How to become a qualified psychotherapist
You’ll need to complete:
- a degree in psychology or a related subject like nursing, medicine or social work
- an accredited postgraduate qualification
- 450 hours of practice to be registered as a licensed psychotherapist by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
Your course should be one recognised by the:
Courses can take up to 4 years to complete.
To become a child psychotherapist, you will need to complete 4 years of training with the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP).
You’ll also need experience of working with children or vulnerable adults.
Some courses may expect you go into therapy yourself during your training. This is to help you deal with any issues that may affect you as a therapist, as well as to experience therapy from a client’s point of view.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
Adult psychotherapists work with adults to assess and treat a range of emotional, social or mental health issues.
You’ll help adults tackle problems such as behavioural issues, common challenges such as anxiety and depression or more complex or severe issues, such as psychosis or a personality disorder diagnosis.
Treatment usually begins with an assessment which takes place over a number of sessions between you and the patient.
Having trained in one or more psychotherapeutic approaches, you will provide therapy to help people change the ways they think and behave or find better ways to cope. This therapy will provide space for them to express their feelings and gain a deeper insight into the issues they face. This could include group sessions.
Where will I work?
You are likely to work in:
- local clinics and health centres
- in the community
- an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service
You’ll also work in a multi-disciplinary team including mental health nurses, psychiatrists and a range of other psychological professionals.
To practise as an adult psychotherapist, you’ll need to undertake appropriate recognised training. You’ll usually need an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject and/or be a qualified and experienced healthcare practitioner, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health nurse or social worker.
To secure a place on a psychotherapy training course, you will also need to be able to demonstrate that you have relevant experience.
Employers will indicate through the job description/person specification exactly which qualifications they will consider when selecting applicants for psychotherapist roles.
Training usually takes four years, combining study with clinical training under supervision and provided by a number of organisations, which are usually accredited by the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy or the British Psychoanalytic Council.
Clinical training consists of intensive treatment of patients carried out under supervision. Clinical discussions combining theory and practice are held throughout the period of training. Alongside your training, you will be expected to undertake your own personal therapy to build your self-awareness and expand on your ability to relate to others.
The application process for psychotherapy training is administered directly by the individual organisations running the courses.
You’ll need a range of skills to be a psychotherapist, including:
- a keen awareness of people and their behaviour
- a capacity for study and continued learning
- the ability to relate to a wide range of people
- excellent communication skills
- the ability to work on your own as well as in consultation with others
- a responsible, professional approach, respecting the confidentiality of patients
- emotional resilience and maturity
the ability to empathise with others and make positive relationships
an openness to addressing issues of prejudice and oppression
Are you looking for a rewarding career in which you can genuinely help people and enrich their lives? Becoming a therapist may be an excellent choice for you. While people often assume therapists have to earn a Ph.D. in psychology, there are a few different training and educational paths you can take toward this fulfilling career.
What Do Therapists Do?
The term “therapist” is often a used generically to describe a number of health care professionals who provide mental health services to clients. For instance, a clinical psychologist and licensed professional counselor may both work with a variety of mental health concerns in various settings.
One of the primary differences in therapists is that a psychologist has a Ph.D. while a counselor typically holds a master’s degree.
Some career paths can also take you into a particular specialty. A substance abuse therapist works with people dealing with addiction while a marriage and family therapist focuses on relationship issues. Likewise, a licensed school psychologist works with children in a school system.
A licensed social worker often works in the broader community, though this can have specialties as well. You might choose to focus on families, schools, public health, substance abuse, corrections, or the community in general.
Yet another career option is to study for a degree as a rehabilitation therapist. In this path, you may do a mixture of work with mental health as well as the physical health side. It primarily involves working with people who have disabilities or injuries to help them get the most out of their lives.
These are some of the more common examples and there are additional types of practice that you can pursue. If you have a particular interest, discuss it with an advisor and they can point out all your options.
Assess Your Interests and Goals
While becoming a therapist might be your goal, the steps that you take to achieve it depends largely on the type of therapist you want to become. Therapists work in a wide range of settings and with diverse populations, so start your planning process by considering where you would like to work.
Do you want to work with children? Becoming a clinical psychologist or licensed social worker are good options for reaching this goal. If on the other hand, you are interested in working with families or couples, a licensed marriage and family therapist or mental health counselor may be right for you.
Do you want to help people overcome substance abuse problems? A degree in clinical psychology or mental health counseling might be a good option. As you might quickly realize, there are nearly as many degree options as there are job descriptions for different types of therapists.
By getting a general idea of what you would like to achieve as a therapist, you will be in a better position to select a school and choose a degree option.
Learn About Therapy Degree Options
If your goal is to become a therapist, your first step will probably be to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, people with undergraduate degrees in other fields are often accepted into graduate training programs provided they make up some of the prerequisite coursework.
Sociology, education, and health sciences are also good choices for students interested in becoming therapists. While an advanced degree in psychology can open up a wide variety of career options, there are several other program choices that you may also want to consider. The amount of time and training required to complete each degree varies.
Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Psychology
Earning a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in psychology offers perhaps the widest range of career options. Professionals who have earned a doctorate and become licensed psychologists can work with clients in a wide range of settings, including private practice.
Earning a doctorate often takes between four and eight years of study beyond an undergraduate degree.
Master’s in Psychology
In some states, individuals with a master’s degree can become licensed psychologists. Master’s degree holders can also work in a number of different mental health care settings. It is important to check the guidelines in your state to determine what type of services you can provide with this degree.
Master’s Degree in Counseling
If you are interested in working with children, adults, families, or couples, becoming a licensed professional counselor can be a great choice. It requires a master’s degree in counseling.
The 60 credits required to complete the degree can take between two and three years. This is dependent on your schedule and the individual program in which you are enrolled. In many cases, you may also have to complete an additional 12 to 16 credit hours of training to become licensed in your state.
Master’s Degree in Social Work
Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) usually complete two years of coursework beyond the undergraduate degree. It also often involves an internship and supervised experience directly in the field.
Individuals with a master’s in social work are often able to provide therapy to clients in a wide variety of settings and situations.
Master’s Degree in Advanced Psychiatric Nursing
This often-overlooked degree option is a great choice for nurses who have an interest in mental health. Advanced psychiatric nurses are required to have a master’s degree or higher in psychiatric-mental health nursing. This can take anywhere from two to three years to complete beyond the bachelor’s degree.
A Word From Verywell
After you have chosen the educational path that is right for your unique needs and interests, it is important to discuss your options with an academic counselor at the school of your choice.
Prepare a list of questions about the specific degree requirements and state licensing guidelines for therapists. It’s also wise to learn demographic information about students who have graduated from the program. With the right information and some careful thought, you’ll be on your way to a therapy career.