CBT Degree Program Information

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that combines therapeutic meetings with daily mental exercises. Multiple graduate programs allow students to learn more on the subject.

Essential Information

Degree programs that feature coursework in CBT are offered at the postgraduate level and require considerable research. While a master's degree program is available, it is often required that a practicing therapist hold a doctoral degree. Before enrolling in these programs students need to have a bachelor's degree in psychology and competitive GRE scores.

Master of Science in Psychology

Master of Science (M.S.) programs in psychology offer coursework in a variety of psychotherapeutic techniques, often including CBT. Students also learn the research and statistical methodology used to conduct psychological experiments. M.S. programs are not terminal, since most states require practicing psychologists to hold a doctorate. Most programs require students to complete a thesis.

Classes in psychology M.S. programs emphasize current neurological theories. Students learn to understand how thought patterns influence human behavior. Programs often focus on neurology, teaching students how people's brains develop and how brain chemistry changes over time. Students interested in CBT often learn about the following subjects:

  • Conditioning and learning theory
  • Neurobiology
  • Experimental cognitive psychology
  • Learning and memory cognition
  • Behavioral endocrinology

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Doctoral Degree in Psychology

The most common degree for CBT professionals is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), though some programs award the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). Each of these programs covers the theory and practices related to treating mental illnesses and behavior issues. Students learn about a variety of treatment methods, including cognitive behaviorist, psychoanalytic, and humanistic theories. Programs require students to complete extensive research projects and to write and defend a dissertation.

Some programs allow students to specialize in a particular aspect of psychology, such as clinical, experimental or cognitive psychology. Many also offer a behavioral neuroscience specialization. The topics mentioned below are often covered:

  • Clinical neuroanatomy
  • CBT methods
  • Computational modeling
  • Neurology of behavior
  • Behavioral evolution theory

Popular Career Options

Most people who take graduate-level CBT classes work towards a doctoral degree, and very few educational tracks are meant to terminate with a master's degree. People who do seek employment after earning an M.S. in psychology have some career options. Depending on state licensure requirements, they can often hold the positions listed below:

  • Cognitive psychology research assistant
  • CBT assistant
  • Licensed mental health worker

People who earn a doctoral degree in psychology can work independently or in mental health clinics. They often choose positions in the experimental, therapeutic or academic areas of psychology. Graduates interested in CBT often choose one of these careers:

  • Cognitive behavior therapist
  • Cognitive psychology researcher
  • Cognitive psychology professor

Professional Certification and Continuing Education

All states require psychologists pass a written exam and complete an internship in their area of expertise before allowing them to work with patients independently. Some states also ask psychologists to complete continuing education to keep their license current. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers voluntary certification in 13 different psychological specializations. To become certified, candidates generally need a doctorate and a state license.

Individuals who would like to study the relationship between mental thought and mental health, as well as its applications in CBT, may find a master's degree or doctoral program in psychology helpful. While master's degree programs are available, most psychological therapist and researchers are required to have a Ph.D. or Psy.D.

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