Psychiatrists and psychologists use psychotherapy techniques to assess and treat a variety of psychological disorders. Read on to learn about education requirements and career prospects in this field, in addition to job duties and salaries.
If you are interested in helping people overcome psychological problems and you have excellent communication skills, can handle pressure well and are willing to complete demanding training, you might consider a career in psychotherapy. Psychotherapists specialize in disorders concerning mental health, emotion, mood and substance use.
Psychoanalysis is a therapeutic method in which psychotherapists study their patients' unconscious minds. Psychoanalysis involves frequent therapy sessions that take place over several years. Psychotherapists ask patients about their thoughts, experiences and perceptions regarding various aspects of their lives. Over time, psychotherapists can find patterns in their patients' emotions and behavior, thereby allowing patients to enact meaningful life changes.
You could study psychiatry, clinical psychology or forensic psychology to become a psychotherapist. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who concentrate on mental disorders. They provide treatment through psychotherapy, and they are also authorized to prescribe medicine. Clinical psychologists are professionals who diagnose mental problems and design therapeutic treatments. Forensic psychologists work in the intersection of psychology and law. They often examine the mental states of people involved in court cases, give expert testimony and provide psychotherapy to individuals affected by crimes.
Psychotherapists' job responsibilities include discussing mental issues with patients, observing patient behavior and facilitating therapy sessions. Psychotherapists may practice couples and family therapy, group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy and psychoanalysis. Each patient's unique conditions determine whether psychotherapists use one method or blend several approaches.
Professional psychotherapists may work in private practices, hospitals, academic institutions, mental health clinics and substance abuse treatment centers. Their earning potential is high. As of May 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that clinical psychologists earned a median annual wage of $67,650 (www.bls.gov). Although training is usually more extensive, psychiatrists' salaries may be an incentive for some people to pursue work in the profession. According to the BLS, psychiatrists earned a median annual wage of $173,330 as of May 2012.
According to the BLS, job opportunities for clinical, school and counseling psychologists are projected to increase by 11% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS includes psychiatrist job statistics among the large generalized field of physicians and surgeons. It predicts employment growth of 18% for these healthcare practitioners during the same 2012-2022 period.
Entering a career in psychotherapy requires an advanced education. An undergraduate degree in psychology will provide a solid foundation for continued work at the graduate level. You could apply to master's degree programs in clinical or forensic psychology, but many schools allow you to apply to doctoral programs once you have a bachelor's degree. Doctoral programs provide sophisticated training in the many techniques of the field and prepare individuals to become licensed psychologists. Graduate training usually lasts for about six years. Although it is not required, psychologists can become certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology in clinical psychology, forensic psychology or psychoanalysis in psychology.
In order to become a psychiatrist, you need to first earn a bachelor's degree. Next, you must apply to medical school and earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). After graduating from medical school, you'll need to complete an internship and residency. In all, training past the undergraduate level could take 7-12 years to complete.
After you finish your training, you must become licensed; certification is optional. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology provides the certification examination in psychiatry, and it also offers sub-specialty certification in areas like addiction psychiatry, child psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry.