How to Become a Counselor or Therapist

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Counselors and therapists work in a variety of settings, including individual practices, rehabilitation centers and other support services. These professionals can work with those who are suffering from a variety of mental health or other conditions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2008 job growth was expected to increase 18 percent by 2018. However, before launching this career you'll need to complete the required education and clinical experience.

  • Ask yourself, even before beginning an education program, if you work well with people and children, essential skills in the fields of counseling and therapy. If the answer is yes, begin the required education

  • Complete the required education, beginning with a bachelor's degree in psychology. This will require four years of full-time study to complete. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most counselors and therapists are also required to complete a master's degree in psychology, typically another two years of full-time study. Find programs in your area by contacting the American Counseling Association.

  • Complete the required clinical experience, particularly during your master's degree program. Some programs require 60 hours of clinical experience. Request clinical experience in any areas in which you might want to focus, such as alcohol or substance abuse counseling.

  • Pursue licensure from your state. Licensing requirements vary by state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most states, however, do require counselors and therapists to be licensed. Determine local requirements by contacting your state health department.

  • Apply for positions. Look for opportunities at educational institutions or partner with your college or graduate school's career services department and professional associations such as the American Counseling Association.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your state requires counselors and therapists to be licensed, you'll be required to renew your license periodically. You may be required to complete a specific amount of continuing-education courses for renewal.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, work in addiction and behavioral disorder counseling is expected to grow faster than average.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the counseling and therapy profession is stressful and can be emotionally draining.

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