The decision to become a therapist is not one anyone should take lightly. To become a licensed therapist, you’ll be required to attend graduate school, complete supervised clinical hours, pass licensing boards, and complete hundreds of supervised clinical hours post-graduation. At the same time, while it’s a huge commitment to become a therapist, your work will be meaningful and mean job security and helping people change their lives. If you’re considering becoming a therapist but aren’t sure what it will involve, read on for what it takes to make it from the classroom and into practice.
Whether you hope to work as a therapist in an intense IOP therapeutic group setting at a place like Charlie Health or in private practice, you’ll need to get a graduate degree in therapy. Therapy degrees at the master’s level include social work, mental health counseling, family therapy, and applied behavioral sciences. With any of these advanced degrees, you’ll be able to study for the boards and obtain licensing after completing degree requirements and clinical hours.
If you’re fresh out of high school and are first working toward your undergrad degree, a great way to get on a therapy career path is to work with college counseling companies to get into a top college for psychology. While an undergrad degree in psychology isn’t required for a master’s, you will need an undergrad degree of some sort, and majoring in psychology, sociology, or anthropology is an excellent way to know if therapy and working with people might be right for you.
Most people don’t realize that there are many types of therapy out there. That is, therapists don’t use the same forms of therapy, called therapeutic modalities, for every client or practice. Instead, therapists learn about all therapeutic modalities in graduate school and generally choose which type of therapy they prefer based on their personalities and belief systems. To understand what modality works best for you, you’ll be required to practice all types of therapy with clients during your training to become a therapist.
During your required clinical experience, you will work with licensed supervisors as you begin to take on clients under their direction. During the clinical phase of your training, you’ll learn the skills and tools you need to help clients reach the best version of themselves, no matter what modality you choose to specialize in later after licensing. The clinical experience portion of your training is arguably the most important as it will shape who you become as a therapist.
Compassion and Empathy
Beyond the training you’ll need to become a therapist, it’s important to consider your own personality and whether you’ll have the patience to work in human services and health care long-term. Many therapy students seek out or are even required to attend their own therapy to learn “therapist as self” exercises to define their biases, strengths, and weaknesses. This process can help you determine if a career in therapy is right for you.
At the end of the day, if you’re considering going to graduate school to become a therapist, you likely already understand all the fantastic benefits of therapy. If your passion is helping people and you know you have strengths in listening without judgment and setting firm boundaries, a career in therapy might be right for you. Start by taking an honest look at your own goals and passions as you make this critical decision for your future. Best of luck to you whether or not you decide to venture into therapy school, and thank you for hoping to make a difference.