Career Development

Therapist Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Therapists are professionals in the mental healthcare field. They help people to manage and overcome common psychological issues like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and trauma. They may also help people to develop methods of coping with chronic illness or to recover after the loss of a loved one.

Therapists are professionals in the mental healthcare field. They help people to manage and overcome common psychological issues like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and trauma. They may also help people to develop methods of coping with chronic illness or to recover after the loss of a loved one.

There are many different types of therapists who focus on different areas of mental healthcare. Some examples include clinical psychologists, marriage and family therapists (MFTs), licensed professional counselors (LPCs), social workers, psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, and addiction counselors.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a therapist and what it takes to become one yourself.

Therapist Job Duties

A therapist’s job duties will vary depending on their area of specialization; here are some examples of a therapist’s duties:

  • Preparing treatment plans based on assessments of patients’ needs and goals, including the types of services to be provided, frequency of appointments, and duration of treatment
  • Providing counseling to patients such as children and adolescents with behavioral problems, adults with relationship issues, and families in need of assistance
  • Consulting with patients individually or in small groups—depending on the type of therapy being offered
  • Using techniques such as play therapy, art therapy, family therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help patients cope with an array of mental health concerns and emotional distress, such as anxiety or depression
  • Referring patients to specialists such as psychiatrists or in-patient facilities if needed
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of treatment programs to ensure optimal results
  • Recording clinical notes on sessions and communicating with other professionals about client progress

Therapist Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for therapists is $83,681. Those earning higher wages tend to work in the mental health and substance abuse social service industry, and the highest earners of the profession are making over $120,000 per year.

The demand for therapy is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the increasing availability of affordable healthcare and growing interest in well-being and personal development. Therapists will continue to be in demand as people seek help dealing with stress and other problems in their lives.

Therapist Job Requirements

To become a therapist, you’ll need to complete the following requirements:

Education: A therapist must have a master’s degree, in either clinical or counseling psychology. Most master’s programs last for between one to three years and students can focus on a specific area of interest, such as marriage and family therapy, counseling or school psychology. Some states require individuals to earn a doctoral degree.

Training: Both master’s and doctoral programs require students to take training courses outside of their classroom education. Many master’s programs include 2 years of supervised clinical training or a minimum of 1800 hours. Doctoral programs are much more intensive. Students are required to complete 3 years of supervised clinical training or a minimum of 2700 hours. Students can expect to treat clients at this level of training.

Certifications: Therapists are required to obtain a license from the state they practice in. The requirements for licensure include the relevant degree, experience, and examinations. Continuing education credits are also required to keep licenses updated.

Therapist Skills

In addition to the extensive training and education, therapists need the following skills:

Interpersonal skills: A therapist must be able to communicate well with people of all ages and backgrounds. One of the most important aspects of interpersonal skills for a therapist is the ability to listen well.

Professionalism: Being a therapist means being a professional at all times. This means treating your clients with respect, as well as being punctual and attentive during sessions.

Compassion: A therapist must have a great deal of compassion and empathy in order to assist their clients effectively through their challenges.

Confidentiality: Therapists are legally bound to keep information shared by their clients confidential. They may not discuss their clients’ private lives with anyone without permission from the client. This goes hand in hand with having the ability to manage stress and keep healthy boundaries between yourself as the therapist and the client.

Organizational skills: Therapists need to be organized in order to keep track of clients’ information and records. They often rely on accurate and comprehensive notes in order to build on previous sessions and make progress.

Calm demeanor: Because therapy sessions can be emotionally charged, you must maintain a calm demeanor in order to provide support and encouragement to your patients.

Therapist Work Environment

Therapists may work for a variety of institutions, including hospitals, clinics, community mental health centers, and private practices. Therapists may work in a group setting with other mental health professionals.

Therapists must be able to deal with stressful situations. They must be ready to help people who are dealing with emotional issues. Therapists usually work during regular business hours, but they may have to work evenings and weekends if they are part of a crisis team or on call.

Therapist Career Advancement

Once you have a few years in the field, you can advance to a variety of positions in the mental health field. For example, you might decide to work with individuals with substance abuse problems, or you might want to specialize in group therapy or work with children. You can also become a therapist in a different setting such as a residential treatment center, a psychiatric hospital, or a community clinic. As time goes on, you may be promoted to clinical supervisor, which means you’ll mentor other therapists in your organization.

Many therapists choose to continue their education throughout their career. If you’re interested in doing so, this is a great time to explore new certifications and degrees that will keep you up to date with the most innovative therapies.

Therapist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how therapists work. Therapists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The rise of “Wearable” Technology

The ever-increasing popularity of wearable technology is also beginning to influence the mental health profession. Therapists and psychologists are looking to the new wave of wearable devices as a way to help patients better manage their mental health. For example, these devices can be used for various purposes, such as tracking heart rate and calories burned throughout the day or recording daily moods. These data points can then be reviewed by a therapist to determine areas that need improvement and track progress over time.

Increased Demand for Online Counseling

A growing number of individuals are turning to online counseling as a way to resolve their mental health issues without the stigma associated with visiting a traditional therapist.

As this trend continues, the demand for online counselors will increase and those with experience in this field will have an edge over competitors who lack these skills. 

Increased Focus on Mindfulness

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of research on mindfulness and how it can be used to improve both mental and physical health. In fact, a 2018 survey found that 35% of healthcare professionals had introduced mindfulness programs into their practices over the previous 12 months.

There are many reasons for this rise in popularity, including a growing interest in wellness as a result of increasing obesity rates among Americans as well as increased interest in reducing stress levels to improve overall happiness.

How to Become a Therapist

1. Planning Your Career Path

Therapists help people resolve issues and find solutions to problems in their lives. It is important to consider the areas of life that interest you most when determining if this is a career path for you. Some therapists specialize in specific areas, such as addiction, family, or mental health; others may take a more general approach.

If you’re interested in becoming a therapist, it’s also important to know that there are different types of licenses and certifications you can earn depending on your specialization and state requirements. Make sure to do your research before deciding which type of therapist you want to become.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for therapists should emphasize their experience in the field. List your relevant education, training, and certifications first. Include details about how you helped clients resolve issues or improve their wellbeing. You can also note any work experience that may be relevant to the position.

It is worth highlighting specific skills that are relevant to the position such as counseling skills, effective listening, conflict resolution techniques, and professional writing skills.

3. Applying for Jobs

If you are currently in school to become a therapist, look into volunteering at local hospitals and clinics. These opportunities provide valuable experience that can be included on your resume. Additionally, you can get involved with the Student Affairs department at your school to network with professionals in the field. After graduation, begin actively reaching out to therapists in your community. You can do this by attending conferences or networking events, or by contacting nearby hospitals about volunteer work.

Once you have a few job opportunities lined up, apply for them. In your cover letter, be sure to include information about why you want to work there and how your qualifications fit the job description. 

4. Ace the Interview

When you are interviewing for a position, the interviewer will want to get to know you on a personal level. They will also want to ask about your professional skills and experience. Be prepared to answer questions related to how long you have been in practice, whether or not you have worked with specific populations such as children or couples, and if you are familiar with certain types of mental illnesses or treatments. 

Consider preparing some short answers in advance that will allow you to discuss why this position is interesting to you, why your experience makes you qualified for this job, and what specific skills, experience, and training make you stand out from other candidates.


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