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Psychotherapy Degree Program Overviews

Most college and university psychology departments consider psychotherapy a theory used in the psychology and mental health treatment fields. However, a few schools remain committed to the approach and offer programs at master's and doctoral levels.

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Essential Information

Throughout the master's and doctoral programs, future consultants, psychoanalysts, professors and researchers explore psychoanalytic theories and clinical evaluation techniques. Students need a bachelor's degree to apply to a master's psychotherapy program. Although candidates from all academic backgrounds may be accepted, those with prior coursework in psychology are preferred. Students can choose specializations such as marriage and family counseling, school counseling or art therapy. A master's program consists of a mix of classroom study, internships, and research projects. A student can finish a master's degree program in about two years.

Some doctoral programs will admit applicants who have earned a bachelor's degree, but others require a master's degree or the completion of graduate level coursework sufficient for a master's degree. Candidates whose degree was in a subject other than psychology generally need to supplement their degree with psychology courses. Dissertations address multiple case studies or a single case study, explore new theoretical dimensions of psychotherapy, or develop new applications of theory. It takes about five years to graduate with a doctoral degree in psychotherapy. Qualified candidates might pursue voluntary counseling certifications. Aspiring private practice psychologists must earn doctoral degrees and obtain licensing.


Master's Degree in Psychotherapy

Because psychotherapy defines a philosophy of treatment, master's programs related to mental health are more likely to address psychotherapy within the context of a psychology or counseling psychology program rather than as a separate degree field of study. Psychotherapy programs train students to analyze the ideas a patient expresses, as well as the behaviors and emotions they exhibit during a therapy session in order to discover unresolved subconscious conflicts underlying their illness. Psychotherapy programs are built around a set of core courses that directly address psychoanalytic theory, such as human development, psychopathology, and comparative psychoanalysis. Typical courses include:

  • Fundamental psychoanalytic theory
  • Analysis techniques
  • Neurophysiology
  • Abnormal psychology and child psychology
  • Mental health and multi-cultural considerations
  • Clinical evaluation and treatment

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Doctoral Degree in Psychotherapy

Doctoral degree programs in psychotherapy are relatively rare; however, the programs available are likely to emphasize a particular school of thought or orientation toward psychotherapy. Students explore psychoanalytic theory, take part in clinical research, participate in supervised clinical practice, and choose a dissertation topic. The curriculum in a doctoral program is devoted to classroom learning, researching, and writing a dissertation. The coursework is typically organized into required courses and electives. The following are some psychotherapy courses:

  • Freudian psychoanalysis
  • Jungian psychoanalysis
  • Psychoanalytic research
  • Case management

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Master's degree holders are qualified to provide mental health counseling services using the psychotherapy model and psychotherapeutic techniques. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) projected a 20% growth in employment for all types of mental health counselors from 2014 to 2024. This job growth is due to more people seeking counseling, and the willingness of insurers to cover the cost. In addition the BLS predicted, psychologists could also expect a 19% increase in available jobs from the years 2014 to 2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for mental health counselors was $41,880, while psychologists earned $94,590.

Continuing Education Information

The National Board for Certified Counselors offers a voluntary national certification in counseling specialties, including mental health counseling. Some states will accept this certification in place of their own certification exam; however, licensing to work in an independent practice as a psychologist requires a doctoral degree.

As specific psychotherapy degrees are rare, those individuals interested in the field can also acquire master's and doctoral degrees in psychology with specialized coursework. Certification is available, but some requirements may vary according to state.

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