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What Is a Therapist and How to Become One


What Do Therapists Do?

Therapists are mental health professionals who help people cope with emotional problems. They can treat mental illness and addiction as well as provide counseling and support to groups or individuals facing various temporary or long-term challenges.

What Is the Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) who specialize in mental health. They can diagnose disorders, prescribe therapeutic and medicinal treatments, and differentiate between underlying physical illness and mental illness. The term “therapist,” when referring to mental health professionals, is short for “psychotherapist.” The term may refer to individuals with a range of education and training backgrounds, including PhDs, MSW, PsyD degrees. Psychiatrists are the only type of therapist that can prescribe medication, including anti-depressants. All therapists work with patients to provide guidance and support to help people cope with their emotions.

What Do Therapists Major in?

In their undergraduate studies, therapists undertake a wide variety of major, though psychology is a common major. Graduate programs may have specific requirements, but most simply require a bachelor’s degree. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, those hoping to become therapists can either enroll in a master’s program (usually in social work), doctoral program, or clinical program—all of which take 3-5 years to complete. Therapists much complete 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice and pass a licensing exam.

Therapist Job Description Sample

With this Therapist job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for a Therapist role.

Job Summary

We are seeking an experienced, communicative, and compassionate therapist to join our team and support the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of our clients. In this role, you will work directly with clients to actively listen to problems and concerns and suggest healthy and productive ways of coping with those issues. This role requires someone who enjoys working closely with people—not just with clients, but also with other members of our team and occasionally outside agencies.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Conduct regular appointments with clients who wish to converse with a mental health professional
  • Establish positive and trusting relationships with clients
  • Implement various treatments and protocols to provide guidance and appropriately address client situations
  • Continually assess client situations and provide the proper ongoing treatments
  • Educate and involve family members or other loved ones in the treatment process when necessary
  • Record and maintain adequate notes about client visits
  • When required, refer clients to outside sources or agencies that can better address their specific needs
  • Maintain the strictest confidentiality of each and every client situation
  • Maintain all required licenses and the appropriate insurance

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Minimum of a Master's degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field
  • Meet all necessary state licensure requirements
  • 2+ years of clinical experience, ideally working directly with clients
  • Excellent interpersonal communication skills with the ability to actively listen
  • Solid relationship-building capabilities
  • A positive and compassionate attitude
  • Keen attention to detail
  • Ability to effectively manage time and prioritize needs
  • Willingness to stay updated on new treatments, protocols, and licensure requirements within the field
  • Passion for advancing the therapy field
  • Ability to work independently or as part of a team