How to Become a Therapist Online

Dec 31, 2019

Marriage and family therapists or mental health counselors usually need a master's degree in order to administer services. State licensure is typically required. It is relatively easy to pursue this type of career utilizing online resources.

Information About Therapists

Therapists promote optimum mental and emotional health by counseling and advising individuals, families, or groups who have mental health issues, behavioral disorders, relationship challenges, or substance abuse problems. They need a strong set of people skills that can be learned, in part, through online education. The chart below illustrates the requirements for therapists, in addition to salary and growth outlook.

Required Skills Compassion, Interpersonal Skills, Listening Skills, Patience, Speaking skills
Job Growth (2018-2028) 22% (substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors); 22% (marriage and family therapists); 15% (clinical, counseling, and school psychologists)
Median salary (2018) $44,630 (substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors); $50,090 (marriage and family therapists); $76,990 (clinical, counseling, and school psychologists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Steps to Become a Therapist Online

To become a therapist, you'll need to develop your interpersonal, listening, and speaking skills. Obtaining a bachelor's and master's degree and then gaining licensure can all be worked toward online.

Step 1. Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

First, it is important to obtain a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field of study. Several online options are available and take approximately four years to complete. Most universities offer either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. You might find more liberal arts general education courses offered in a B.A. with a heavier science course load in a B.S. degree.

Step 2. Pursue a Master's Degree

To become a professional therapist or counselor who is licensed to diagnose and treat mental health problems, it is usually necessary to obtain a master's degree in an area such as mental health counseling, counseling psychology, marriage & family therapy, or clinical mental health counseling. Each online program has a certain amount of practicum and internship hours that must be completed in person at a designated site, and only a certain number of hours typically can be online telehealth hours. Contact your state board that licenses professional therapists and counselors to find out the specific educational requirements before selecting a program. Programs that are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) meet professionally approved standards and are of high quality.

Step 3. Get Licensure

Therapists and many types of counselors must have a master's degree as well as 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience in order to obtain licensure. Additional requirements vary by state. These professionals must then pass a state-issued exam and complete continuing education each year. The licensing exam is provided by a state-accredited institution in a controlled environment. Study materials are available online.

Step 4. Earn a Doctoral Degree through a Blended Program

Completing a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology) or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) may be ideal for those who want to become a licensed clinical psychologist, as it is a requirement in most states. It is also a necessity for other psychology career paths such as an administrator or researcher. The curriculum in a doctoral education involves training in advanced therapeutic skills and research. For the in-person aspect, students fulfill residencies, practicums and internship assignments. Within the research component, opportunities to engage in program review and development, work as a researcher and teach college are available.

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