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Behavior Therapist: Job Outlook & Career Information

Behavior therapists may have a degree in psychology, mental health counseling, behavior disorder counseling, or a related field. These professionals help clients overcome behavioral issues impacting their lives. Careers related to behavioral therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy, social work, counseling, psychology, and psychiatry.

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Career Definition for a Behavioral Therapist

Behavioral therapists study the theory and principles of behavioral therapy and how to apply those principles to the treatment of specific disorders. They work with clients to develop alternative responses to behaviors that are causing them distress. Behavior therapists may work with clients who suffer from anxiety disorders, mood disorders, anger management issues, depression, and a variety of addictions and phobias. Behavior therapists may work in solo or group practices, hospitals, schools, and social services centers.

Substance Abuse and Behavior Disorder Counselors Mental Health Counselors Clinical and Counseling Psychologists
Education Some jobs require just a high school diploma, most require a bachelor's Master's Doctorate in psychology
Job Skills Teaching skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills Compassion, interpersonal skills, patience Communication skills, observational skills, problem-solving skills
Average Salary (2015)* $42,920 $45,080 $76,040 (all clinical, counseling, and school psychologists)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 22% growth 20% growth 20% growth (all clinical, counseling, and school psychologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

Behavioral therapists often hold a doctoral degree in psychology, either a Ph.D or Psy.D., and possess relevant clinical work experience and professional certification. Mental health counselors need a master's degree. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors may be able to get a job with a high school diploma, though many have higher education. Licensing, which may vary by state, is required for all clinical psychologists and mental health counselors and is required for some behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors.

The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists offers several certifications for behavioral therapists, like the Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist and Diplomate in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy credentials, www.nacbt.org. Certification requires a master's or doctoral degree in a relevant field and several years of experience in behavior therapy.

Skills Required

Behavioral therapists should possess outstanding interpersonal skills, including leadership and discretion. Behavioral therapists also need business skills if they intend to run their own practices. And behavioral therapists require excellent written communication skills for record-keeping and writing reports.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that employment of mental health counselors and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors should grow at a faster-than-average rate between 2014 and 2024, as more people have health insurance than in the past. Jobs for psychologists were also expected to increase at a faster-than-average pace, particularly in hospitals, mental-health facilities and agencies providing social services.

Although salary data for behavior therapists is not listed by the BLS, substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors earned a mean salary of $42,920, mental health counselors made a mean wage of $45,080, and clinical and counseling psychologists had a mean salary of $76,040 in May 2015, per the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options within this field include:

School and Career Counselor

By earning a master's degree in school counseling or a similar field, these counselors then guide students toward success in school or help individuals choose educational programs and career goals. Most public school counselors need to be licensed, though requirements vary by state. The annual mean salary in general was $56,490 in 2015, per the BLS, with those working for insurance carriers and the federal government earning the top wages. The BLS also predicted average employment growth of 8% in this field from 2014-2024.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors assist individuals who have physical or emotional disabilities, in their quests for independent living. These professionals are required to have a minimum of a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling or a similar field. A faster-than-average increase in jobs was projected by the BLS, with 9% growth expected from 2014 through 2024 versus 7% across all occupations. These counselors earned an annual mean salary of $38,040 in 2015.

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