How To Become a Therapist: All You Need to Know

How to become a therapist

Have you been wondering how to become a therapist and what a career in therapy is like?

Becoming a therapist could end up being one of the most rewarding decisions you will ever make. Therapists help people overcome hurdles in life, as well as manage severe mental health disturbances. If you feel the call to aid those in need of support, becoming a therapist could be the perfect choice for your future career.

But before you invest any time or money into choosing your path into therapy, it’s essential to know exactly what a therapist is, what a career in therapy entails, and work out what path into the field suits you best.

In this article, you will discover: 

Let’s get started with finding out exactly what a therapist is.

What is a therapist?

When we say “therapist,” what we mean is a “psychotherapist.” It is a person trained in psychotherapy, and with a license to practice.

Therapists are mental health professionals who help others improve their lives in various ways. What first comes to our minds is usually reducing symptoms of mental illness.

However, therapists also help people with their emotional and cognitive skills in general. Or, they can be a support in times of crisis or high stress. The list goes on.

In essence, a psychotherapist is there to help whenever a person experiences psychological disturbance of any severity. As well as when a person is weighed down by dysfunctional emotional and cognitive patterns. 

What do therapists do?

what does a therapist do

A therapist acts as a sort of guide. They are helping individuals with a diagnosable mental disorder. As well as a person who has simply hit a wall. In any case, a therapist’s job is to assist them in understanding and coping with their condition better. 

A therapist does not solve the client’s issues for them. Instead, therapists provide a safe space for clients to explore the underlying mechanisms of their setback or disturbance. A therapist asks the right questions. In that way, they gently steer the client towards learning new, more adaptable ways of coping with different problems.

Psychotherapists are the only professionals, apart from psychiatrists, who are equipped to deal with mental illness. The difference between the two is that psychiatrists as medical doctors can prescribe medication and psychotherapists cannot do that. They use psychotherapy to reduce the symptoms of a mental disorder and tackle the underlying causes or triggers instead.

Therapists also work on helping those who do not have any diagnosable mental disorder. Whoever struggles in life can benefit from seeing a therapist. Individuals, couples, and groups all visit psychotherapists to help them gain control over their thoughts and beliefs, cope with stress, handle different emotions, interact with others healthily, and many other issues one can face during their lifetime.

Do therapists get paid well?

The need for therapists in most countries and states is growing. This is always good news because you know you will not be wasting your time on studies. In the next decade, there will be an approximately 19% increase in jobs for therapists.

So, how much can you expect to be making once you start practicing? In the US, the average yearly income for therapists is $48,600. As you can open your own practice, it is possible to earn as much as $82,000 annually as a therapist and more.

In the UK, the average yearly salary for mental health therapists is approximately £32,000. Generally, the annual income ranges between £25k-£41k, depending on several factors such as experience, theoretical orientation, and region.

for professionals looking for the very best hypnotherapy course, download the RTT prospectus

What are the different types of therapists?

There are several classifications of psychotherapy, based both on theoretical foundations and scope of influence. When you are considering how to become a therapist, you should first decide on the kind of therapy you want to practice.

Therapists can work with individuals, couples, or groups of people. They can also specialize in working with children, adolescents, adults, or seniors. A therapist can focus on a very narrow problem, such as autism, or a broader area, such as childhood-related issues and pathology. 

Therapists also have very similar alternative career options, including psychologist, mental health counsellor & life coach. You can find out about each alternative choice below.


How does a therapist differ from a psychologist?

Psychology is a much broader scientific field than psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is an applied branch of psychology. While therapy focuses on pathology and dysfunctions, psychology is interested both in pathology and in non-pathological aspects of all human (and animal) psyche and behavior. Psychology is at the basis of therapy, but not all psychologists become therapists.

How to become a psychologist?

You can become a psychologist at any level of education, depending on your aspirations. Therefore, it can take you a few years of undergraduate studies, or well over ten years to get a Ph.D. Each of the degrees (bachelor, masters, or doctoral) prepares you for different professional opportunities. It is up to you how you want to enter the workforce.

How much does it cost to become a psychologist? There are many differences in the tuition and fees required to become a psychologist. You can expect to invest between $10,000+ and $40,000 to gain a psychology degree.

Scope of practice

Psychologists can work in almost any area, both theoretical and practical. There are school psychologists, developmental psychologists, empirical researchers, academics, industrial psychologists, psychologists of marketing. A psychologist can be engaged professionally in the military, be a social or health psychologist, and so on. There are plenty of options to fit one’s particular area of interest. However, a psychologist without a license to practice therapy cannot treat mental disorders.

Mental Health Counselor

How does therapy differ from mental health counseling?

how does therapy differ from mental health counseling

Mental health counseling and therapy are terms often used interchangeably. Moreover, there is considerable overlap in practice, too. Many counselors and therapists work in a similar way. However, there are nuances that differ, especially in terms of education.

How to become a mental health counselor?

Mental health counseling training starts with an introduction to counseling. It usually lasts up to three months and costs a few hundreds of dollars.

Then you need to gain a certificate in counseling skills. This takes one year to complete and costs between $2,500-$9,000, based on your state or country.

Finally, you can pursue mental health counseling diploma (master’s degree). It takes an additional two to three years to complete and costs an average of $9,000.

Scope of practice

Mental health counselors focus on life issues such as grief or relationship problems. They aim to deliver support in a crisis and provide a brief intervention to get the client back into optimal functioning as quickly as possible. However, if needed, they will also offer long-term treatment for enduring psychological problems, the same as therapists.

Life Coaching

How does therapy differ from life coaching?

The primary and crucial difference between therapy and life coaching is that life coaches cannot provide treatment to individuals suffering from mental health disorders. Instead, they help their clients explore their emotions, thoughts, patterns, and change them for the better in order to achieve their particular life goals.

How to become a life coach?

Becoming a life coach can be as simple as acquiring a certificate from an accredited institution. It can take you as little as a dozen hours and up to 100 hours to become certified.

The certification program prices vary from as low as tens of dollars and up to $8,000. Unlike therapy, life coaching does not require a license in most states and countries. In other words, it is up to life coaches to approach their role responsibly.

As life coaches often meet people with different psychological disturbances it is highly advisable to be familiar with the foundations of psychology and psychotherapy.

Scope of practice

Life coaches can not treat any kind of mental disorder. If they do meet a client who suffers from symptoms of psychological illness, they need to refer them to a therapist. They can, however, help clients who suffer from dysfunctional thought patterns that prevent them from realizing their full potential.

As an example, a life coach cannot treat social phobia. They can, however, help a client who fears public speaking to overcome the underlying beliefs that make them fearful and prepare for the speech.

Do you need a degree to be a therapist?

Requirements for becoming a therapist

Whether you are fresh out of high school or are looking for a career change, we will outline the path toward becoming a therapist for you. Read on to learn how to earn a therapist degree, start practicing, and become successful in helping others live a better life. 

The short answer is, to become a therapist, you need to have at least a master’s level of education and a license to practice psychotherapy. 

There is no one way toward becoming a therapist. Also, there are variations in educational requirements in different states and countries.

Find out below the steps needed to become fully qualified to practice as a therapist.

What qualifications do you need to be a therapist?

If you decide to pursue the degree route on the road to becoming a licensed therapist, you need several qualifications and in a certain order.

qualifications needed to become a therapist

Step 1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

What all psychotherapists have in common is a bachelor’s degree, which takes an average of four years to complete. You can become a therapist after acquiring a bachelor’s degree in any field of study.

Nonetheless, if your program did not involve courses relating to psychology and clinical psychology, you will most likely need to take additional classes before moving forward.

Step 2. Acquire a master’s degree

Following this step, the minimal requirement is acquiring a master’s degree in a related field. Ideally, you will complete a master’s studies in psychology or clinical psychology. However, you can also become a therapist after you have completed a master’s in social sciences or humanities. This usually lasts for an additional one to two years. 

Step 3. Complete a clinical internship

Finally, you also need to have a clinical internship or training, which takes anywhere from six months to two years. Every psychotherapist has to complete 2000-4000 hours of supervised clinical experience to acquire their license.

Step 4. Apply for license

Once you have completed all of the above steps, you have become eligible for a license to practice psychotherapy. Most states require you to pass an exam, after which you are free to call yourself a therapist. At this point, the path towards helping your clients is finally wide open. 

Step 5. Starting a practice

Once you acquire your license you can start working with clients. Be mindful of ethical and legal requirements for becoming a therapist and practicing psychotherapy. You can get detailed information about the legal aspects of your future career from your local or regional ethical bodies. In the US, an excellent place to start is the American Psychological Association (APA). In the UK, you may seek guidance from the British Psychological Society (BPS).

How much does it cost to become a therapist?

Depending on the state or country, as well as the school providing the training, becoming a therapist after you have completed the required undergraduate courses can cost between $1,700 and $50,000 for the tuition and fees alone.

So, how long would it take to become a therapist? On average, it takes a minimum of six to eight years after high school graduation.

In many cases, depending on your state or country’s requirements, it can take as long as fifteen years after you have graduated from high school to start practicing psychotherapy.

Also, most states require regular renewal of the license which means you will need to complete a certain amount of continuing development hours each year. 

How to become a licensed therapist without a degree

How to become a therapist without a degree

Becoming a therapist is an effort worth making. Nonetheless, it takes years and often a lot of money to get a license and open your practice. If you have always felt that helping people is your life calling, you can do so without becoming a psychotherapist in the traditional sense.

There are other jobs that help people that are similarly rewarding.

For example, you can become a life coach of any specialty. Also, you can explore options such as learning neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which explores how the language we use influences the way we feel and behave. 

Hypnotherapy can help many people cope better with stress, fear, adverse emotions, or quit unhealthy habits. Emotional freedom techniques (EFT) present a group of interventions that you can implement to help clients find relief from unhealthy patterns of thoughts and feelings.

Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT®) is another great alternative to waiting for years before you can start making a change in the world. It is based on the principles of psychotherapy.

It also combines other approaches that its founder, world-renowned therapist, speaker and best-selling author Marisa Peer, has been using for decades to help clients quickly achieve long-lasting changes.

Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT®) certification program is a practical, theory-based 300-hour hypnotherapy training course. It provides you with all the skills and techniques you need to deliver quick and sustainable change to clients. It is a way for you to get into therapy practice without having to spend years and thousands of dollars on additional education in the field.

As part of the training course, Marisa Peer is also offering live training elements, where you get the chance to meet her in person and practice your skills with the help of her expert training team. This hypnotherapy training is available at a variety of locations, including London, Florida, and California.

Where to look for therapist jobs?

When you are thinking of how to become a therapist, you also want to consider the options on how to practice once you acquire your license. Although the most common image of a therapist is one where they sit in their office and see clients, there are other options out there.

Working as a subcontractor 

At the beginning of your new career, you might want to consider working at an established practice or clinic.

What are the perks of this option?

You get to build your name recognition without the stress that comes with running your own practice. Also, you may secure a steady flow of referrals, gradually gain confidence, and have an expert as a mentor or guide.

Starting your own practice 

If you want to start your career by branding yourself, you can establish your individual practice. This way, you get all the freedom in marketing your services as well as planning every aspect of your work.

Online therapy 

The new technology opens the door to novel ways of practicing therapy. You can now freelance as a therapist and help people from across the world, with minimal investment. However, be mindful of the ethical dilemmas (as well as legal requirements) of such practice.

Is becoming a therapist right for you?

Is becoming a therapist right for you?

So, you are ready to invest time, money, and effort into becoming a therapist? Kudos to you! There is one last thing to look into: what it takes to be a good therapist?

Research shows that there is more to being successful at helping people than merely learning the theory behind it. Here are some skills and traits you should also be working on when reinventing yourself as a mental health therapist:

  • Sophisticated interpersonal skills are the cornerstone of good therapists: Empathy, warmth, acceptance, perceptiveness, verbal fluency, and ability to create a non-judgmental and safe space.
  • A competent therapist is always conscious of their own psychological processes that get triggered during therapy.
  • To be an efficient therapist, you will need to be able to communicate your expertise and professional understanding of your clients and their ailments. Develop a skill to explain to the client the nature of their distress in a way that is acceptable and avoid social stigma surrounding mental health disturbances. 
  • It is important to be able to motivate your clients to want to be active participants of their healing process, not just passive receivers of the treatment. Communicate optimism and hope. Effective therapists are influential, persuasive, and convincing.
  • A good therapist is authentically interested in clients and the context in which they are living. Also, do not be afraid of difficult conversations. Your client will probably try and avoid the most bothersome issues, but it will be your job to be courageous and address precisely those areas of their psyche.
  • You need to be flexible, informed, and always seek improvement in your work and expertise.

Venture on into your new career of helping others!

If you are searching for a purpose in life, becoming a therapist might be just the thing. It will undoubtedly give your life a more profound meaning. If you want a faster route to becoming a helping professional without years of study, download the free RTT Course Prospectus and find out how you can become a therapist and start making a change in the world in no time!

For professionals looking for the very best hypnotherapy course, download the RTT prospectus


Marisa Peer

Marisa Peer

Marisa shares over 30 years of experience as a multi-award-winning therapist to top athletes, celebrities and even royalty. She is the pioneer of RTT®, the cutting-edge method that can deliver incredible transformations
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Marisa Peer has been helping people build exciting careers in hypnotherapy with RTT®. No previous experience is necessary to start training, so download the free prospectus today.