How Can I Become a Licensed Clinical Therapist?

Research what it takes to become a marketing specialist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Rehabilitation Sciences degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Licensed Clinical Therapist?

Clinical therapists, also known as mental health counselors, provide counseling services for clients with a wide range of issues, including addiction, mental illness, emotional disturbances, social problems or relationship difficulties, among other issues. They may work with individuals, couples, families or larger groups. Some specialize in a particular type of counseling, such as marriage and family therapy. All therapists must be licensed in order to practice independently.

The following chart gives you an overview of a career as a licensed clinical therapist.

Degree Required Master's degree
Training Required 3,000 hours supervised clinical training
Education Field of Study Mental health counseling
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure is required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 20% for all mental health counselors*
Median Salary (2015) $41,880 for all mental health counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for Licensed Clinical Therapists

The educational requirements for a licensed clinical therapist, also referred to as a licensed professional counselor or LPC, include a master's degree program in mental health counseling. These programs typically lead to a Master of Arts or a Master of Science and require 60 credits to complete. In addition to courses in counseling theory, ethics, human development and psychopathology, the requirements include a substantial clinical internship. A master's degree is also required for marriage and family therapists.

Licensing Requirements

Licensed clinical therapists, as well as marriage and family therapists, must have a state license. As an aspiring professional counselor, you'll have to complete at least 3,000 hours of clinical training in a supervised setting within two years of earning your degree. You'll also have to pass the National Counselor Examination or another state test and participate in post-licensing continuing education. Marriage and family or mental health therapists must meet similar criteria.

Required Skills

You may already possess some of the key qualities and skills associated with clinical therapy or counseling. These include a sense of compassion and empathy, as well as the ability to conduct yourself in an ethical and trustworthy manner. As a clinical therapist, you'll need to be an attentive listener and have good communication and speaking skills. Organizational skills are key, especially in a private practice, where you'll need to keep track of billing and insurance information.

Job Duties

In this capacity, you'll use your education and training to come up with diagnoses and develop treatment plans, which may be offered in conjunction with psychiatrists, social workers or other related professionals. When necessary, you may also refer individuals to inpatient facilities or support groups. Additional activities may include helping clients who are undergoing major life changes, such as divorce or loss of a job.

As a licensed counselor or therapist you may be employed in an inpatient or outpatient mental health facility, a family service center, hospital or substance abuse center. Private practice is always an option.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of focusing your counseling practice on mental health, you could work as a career or vocational counselor. In this job, you would help clients explore educational and career options by administering aptitude tests and consulting with them about their interests and skills. Like mental health counselors, these professionals usually need a master's degree. Another related career option is a job as a social worker. Social workers help community members access resources they need, like food stamps, childcare and medical services. Some also work in clinical settings to help diagnose psychological disorders. The minimum educational requirement for the job is a bachelor's degree, but clinical social workers must have a master's degree and a license.

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