As a Therapist, You’ll Change the World by Changing Lives
There are many terms to describe those who fall under the blanket description of “therapist” – psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, and mediator are just a few examples. As mental health professionals, they are all considered to be members of the health industry, which means that to be a licensed therapist of any kind you should expect to invest a good deal of time in your education. However, those who feel a pull toward this field will find great satisfaction in seeing the impact they have on their patients and/or clients.
Not only are there many different ways to be a therapist, there are different populations that a mental health professional can elect to work with during the length of her or his career. At one time, you might be helping military professionals cope with PTSD, while at another you can help married couples remember why they fell in love. You might decide to open a private practice and meet with people in your home, or you could work in a rehabilitation center as part of a medical team. No matter the population or setting, the goal is the same: to show empathy and professionalism while helping people deal with the mental and emotional trauma of their lives.
While there are many different names for therapists, most follow the same steps to establishing their credentials. These include:
- Bachelor’s Degree: As an undergrad, you’ll have the freedom to study many different disciplines. For obvious reasons, psychology classes will factor heavily into this degree program, but don’t be afraid of following your passions when choosing electives – the broader your knowledge base, the more relatable you are. The important rule to remember is to keep your GPA high: most therapy jobs require you to get into a master’s program, where your studies will be more streamlined.
- Supervised Clinical Work: As with many other medical professionals, internships and residencies play major roles in becoming a therapist. This is where the theoretical classroom knowledge is applied to real-world situations under the watchful eyes of fully licensed professionals. Depending on the state, a therapist-in-training might be expected to work anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 hours in this supervised role before being eligible for licensure.
- Apply for a License: Requirements for this will vary by state, but help can be found based on your specialization. Aspiring mental health counselors will contact the National Board for Certified Counselors for specific info regarding each state’s conditions, for example, while marriage and family therapists will work with the Association of Marital and Family Regulatory Boards.
Whether psychologist, counselor, or psychiatrist, mental health professionals can expect the need for people in their field to rise steadily for at least the next decade. The need for healers – especially those who understand the unique nature of psychic trauma – has never been greater.