Choosing a career in therapy can be incredibly rewarding. Helping others who are struggling with their mental health can provide a massive sense of purpose, while also bringing in a decent income if you are good at the role and are passionate about what you do.
If you are considering a new career as a therapist, there are many things you need to know and think about before taking the plunge, in this article, we take a look at how can you become a therapist and the best avenues to take to ensure you are practising within guidelines and making the most of your new career.
Is A Career In Therapy Right For Me?
Becoming a therapist isn’t right for everyone, just like any career, it takes a certain person with particular skills and personality to be successful in the sector.
Firstly, you need to be a people person, your days will be spent with various people from all different backgrounds and personalities. It is essential that you enjoy being around people and relish in long, deep and meaningful conversations, even with someone you have just met.
Listening skills are vital and this isn’t something that can always be taught in a classroom, it’s one thing allowing clients to voice their concerns and experiences, but it is another to really be able to take in what they are saying. Not only is this essential for being able to analyse their needs, but when clients pick up on you being a good listener, they are more likely to trust you and open up more.
If you are a good listener, you need to be able to think analytically and be able to analyse what your clients are saying to determine the best course of action. Many clients won’t always tell you everything they should, so you need to be able to ‘read between the lines’ and use your training to piece together clues.
One of the most important traits you need to have is the enjoyment of helping people. Getting a thrill out of guiding someone and aid in their mental health is the backbone of a successful individual looking into becoming a psychotherapist. Being a therapist isn’t easy work, it can be incredibly taxing on your own mind and you will often be subjected to some intense sessions so finding the process rewarding it vital if you want to survive in this new career.
Lastly, it helps if you have experienced mental health problems yourself. While this isn’t essential, it can really help you understand your clients and provide relatable advice to them. Many clients who know their therapist have suffered similar issues to themselves find this comforting and are more likely to trust your advice.
How Can You Become A Therapist?
There are a few different routes you can take to become a therapist and this all depends on exactly what speciality you want to take on, alongside your finances and any other commitments you may not be able to stop at this time, such as looking after family members or the need to stay in your current location.
The most traditional route is to undertake a bachelor’s degree, this can be in any field and doesn’t have to be to do with psychology, but it can help. After your bachelors, you will need to complete a masters degree in a related topic such as psychology, however, it is not unheard of for those who have an MA in social sciences or humanities to be able to become a therapist, there may just be additional training involved.
After this, a clinical internship is needed before you apply for your license, there is no period for this but it is typically between six months and two years. This gives you the opportunity to learn from practising professionals while getting the first-hand experience of the industry.
After this has been completed, you can apply for your license, depending on where you live, this may require exams or assessments from the governing body so best to check with your local authority first. Once you have your license, you can start practising without supervision.
Other Avenues Available
It is not uncommon for those wanting to become a therapist to not be able to commit to the lengthy and costly route of MA degrees and internships, but this doesn’t mean you can’t get into the industry.
Mental health counsellors are just as vital as therapists, their role is to deliver short-term solutions to mental health issues. Most counsellors specialise in certain disorders, such as grief counselling or eating disorders.
You can train to be a counsellor in as little as one year and the costs for these courses are significantly lower than university courses. If you then undertake an additional counselling diploma, you will be fully qualified to start practising, this diploma can take 2-3 years. But many courses offer part-time options so you can continue with family and work commitments alongside.
There are even more avenues you can take to help those who are having mental health issues.
Life coaching is becoming more popular with the public as it is typically more affordable than therapy sessions and waiting lists tend to be shorter. There are many providers that you can gain a qualification from in just a few months.