Psychotherapist Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a psychotherapist. Get a quick view of the requirements, including degree programs, licensing information and job duties, to see if this career is right for you.

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A psychotherapist needs a doctorate degree in order to practice professionally. This education standard is often supplemented by licensure, certifications and hands-on training. Psychotherapists counsel patients and attempts to bring their feelings and behavior to a more healthy medium.

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Essential Information

A psychotherapist talks with patients to help them understand and modify their feelings and behavior. Psychotherapists work in health care facilities, businesses, schools, clinics, private practices and government agencies. Psychotherapist education requirements differ by state, but a doctoral degree is the minimum requirement in many states.

Required Education (2012-2022)* Doctoral degree
Licensure Required; candidates must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 20% for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists
Average Salary (2015)* $76,040 for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Every state requires a graduate degree, typically a doctorate, in clinical psychology, counseling or clinical social work, preferably with an emphasis on psychotherapy. Master's and doctoral degree programs require students to complete two years of supervised clinical practice. Psychotherapist education programs at the doctoral level emphasize psychotherapy research, psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychotherapy and medicine.

Ph.D. psychotherapist education requirements typically include a written exam, oral exam, supervised clinical work and a dissertation. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in psychiatry, also practice psychotherapy. However, most psychotherapists aren't physicians.

Certification and License Information

Prospective psychotherapists must take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). The test covers psychotherapy techniques, psychological research methods and assessment. Every state requires psychotherapists to obtain a state license before practicing. Some states also mandate that prospective psychotherapists serve a residency with a licensed psychotherapist. Depending on the state, psychotherapists might be required to complete continuing education courses in order to keep their license current.

Career Information

The demand for psychotherapy continues to increase because people are living longer and because mental health problems are being more readily diagnosed. Job opportunities will be most plentiful for applicants who hold a Ph.D. in psychotherapy from a top college program in the field. Jobs for clinical, counseling and school psychologists, a category that includes licensed psychotherapists, are projected to increase 20 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( According to the BLS, the average annual salary for all clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $76,040 in 2015.

Job Duties

Psychotherapists can work as licensed professional counselors, marriage and family counselors or clinical social workers. They treat patients with a variety of mental and emotional conditions, including stress, bipolar syndrome, depression and obsessions. Some psychotherapists specialize in group counseling or children and adolescents. During sessions lasting 30-60 minutes, psychotherapists examine patients' dreams, fantasies, behaviors and thoughts. A psychotherapist may specialize in one or more types of psychotherapy, including humanistic constructivist, cognitive, humanistic integrative, hypno-psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

If you have an interest in human behavior and enjoy helping others figure out how to solve their problems, then a career as a psychotherapist could be right for you. Reviewing the nature of the job, work environment, salary statistics and education requirements can help you decide whether you should pursue this career.

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