How To Become A Therapist Specializing In Relationships
Relationship counselors are licensed mental health clinicians who work with people to help them improve their relationships. Counseling is a form of psychotherapy that helps people analyze and resolve their problems. Counselors help people figure out the viable solution to their problems.
Being a relationship counselor can be a stressful job because these individuals are carrying the load of many clients' challenges. This can take an emotional toll on a counselor. Because many people work during the day, relationship counselors often have to work nights and weekends to accommodate their client's schedules.
What Types Of Certifications Can I Get As A Relationship Counselor?
- MFT-Marriage and Family Therapist-mental health professional with training in psychotherapy and family systems. Therapists have training in a theoretical approach in dealing with clients, which are referred to as "systems theory." An MFT administers treatment by focusing on the mechanics of relationships between couples and families.
- GRN Counselors receive intensive training by Doctors John and Julie Gottman and work independently.
- Psychologist-a therapist with professional training and clinical skills helps people learn to cope with life's issues and mental health disorders. Psychologists may also have a doctoral degree of Ph.D., PsyD, or EdD.
- LPC-Licensed Professional Counselor-counselors that provide mental health and substance use care to clients in need. This is a master's degree-level clinician that provides care to individuals, families, and groups in treating mental health, emotional, and behavioral problems.
- LCSW-Licensed Clinical Social Worker-licensed social workers follow a traditional psychological approach towards counseling that focuses on individual improvement. Licensed clinical social workers can provide services to clients in schools, health settings, and other work settings, something a social worker with a bachelor's degree can't do.
What Are The Educational Requirements For A Relationship Counselor?
For anyone interested in learning how to become a counselor specializing in relationships, the first thing to do is get a bachelor's degree in social work, psychology, or a related area. These classes will cover psychology, social work, marriage counseling, social psychology, cognitive psychology, sexuality, sociology, interpersonal relationships, and more. Most bachelor's programs also require an internship or clinical practice before students can graduate.
Most relationship counselors get their master's degree, which entails full education in the social sciences of marriage and family counseling. A master's degree in relationship counseling includes adolescent and family counseling, cultural diversity, couples therapy, family systems sociology, marriage counseling ethics, and more.
A master's degree-level of certification emphasizes applied clinical experience and research. Students working on their master's degrees in relationship counseling will need to serve an internship to obtain their degree. To work as a marriage and family counselor, students must have at least two years of clinical experience and apply for a state license to practice. Beyond the educational requirements, licensed counselors need to have compassion, people skills, listening skills, and speaking skills.
Some relationship counselors continue to get their doctorate, opening up opportunities for work in academia or research.
What Are The Requirements For Clinical Experience For Relationship Counselors?
Each state forms its laws regarding licensed clinicians' requirements, so the requirements vary somewhat from state to state. Generally, clinicians must have a certain number of hours of supervised marriage counseling work experience before they are allowed to get a license.
Some state requirements may be in addition to college credits. Credit hours are usually measured in weeks or hours. Unless the state laws indicate otherwise, the standard supervised clinical requirement for relationship therapists is two years.
State clinical licensing always require a written examination. In addition to the clinical licensing, relationship counselors may also have to take classes or exams on ethical standards if their state requires it. Some states have their examination, and others use an examination provided by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.
Once someone has completed all the necessary education, training, and exams, they may apply for state licensing.
Are There Opportunities For Ongoing Education After Licensure?
Not only are there many opportunities to obtain continuing educations credits for additional study, but also, in most states, continuing education is a licensing requirement.
Counselors may opt to take classes or programs that will help them develop a specialty within their practice. The National Board of Certified Counselors offers an optional certification known as the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential. Relationship therapists who desire to develop a specialty within their practices may find success by assessing the people's needs within their communities.
There are also many opportunities for counselors to join professional associations. Two notable organizations are the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the Child Welfare League of America.
Nearly all states require relationship counselors to take continuing education to keep their licenses. Continuing education is important because it keeps counselors up to date on current laws and regulations and keeps them fresh at their craft. Most states require relationship counselors to complete approximately 20-40 hours of continuing education credits to renew their clinical licenses. Some states have lists of approved topics or course providers that are acceptable for continuing education credits. Most clinical licenses expire annually or biannually unless the person has completed the proper continuing education requirements. Most licensed relationship counselors also attend lectures and workshops to stay in the loop with industry trends and research. These opportunities sometimes afford them continuing education credits toward licensing renewal credits.
What Do Relationship Therapists Do In Practice?
Relationship therapists work with individuals, couples, or families to diagnose problems within their relationships. Therapists create customized treatment plans to resolve individual problems that contribute to marital discord. Treatment plans help clients explore the dynamics in their relationships to get to the cause of the problem. When relationship therapy is successful, clients will have the necessary communication skills to repair their current problems and prevent similar problems from re-occurring in the future. The result is that they will have developed the ability to have more positive relationships moving forward.
Couples counseling is not just for married partners. According to the American Psychological Association, pre-marriage counseling is a "vital, untapped niche." Pre-marriage counseling can help to prevent more serious problems later in the marriage.
What Can Relationship Therapists Expect Of Their Work Environment?
In most cases, therapists will schedule their patients for 45-90 minute sessions. They usually determine the approximate number of sessions needed after the first visit.
Some therapists develop good working relationships with psychiatrists or other professionals within their community. For example, a relationship therapist may partner with a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication to aid the client as they work through their therapy sessions. It's common for relationship therapists to consult with other therapists that provide individual therapy for difficult cases.
In addition to their clinical practice, many relationship therapists provide related services within their communities either for a fee or to build their brand and drum up business for their practice. Some therapists teach classes at local universities or work as supervisors for other counselors working on their degrees. Counselors may find opportunities to provide public speaking engagements, which may be important if the community is going through some crisis. Educational conferences for clinicians are good opportunities to present information to other clinicians and become known in their field.
Technology has become a real game-changer in the counseling field. Computers, mobile phones, and tablets provide a way to bring counseling to clients in the comfort of their own homes. Online therapy, such as ReGain, is a growing field that is as popular with clients as clinicians.
Newly licensed relationship therapists have their choice of various work environments. State and federal governments hire counselors, therapists, and social workers to work in their buildings. Some communities have set up nonprofit organizations that have community clinics. There may also be opportunities to work for police or fire departments.
When clinicians aren't seeing clients, they're usually taking care of the business, such as writing progress notes, answering phone calls, answering emails, attending staff or supervisory meetings, filing insurance claims, and other administrative or marketing tasks.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Years Does It Take To Become A Therapist?
It takes about 6-10 years to become a therapist with a license to practice legally in the US. The first step to becoming a therapist is to obtain a bachelor's degree in any therapy-related field. On average, a bachelor's degree takes 4-5 years, while a master's degree requires 2 years. With a master's degree and additional certifications under your belt, you will get a valid license that proves your proficiency.
At this stage, you can start practicing therapy without supervision. However, some states in the US actually allow individuals with an undergraduate therapy degree to practice but under a licensed therapist's scrutiny with a doctorate. This way, prospective therapists can receive on-the-job training while working toward their master's degree. Though it takes 4 years to earn a doctorate in Therapy, the advantage that comes with it, like a higher salary rate and job opportunity, is worth the time.
Do Therapists Get Paid Well?
A therapy career can be a very lucrative job for someone who likes to help and interact with other people. Gone are the days when being a counselor or therapist is considered an average to a low-paying job. With a therapy career, you get to help people improve their quality of life while you make money at the same time.
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, full-time therapists receive between
$50,000 and $100,000 a year on average. Therapists who work part-time earn less, but they still earn a reasonable amount. All salaries below are taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Mental Health Counselors: 20.59 per hour/$42,840 per annum
- Genetic Counselors: $37.25 per hour/$77,480 per annum
- Marriage and Family Therapists: 23.45 per hour/ $48,790 per annum
- Substance Abuse Counselor: $20.82 per hour/$43,300 per annum
- School and Career Counsellors: $16.76 per hour/ $36,860 per annum
- Genetic Counselors: $37.25 per hour/$77,480 per annum
- School and Career Counselors: $26.64 per hour/$55,410 per annum
- Psychologists: $37.03 per hour/$77,030 per annum
- Rehabilitation Counselors: $16.76 per hour/$36,860 per annum
It's worthy of note that the salaries of therapists vary. By earning a doctorate, a therapist stands a chance of getting higher pay. Because they are considered to be more competent, reliable, and experienced, therapists with doctorate degrees often charge higher service fees. Specialists like marriage and family therapists, industrial-organizational psychologists, genetic counselors, etc., are among the highest-paid therapists.
Geographical location is another key factor that determines how much you can earn as a therapist. For example, therapists working in a large coastal city charge more per hour than those operating in a small town in the Midwest. Also, the experience is an added advantage. Vastly experienced therapists are most likely to earn themselves lucrative positions for organizations like hospitals. Self-employed therapists with a wealth of experience tend to attract and nurture a large client base, so they can eventually charge higher rates.
What Qualifications Do You Need To Be A Therapist?
To practice therapy, the qualifications you need include first and second degrees with additional certifications in any therapy-related field. After getting your master's degree and completing your clinical hours, you will be licensed. Professional organizations, notably the National Board for Certified Counselors, give educational certificates and other important resources to their members. It's very important to push for additional certifications, special training, and licenses as they help to increase your career opportunities and earnings in the long run. A therapy-related career may require some time to complete, but it can be a fulfilling practice.
Can I Be A Therapist Without A Degree?
A therapy degree, particularly a master's degree, is a general precursor to becoming a therapist. Without a therapy degree, you can hardly get a government-approved license that proves your credibility and competence. For example, becoming a family therapist requires some specific training and certification to practice legally in the US. However, other therapy specialties don't require any degree but just experience, exposure, past accomplishment, talent, and passion. Some of them include:
- Alcohol and drug counselor
- Art therapy
- Life coach
- Psychiatric assistant
- Teacher's assistant
- Developmental Specialist
- and Human Services Assistant
- Peer Counsellor
Is Being A Therapist A Good Career?
There are pros and cons to being a therapist. Depending on what you want in life, being a therapist may or may not be the right profession for you. If you derive pleasure in taking on new challenges, helping people overcome their challenges, and you are ready to learn and change, a therapy career is an auspicious path for you. Flexible work schedules, ability to work for yourself, high paying prospects, opportunity to meet new people every day, and the reputation and joy that come with improving the quality of people's lives but to mention a few are things that make being a therapist a good career.
Is It Hard To Be A Therapist?
Becoming a licensed therapist is no walk in the park. The challenging part is the length of time, resources, and dedication it takes to become a licensed therapist in developed economies like the US. For example, to qualify for a license in family and marriage therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc., you must have a master's degree or something higher coupled with tons of hours of supervised fieldwork and passage of state-approved exams. Looking beyond these prerequisites, the quest to get an advanced therapy degree is a pathway to a very rewarding career in therapy.
Therapist vs Psychologist: What Is The Difference?
A psychologist is a social scientist that studies human behavior and mental processes. Psychologists can work in many different clinical or research settings. On the other hand, a therapist is a broader umbrella term referring to trained and licensed professionals to offer a wide range of treatments and rehabilitation. Therapists can be marriage counselors, psychoanalysts, family therapists, life coaches, among other specialties. Therapists work in several fields related to the body and mind and help patients cope with their mental, emotional and physical issues. You can choose the type of therapist you want to be a part-time or full-time therapist.