Psychotherapist Education and Career Facts

Psychotherapists are required to earn a master's or doctoral degree, depending on their specialization. Licensure is also required to practice. Find out more details about job duties, degree programs, and courses by reading on. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

A psychotherapist uses his or her education and training in psychology and counseling to help people with mental health issues. Both a graduate degree and state licensure are required to be a practicing psychotherapist.

Job Outlook (2016-2026)*14% growth, which is faster than average
Courses Depend on specialization but may include statistics, research methods, abnormal psychology, history of psychology, psychological theories, developmental psychology, sensation and perception, social psychology, psychopharmacology, and behavioral psychology
Degrees Psy.D. or Ph.D

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Psychotherapist Do?

Psychotherapists are also known as counseling psychologists or psychiatrists. These professionals help people with anxiety disorders, addictions, mood issues, or personality problems. Psychotherapists use techniques such as talk therapy to influence the attitudes, behavior, and coping strategies of people experiencing emotional or psychological difficulty. Psychotherapists may offer services such as treatment for mental illnesses like schizophrenia and depression, family and marriage counseling, and anger management therapy. A psychotherapist may work in a variety of different environments, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Community health centers
  • Private practices

What Are the Requirements?

The field of psychotherapy is broad, with specialties ranging from family therapy to substance abuse counseling and degree programs in various therapeutic methods, such as depth psychology and clinical psychology. No matter what kind of psychotherapist you intend to become, you'll need a graduate degree and a state license to work professionally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS also reports that to obtain a license, a prospective counseling psychologist typically needs a doctoral degree, such as a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Both Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs can lead to careers in psychotherapy, but Psy.D. programs emphasize the practice of psychotherapy over the emphasis on research typically found in Ph.D. programs. Doctoral programs usually require coursework and a dissertation or a clinical practicum, or both. In addition to your degree, you'll need to participate in an internship and accumulate work experience before taking the state licensure exam.

What Courses Can I Take in a Doctoral Degree Program?

A doctoral degree program leading to a career in psychotherapy could feature courses in assessment, psychotherapy theories, treatment procedures, and specialized patient groups. There may be a research component that will require you to take classes in statistics, research design, and analysis, and you may study the history and practice of particular schools of thought. Here are some examples of course topics you may encounter in a psychotherapy degree program:

  • Social psychology
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Psychopathology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Intake evaluation

What Are My Online Options?

There are many Psy.D. programs available online, most commonly at for-profit schools. These programs offer flexible training options and may include a capstone seminar course or a practicum. If a practicum is offered, you'll most likely be required to obtain approval for the site where you wish to acquire your field experience. Some schools also offer Ph.D. programs in psychology through online study. In general, these accredited online degree programs should prepare you for taking licensure examinations and fulfilling certain requirements for practicing psychotherapy, but be sure to verify that your chosen online program can guarantee state-specific licensure training.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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