What You Need For A Career In Therapy

For people who are innately compassionate, one popular potential career path is to explore the options open to you as a counselor or therapist. Therapy is a growth industry right now for many reasons – not least the precarity that exists in the modern era, and changing attitudes to mental health. If you feel that you have the soft skills necessary to do the job, it can be a highly rewarding career; but before you set off down that path, it’s worth planning a little and getting some basics sorted out.

Will you need to get a qualification?

The requirements to operate as a counselor vary between states, but in most cases you will be expected to have a Masters degree in a related category before you will be allowed to practice. That will usually take two years, and there may be a brief wait for a licence after that – but it will generally be applicable and transferable should you wish to work somewhere else.

Will you need premises to operate from?

It’s only advisable to move into brand new premises if you’ve been working in counseling for a while and have built up a solid client base and reputation in the field. Even then, it’s not strictly necessary. Many of the new patients driving the growth in the industry will have their appointments online. If you have space in your home, you might do best to operate from there. It’s often a good idea to tighten security with automatic wooden driveway gates and cameras if you do this – a greater level of seclusion benefits you and your patients. It’s better to work this way than have premises in a busy commercial area.

Are you emotionally ready to work as a therapist?

Having a reputation as the compassionate friend, family member or work colleague may nudge you towards therapy as a career, but you need to be ready for a bigger demand. It is unavoidably the case that helping people with their mental health issues means you’ll be exposing yourself to some harrowing information. You’ll need some broad shoulders to listen to the problems of your patients during the working day, and then go back to living your life.

Do you have a specialism in mind?

You might choose to work as a general therapist, but increasingly these days patients are looking for someone with a specific skillset to help them deal with their issues. You might specialise in grief, substance abuse, marriage and family, or any one of a wide range of other skill sets. Some counselors do most of their work with patients who have autism spectrum disorders or specific anxiety conditions, others offer counseling on a faith-based syllabus. Working out where you will specialise can help you answer the above questions, too. 

Will you practice alone or in a facility?

Parts of this question are asked above, but the path you take can depend a great deal upon how you see yourself practising. If you’re part of a team, potentially as the specialist counselor at a healthcare facility, then you will have fewer overheads to take care of and can concentrate on being a therapist. If you’re going it alone, you will have other costs to meet, but will have full control over how you practice and which patients you accept.

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