How to Choose a Psychotherapist Degree

Psychotherapists will require a doctorate degree within their chosen field if they want to practice professionally. This specific standard of education is further supplemented by certifications, licensure, and hands-on training. These professionals are responsible for counseling patients in an attempt to help them deal with their emotions in a healthy way.

The options for careers open to psychotherapists are varied, and the type of career that you can pursue will often depend on your specific degree. As such, choosing the right psychotherapist degree is crucial. They can work as professionally licensed counselors, family counselors, and marriage counselors, or even clinical social workers. These experts care for patients with a wide variety of emotional and mental conditions including bipolar syndrome, stress, and various forms of depression.

What Does a Psychotherapist Do?

Psychotherapists typically work with couples, families, and individuals to help them overcome a host of different emotional and psychological issues. These experts use personal plans for treatment, alongside a variety of non-medical treatment solutions to better understand the inner conflicts experienced by their patients, consider the thought processes and behaviors of patients, and find new ways to alleviate stress.

Psychotherapists often work with individuals on a one-on-one basis, but they can also address issues with families and groups. Duties might include:

  • Encouraging clients to talk about and explore behaviors and feelings.
  • Conducting a series of individual sessions with clients wherein they build trust and talk about issues that the client may be facing in his or her life. Often, these sessions take place at least once a week, and can last for several years at a time.
  • Running group sessions with people who are taking part in therapy within a clinical setting.
  • Conducting group sessions as a training solution for other professionals within the helping industry such as nurses, teachers, and therapists.
  • Keeping up to date with the latest developments in research and theories
  • Networking within the community of health professionals, and other areas of business to help to maintain a consistent client base for everyone involved.
  • Writing reports and evaluating various outcomes for therapy

Types of Psychotherapist Degrees

There are a range of different psychotherapist careers and degrees to choose from. Usually, every state will require psychotherapists to have a doctorate either in clinical psychology, counseling, or clinical social work, often with an emphasis on the world of psychotherapy. Doctoral degree programs and master’s degree programs will require students to complete two years of supervised practice within a clinical setting, and a psychotherapist education program at the doctoral level often focuses heavily on psychotherapy research.

Psychotherapist education programs will require students to take a written exam as well as an oral exam alongside their required supervised clinical work, and dissertation. Psychiatrists are experts in the area of health that specialize in psychotherapy, though most psychotherapists do not act as physicians.

In order to be prepared to work in a clinical setting, prospective psychotherapists will need to take an examination for professional practice in psychology. Each state in the US will require psychotherapists to obtain a license from the state before they begin practicing, and some states also require prospective psychotherapists to serve a residency with a licensed psychotherapist.

Psychotherapists, during their time studying for a doctoral exam, can focus on various specialization areas that center around different theoretical models in the world of psychology. This will dictate whether an individual obtains a Ph.D. in psychology degree, or a Psy.D, which is a doctorate of psychology.

A doctorate of psychology is a newer degree that’s offered to individuals who are exclusively interested in the practice of psychology. Its focus is generally more oriented around clinical psychology than a traditional PhD, and it also offers more pre-internship experience for students and practical coursework instead of courses that are focused on statistics and research. Some programs will require up to three practicum experiences before an internship can take place, and these are typically between fifteen and twenty-five hours of work per week for an entire year. In some cases, a Psy.D program will not require a dissertation, but it can still last for between five or six years, and it will often require the student to complete a paper that has a lot of emphasis on a review of literature or other information within the field.

A PhD in psychology is a research-based degree, which is the traditional degree for practicing, academic, and research-based individuals in the world of psychotherapy. Training for this degree will include courses in theories, psychological assessment, statistics, and research, as well as ethics and diagnostics. A dissertation is always required for a PhD, and this dissertation must be defended. Often, the emphasis of this degree is largely on theory and research, and a pre-internship experience will be an integral part of the program. Some programs will require multiple practicums before an individual can graduate with a Ph.D. in psychology. Often, these degrees will take between six and seven years to complete in total.

The Benefits of Becoming a Psychotherapist

The benefits of becoming a psychotherapist are varied. Usually, people feel drawn to this career simply because they want an opportunity to help individuals in overcoming a range of different issues to do with their emotions and behavior. However, on top of that, it’s worth noting that a career in psychotherapy is generally very lucrative in terms of finances and job security.

Today, the demand for psychotherapists is continuing to increase as people continue to live longer and because mental health problems are now being diagnosed more readily. Job opportunities are always going to be most plentiful for applicants with a PhD in psychotherapy or a Psy.D in psychotherapy from a top college program. Between 2014 and 2024, the area of psychotherapy is predicted to grow by around 20%, and the average income per year for a psychotherapist is approximately $76,050.

Other benefits of a degree in psychotherapy include:

  • The ability to choose your own flexible working arrangements. In the world of psychotherapy freelance work and self-employment is possible, though you should keep in mind that it can take a lot of time to build up a client base, and you may never be able to achieve a full-time practice.
  • Plenty of opportunities for growth in your field. With a doctorate in psychotherapy, you will be able to choose where you want to go with your career. You could even consider getting into academics and teaching.
  • Extensive travel within the world of psychotherapists is uncommon, so if you want to stay close to home you should be safe in this career.