What Are the Requirements to Be a Psychotherapist?

As a psychotherapist, you blend therapeutic methods with listening skills to help clients with mental problems. Read on to see how to start a career in this field. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Psychotherapists, more commonly known as psychologists, therapists, or counselors, work with adults, children, families, and other groups to help them with mental, emotional, and behavioral issues. Psychotherapy is an umbrella term for a variety of therapeutic methodologies, such as cognitive or behavioral therapy. Therapists talk with clients to resolve personal issues and help them create ways to better manage their lives.

It's common to find therapists collaborating with psychiatrists and physicians to develop treatment plans for clients. Psychotherapists often have private practices, but they are also employed within hospitals, clinics, schools, or other organizations.

Important Facts About Psychotherapists

Median Salary (2015) $49,031
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 29% (for mental health counselors)
Licensure Mental health professionals are required to be state licensed to practice
Similar Occupations Community health worker, probation officer, school guidance or career counselor, substance abuse counselor

Sources: PayScale.com, September 2015; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

The minimum requirement to become a therapist, counselor, or social worker is a master's degree in psychology, counseling, or a similar discipline. Becoming a psychologist requires a doctoral degree.

In addition to studying psychological and psychotherapeutic theories and methods, you might encounter topics in mental and behavioral disorders, psychopathology, and multicultural issues. Both master's and doctoral degree programs require completion of a supervised internship, which can be up to two years in length or a minimum number of clock hours. If you're pursuing a career in mental health counseling or family and marriage therapy, your supervised internship may take place after you complete your master's program.


Licensure requirements vary by state as well as the position and title you intend to hold. For example, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), a psychologist typically needs to complete a doctoral program, an internship and up to two years of professional experience to be eligible for licensure.

In addition to education and training requirements, most states require you to take a qualifying exam, such as the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). It's important to check with your state board, as well as take into consideration your education, training, and scope of practice to determine the appropriate test.

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:

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