If you are thinking of becoming a therapist or counselor, you may be wondering what the fastest way to enter into either of these professions is. Truth is, there is no fast-track way. You will need at least a master’s degree to become a therapist or counselor; however, you will first have to obtain a bachelor’s degree which will take about four years. Your master’s will take about one to two years to earn. In addition, you will also have to obtain the appropriate licensure that your state requires you to possess. It is important to keep in mind that the exact type of therapist or counselor that you want to become will play a large role in the amount of time that it takes you to enter the profession.
Simply obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology or human services will not qualify you to become a counselor or therapist, although this undergraduate degree is essential in being able to be admitted into a graduate program. You don’t necessarily have to pick a major during your undergraduate studies; however, majoring in psychology or a related field will be of benefit to you. When you are conducting research on the schools you want to take your undergraduate studies through, look for schools that offer programs that will allow you to earn your bachelor’s degree in as little as 36 months; this will speed up the process for you to become a counselor or therapist.
After you earn your bachelor’s degree, you will then need to apply to a graduate program. Your master’s degree program will most likely major in counseling; however, there are different programs that you can take part in, including a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling which will prepare you to work in a clinical practice. Topics covered in a graduate-level counseling program usually include the following:
- Legal issues
- Family therapy
- Substance abuse issues and treatment
- Group therapy
- Treatment techniques
To graduate from your master’s program, you will have to take part in an internship as well as clinical practicums. If you search around, you may be able to find a graduate level school that allows you to enroll in the master’s program without having a bachelor’s degree; however, you will probably need at least an associate’s.
To fully become a counselor or therapist, after you complete your educational studies, you will have to obtain licensure. Qualifying for licensure will require you to obtain about 1,500 hours of experience supervised by a licensed therapist or counselor, with these hours being spread out over a time period of at least 100 weeks. The exact requirements that you will need to fulfill to become licensed will depend on the state in which you want to perform services. All in all, including your educational studies and your licensure time period, becoming a counselor or therapist will take at least five and a half to seven years.