How to Become a Behavior Therapist

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Behavior therapists work with individuals who have many different types of problems, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic stress, substance abuse and attention-deficit disorder. To successfully treat these conditions, behavior therapists undergo doctoral training in a clinical psychology graduate school to learn about how human behavior works and effective intervention programs.

Things You'll Need

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Doctorate
  • Post-doctoral training
  • State license
  • Complete a bachelor's degree in psychology, sociology or a related field. These majors provide a foundational knowledge of psychology and human behavior, which can prepare you for graduate studies in the field.

  • Prepare for graduate school. Research clinical psychology graduate programs that have a behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral psychology or similar specialization. Look for American Psychological Association-accredited programs on the organization's website or in the annual APA publication "Graduate Training in Psychology." Take the graduate record exam (GRE) required by most psychology graduate school applications.

  • Enter graduate school and choose the specialization or track closest to behavioral psychology and therapy. During training, select practicum sites and engage in research that allows you to focus on developing skills and knowledge in the behavioral therapy field. Select elective courses and seminars that focus on your specialty, such as how to effectively replace negative behaviors and how to implement training regimens for clients. Complete all required program elements for graduation.

  • Apply for and complete post-doctoral training. Get assistance from your graduate school in locating and securing post-doctoral training in behavior therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy.

  • Obtain a license to practice from your state board of psychology. Acquiring a license typically involves taking a state-administered exam. Other requirements include agreeing to continuing education requirements and/or agreeing to ethical codes and standards.

  • Apply to the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) to become a credentialed behavior therapist. Submit all application documents, such as verified post-doctoral training and internship work in the behavioral therapy field, letters of reference and graduate school transcripts. Complete the remaining stages in the certification process, such as submitting other written paperwork (i.e. professional statement, an updated curriculum vitae and practice sample) and taking the oral exam administered by the ABPP.

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