cover letter.

Beneficial Skills for Counselors Without Degrees

Without a degree, persons who want to succeed in a counseling position need to have a number of useful skills. Here are a few instances:

  • Self-discipline and motivation: Having good self-discipline and motivation abilities can help someone who wishes to pursue a profession as a counselor without getting a degree. This will enable them to complete certification programs and do independent study.
  • Empathy: An individual’s capacity to picture another person’s feelings and comprehend their circumstances is referred to as empathy. Empathy is a crucial trait for counselors because it helps them connect with their clients and shows them that they care about their well-being.
  • Desire to learn: Every counselor should have the drive to learn new things and develop their abilities. However, having the desire to learn can be an important quality that influences success for counselors who are determined to begin their careers without a degree. This motivates people to finish several certification programs and put in extra effort to learn the topic.
  • Networking: Professionals connect with colleagues or potential employers through networking in order to find employment prospects. Good networking abilities can help aspiring counselors who lack a degree increase their employment prospects after finishing a certification program.
  • Flexibility: This is crucial for counselors who lack a degree when it comes to the work options available to them. This enables people to pursue possibilities outside of their comfort zone and so increase their qualifications for opportunities that require more advanced skills.

Is It Hard to Make It as a Therapist?

Yes, becoming a therapist is challenging because it requires postsecondary education, a license, and a lot of time and money. As the majority of employers demand a master’s degree, several years of experience, and a license, it can take anywhere between six and ten years.

What’s the Difference Between a Counselor and a Therapist?

Therapists provide long-term care, whereas counselors typically provide short-term care. Counselors may be more future-focused, whereas therapists may be more focused on the past. Therapists frequently operate on an ongoing basis, while counselors frequently have a defined amount of sessions.

How Do I Become a Therapist in NJ?

A master’s or doctoral degree program with 60 credits, three years of supervised full-time experience, and a passing score on the National Counselor Examination of the Board of Certified Counselors are needed to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in New Jersey.

Is Therapy a Lot of Money?

Some therapists may charge $200 or more per session, however, the majority will typically charge $75 to $150.

Is Being a Therapist a Good Career Choice?

Yes, working as a therapist is rewarding. Although it does require a lot of education and training, it pays well, and there are options for starting your own therapy business.


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