Career Options for How to Become a Therapist: Multiple Pathways Exist

Many individuals find the idea of helping people for a living to be appealing. There is no one path to this type of career. Clinicians, therapists, coaches, social workers, or psychologist, provide psychotherapy and guidance to people. Below are several popular avenues to becoming a professional therapist.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that completes a residency in psychiatry after finishing medical school. Psychiatrists generally prescribe medication and conduct psychotherapy with their patients. Their training emphasizes the biological basis of mental health.

PhD in Clinical Psychology and PsyD in Clinical Psychology
These degrees are similar, both requiring 4-5 years of graduate school and one year of internship. Through research and clinical practice, clinical psychologists seek to understand, prevent, and relieve distress and promote well-being. Common theoretical orientations that generally guide such treatment include psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitive-behavioral and family systems. The PhD is traditionally more research-oriented, while the PsyD emphasizes practice.

PhD in Counseling Psychology
This degree path is similar in requirements to a clinical psychology PhD. Counseling psychologists typically work with individuals who are dealing with moderate psychological issues, such as anxiety or sadness resulting from major life events.

Masters of Arts (MA) in Clinical Psychology
This degree requires completing two years of graduate school in clinical psychology. A master’s degree in clinical psychology often focuses on learning psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitivebehavioral and family systems approaches to therapy, like PsyD’s and PhD’s. However, in many states, a practitioner with this degree requires oversight from a supervisor with a PhD.

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)
Two years of graduate school and at least two years of postgraduate supervised clinical experience is required for this degree. Therapy by MFTs can consist of independent practice with individuals, couples, or groups (including families).

Social Worker
A master’s in Social Work (MSW) requires two years of graduate school. Social workers help coordinate care and services to individuals and families. Individuals with this degree are employed in a variety of agencies, often governmental.

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