Frequently Asked Questions about Counseling and Therapy Degree Programs

If you are considering earning a graduate degree in counseling or therapy you are likely to have many questions.  Learn about the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming a counselor or therapist below: 

How Do I Become a Counselor or Therapist?

People who want to work in the field of mental are usually required to meet rigorous certification requirements including:

  • Earning a bachelor’s degree (perhaps in counseling, biology, or psychology, depending on the master’s program they plan to enter)
  • Earning a master’s degree in counseling or psychology (depending on the field in which they wish to work)
  • Qualifying for licensure in the state in which they plan to practice
  • Qualifying for national certification (depending on the state in which they plan to practice)

Those who wonder how to be a counselor typically must also complete extensive clinical hours or a professional internship. Once an individual has earned a master’s degree, gained the appropriate licensure and certification, and completed his or her training, he or she may be qualified to work in a private practice or a number of other settings. An individual can complete either a traditional campus-based program or opt for the convenience and flexibility of an online counseling degree.

What Steps Should I Take to Become a Counselor or Therapist?

When you make the decision to attend school to become a counselor or therapist, consider taking the following steps:

  • Research the field of mental health counseling and therapy to see if it’s right for you
  • Identify schools that have bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in mental health counseling or therapy, or in a closely related field
  • Make sure that the schools and programs you would like to attend are accredited and well-respected in the field
  • Talk to an academic counselor in the program to determine the amount of time, money, and training it will take to become a graduated, licensed, and certified counselor and/or therapist
  • Consider finding a mentor in the field who can guide you in your studies and career path

What Types of Counseling Courses Will I Take in the Course of My Education?

Within your counseling master’s program, you will take numerous courses that will help you become a skilled counselor or therapist. The following is a list of some of the topics you can expect to study:

  • Cultural issues
  • Social justice
  • Individual, family and community counseling
  • Spirituality and counseling
  • Psychology (abnormal and others)
  • Crisis, trauma, and loss
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Group counseling
  • Human growth and development
  • Research methods
  • Ethical issues
  • Professional management and resources
  • Counseling techniques
  • Theories of counseling and therapy

These are just some examples of the many topics you will potentially cover in a counseling master’s degree program. In addition to taking counseling courses in these types of subjects, you will also likely complete a clinical assessment, a counseling practicum, a supervised counseling internship, and, depending on the program, a supervised research project.

What Type of Person Should I Be to Work as a Therapist?

To work effectively as a mental health counselor or therapist, you should be (at minimum):

  • Considerate and respectful
  • Patient
  • Honest
  • Trustworthy
  • Ethical

You should also be skilled at:

  • Working with numerous types of people from numerous demographics
  • Distinguishing your own issues from those of your clients
  • Working with people who have experienced crisis, trauma, and loss without becoming dramatic or reactive
  • Listening closely and skillfully
  • Speaking thoughtfully and skillfully
  • Respecting and maintaining confidentiality
  • Continuously studying, learning, and growing both personally and professionally

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