Are you looking for a meaningful career that will give you the opportunity to help others? Becoming a therapist is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling paths you can take. With the right knowledge and qualifications, it’s possible to make a living as a therapist and help people overcome their challenges and lead better lives. 

In this article, we’ll explore exactly how to become a therapist — from deciding on your specialty to preparing your resume and more.

What Does a Therapist Do?

A therapist is a mental health professional who assists individuals in dealing with their emotional, behavioral, and psychological issues. Therapists provide support and guidance to help people develop the skills they need to overcome challenges in their lives, such as trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression.

Therapy sessions can involve talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or psychotherapy, depending on the client’s needs. During these sessions, therapists will listen to the individual’s concerns and use evidence-based techniques to help them come up with strategies for dealing with their problems. This could include discussing their feelings and experiences, exploring underlying beliefs that may be affecting them, and providing practical advice on how to manage difficult situations.

Therapists also provide referrals for additional resources if needed, such as counseling services or support groups. Ultimately, a therapist’s goal is to help their clients create positive changes in their life so they can live more fulfilling lives.

How To Become a Therapist

Are you interested in becoming a therapist? If so, you’re in the right place! Becoming a therapist is not an easy path, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Here are 8 steps to help guide you on your journey:

1. Decide on your specialty

If you’re considering becoming a therapist, one of the first things to consider is which type of therapy you will specialize in. There are many different types of therapy available, from family and behavioral therapies to cognitive and rehabilitation therapies. 

You can make choices early on to specialize in a therapy area by taking relevant coursework in undergraduate and graduate studies, completing certifications, attending seminars, and joining industry organizations. This way, you can ensure you have the necessary training to become an expert in your chosen field. 

Researching different types of therapy is also important; reading books, articles, or blogs written by professionals in the field may help you decide which type of therapy best fits your skills, expertise, and interests!

2. Earn an advanced degree

Therapy is a demanding profession and requires specialized education. To become a therapist, you’ll need to earn an advanced degree in counseling or psychology. There are several different programs available, such as a Master of Arts in Counseling or a Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology. Depending on your chosen field and the state you live in, some licensure may require additional coursework or experience.

When selecting an appropriate program for your needs, consider what kind of therapy you’d like to specialize in and research accredited programs that offer the necessary coursework for your desired specialization. Additionally, make sure to look into what kind of clinical experiences the program offers; these may include internships, practicums, or supervised hours working with clients.

3. Complete experience hours

Once you have your master’s degree, it’s time to gain the necessary experience hours to become a licensed therapist. Depending on your state’s regulations and the type of therapy you plan to pursue, the number of required hours may vary.

Experience hours take place in a clinical supervised work situation, sometimes called residency. This can include one-on-one counseling sessions with clients or working as part of a larger team. It’s important that you obtain the right type of supervised experience that meets your desired field and state licensure requirements.

You’ll also want to consider the amount of time it will take to complete all your experience hours, as this varies greatly from person to person. Make sure that you are adequately prepared for each session, taking into account both emotional and practical considerations for yourself and for your clients.

Getting certified as a licensed therapist takes time and dedication but with hard work and perseverance, you’ll be ready for a successful career in therapy!

4. Apply for licensure

Once you’ve completed your experience hours, it’s time to apply for licensure. Depending on the type of therapy you plan to pursue, there are different exams and licensing requirements you must meet in order to be certified as a licensed therapist.

The Association of Marriage and Family Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) regulates the national MFT exam and the state-regulated licensing requirements if you plan to practice marriage and family therapy. The National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. (NBCC) also administers a variety of licensing exams for therapists and counselors.

It’s important that you research these exams thoroughly so that you understand what is required in order to pass them. You can find more information about the specific requirements from your state’s board of behavioral sciences or their equivalent.

Once you have a good understanding of what is required, it’s time to register for the exams and begin studying! Make sure that you make adequate use of resources like practice tests, study guides, and online tutorials so that you feel confident when taking the exam. 

With hard work, dedication, and proper preparation, you’ll be ready to start your career as a licensed therapist!

5. Earn voluntary certifications

Voluntary certifications can be a great way to expand your knowledge and expertise as a therapist while also highlighting you as an exceptional practitioner. Certifications show potential clients that you have specialized in certain areas, like marriage and family therapy or psychological assessment.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is the main organization offering professional certifications for therapists. With their certifications, you’ll be able to demonstrate to clients and employers your dedication to the profession and commitment to ongoing self-improvement.

To earn an NBCC certification, you’ll need to complete specific courses and supervised clinical requirements, as well as pass a certifying exam. It’s important to research these requirements thoroughly ahead of time so that you know what’s expected of you before beginning the process. 

Once you have all of your materials ready, it’s time to apply for the certification! With hard work and dedication, you’ll soon be able to add another credential to your resume – making it even more attractive to potential employers.

6. Prepare your resume

Your resume is one of the most important pieces of your job search. It serves as your first impression on hiring managers and potential employers, so you’ll want to make sure it’s perfect! When creating or updating your resume, start by highlighting all of your qualifications for the role and be sure to include any relevant professional skills, clinical experience log and awards or achievements you’ve received as a student or therapist.

It’s also important to tailor each resume to the specific job posting in order to ensure that all of your unique qualifications are highlighted. Additionally, don’t forget to include a cover letter when submitting applications. This gives you an opportunity to explain why you’re interested in the position and how your background makes you an ideal candidate.

If you feel like something’s missing from your resume, take some time to research best practices in resume writing and review examples from other therapists in similar roles. By taking these extra steps, you can ensure that employers will be impressed by the quality of your application!

Top Skills for Therapists

Being a successful therapist requires more than just having a degree in the field. It also requires having the right skills and qualities to help clients. Here are some of the top skills that therapists should strive to cultivate:


Communication is essential to any successful relationship, and it’s no different in the world of therapy. It’s important for therapists to be able to effectively communicate with their clients, both verbally and in writing. This means being able to listen carefully, ask the right questions, understand complex topics, and express ideas clearly. 

Having strong communication skills is not only beneficial for forming meaningful connections with clients but also helps them navigate difficult conversations or challenging topics. As a therapist, you should strive to cultivate your communication skills in order to ensure that you can provide your clients with the best care possible.


Empathy is a vital skill for any therapist to have in order to be successful. It’s the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings, without judgment or criticism. As a therapist, it’s important to be able to put yourself in your client’s shoes and extend empathy toward their struggles. 

Being empathetic allows you to connect with and understand your clients, which in turn helps them open up and talk more freely about their thoughts and feelings. Additionally, being empathetic can help you create a safe space where clients feel comfortable sharing even the most difficult emotions. 

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is an important skill for any therapist to have. It involves analyzing data, synthesizing information, and evaluating arguments to come up with logical conclusions. As a therapist, it’s essential to be able to think critically about your clients’ actions, thoughts, and responses in order to help improve their mental health. 

Being able to think critically can also help you develop creative therapy approaches that will more effectively address the needs of your client. Additionally, critical thinking can help you make well-informed decisions about how best to treat your client and ensure that the treatment plan is tailored specifically for them. 

To hone your critical thinking skills as a therapist, try reading articles about mental health topics and then apply what you’ve read to real life scenarios.


Problem-solving is an essential skill for any therapist to have. It involves finding creative solutions to complex problems, often in challenging situations. Being able to utilize problem-solving can help you tailor treatments to each client’s individual needs and work through mental health issues more effectively. 

Problem-solving requires a great deal of critical thinking, as well as the ability to recognize patterns and draw meaningful conclusions from data. To hone your problem-solving skills, try completing puzzles or activities that require you to think creatively in order to come up with solutions. 

Additionally, discuss real-life scenarios with friends or colleagues and brainstorm potential solutions together – this can help you practice formulating ideas quickly and coming up with new ideas when faced with a unique challenge.

FAQs on Becoming a Therapist

Before you begin the process of becoming a therapist, here are some frequently asked questions that may help guide your decision making:

How long does it take to become a therapist?

The answer to this question depends on your educational background and the type of therapy you’ll be practicing. Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from two to five years after earning your undergraduate degree before you are ready to take licensing exams and start practicing as a therapist.

If you decide to pursue a master’s degree in psychology or counseling, that could add an additional two years of study beyond your bachelor’s degree. Some therapists may opt for doctoral degrees, which will increase their education requirements by four or more years. Additionally, some states may require therapists to complete continuing education courses or clinical hours in order to maintain their licenses.

No matter what path you choose in your journey toward becoming a therapist, remember that success won’t come overnight – it takes time and dedication to become an effective practitioner!

What is the average salary and job outlook for therapists?

The average salary for a therapist depends on a few factors, such as experience, specialty, and licensure. Generally speaking, the national average salary for a mental therapist is around $78,534 per year. That being said, depending on your education and the type of therapy you pursue, you may make more or less than this. 

Plus, the job outlook for therapists also varies depending on the field they choose to enter. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for substance abuse counselors may grow by 22% between now and 2031 – that’s significantly higher than the average growth rate for all occupations! 

So if you’re considering becoming a therapist and want to maximize your earning potential and career prospects, it’s important to do your research and choose an area of specialization that matches your interests and goals.


Becoming a therapist is a rewarding and fulfilling career path that offers stability, job security, and the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. To become a therapist, you’ll need to complete postsecondary education and gain licensure. 

Depending on the type of therapy you pursue, your salary may vary – but overall, therapists make more than many other professions in the United States. With the right credentials and experience, your job prospects will also be excellent. 

So, if you’re passionate about helping others and want to turn that passion into a career, becoming a therapist could be the perfect choice for you!

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