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To become a grief therapist you will need at least a master’s degree and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) certification. This can require several years of schooling and, in the U.S., at least two years of supervised work in order to even take the examination for the LCSW. To improve your job options, you can also obtain certification from the American Academy of Grief Counseling.
The first step to become a grief therapist is obtaining your bachelor’s degree in some type of social services, preferably counseling. While working on your bachelor’s degree, there are several types of volunteer jobs that can provide on-the-job experience such as is in a hospice. Many hospices do not require a counseling license to volunteer to talk to families and patients. This type of work typically includes providing support and insight during their grieving process rather than actual counseling.
Once you’ve obtained your bachelor’s degree, you will need to earn a master’s degree in psychology or social work to become a grief therapist. If you would like to work as a grief counselor while studying toward your master’s degree, take the licensing examination to obtain a licensed practitioner certification (LPC). This job experience may be able to shorten the interval between getting a master's and taking the LCSW examination. This, however, depends on the regulations in the your area.
In the U.S., for example, you need to work for at least two years under supervision before you can take the examination for the LCSW certificate and thereby become a grief therapist. You can do this by working as an intern or a volunteer at a hospital or in a private practice specializing in grief therapy. Once the work requirement is completed, you can take the certification exam; if you pass, you will then be able to work as a licensed grief therapist.
Once you’ve obtained your LCSW certificate, you then have the option of becoming certified by the American Academy of Grief Counseling. While this is not a requirement, it can be helpful when looking for a job with a major hospital or practice. To become eligible for this certification, make sure that the coursework you completed is approved by the organization; typically the curriculum will need to be focused on grief therapy. You will need to complete the organization's continuing education program and pass an examination before becoming certified. Recertification is generally required every three years.
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