The requirements to become a child therapist vary by jurisdiction as well as the mental health discipline that you wish to enter. In many places, you must be licensed by a government agency to provide any type of therapy or mental health counseling. As such, you will typically need to select a mental health occupation that interests you and then follow its prescribed career pathway before you can become a child therapist. Possible options include becoming a clinical psychologist, clinical social worker, or family counselor. Other options include pursuing training in art or music therapy as well as licensure as a counselor, psychologist, or social worker who works in school settings.
In many jurisdictions, including the United States, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree and then receive postgraduate training to become a child therapist. The exact educational requirements vary by profession. Licensed counselors, social workers, and arts therapists may be expected to earn at least a master’s degree before they can be licensed as therapists. Psychologists and psychiatrists must typically earn a doctoral degree before practicing.
During your time in school, you will likely need to complete coursework as well as a certain number of hours of supervised work in providing children therapy. You may also be required to complete additional supervised work after you graduate from school. If you plan to become a psychiatrist, you will likely undertake a residency in psychiatry with additional training as a child therapist. The requirements for other mental health practitioners vary, but you can often expect to work at least a full year under the supervision of a more experienced practitioner before you can earn a license that allows you to become a child therapist who can practice independently.
After you complete your education, you may want to pursue additional training through other schools and professional associations. These can help you expand your career in counseling children by introducing you to different types of child therapy. In some cases, you may be able to earn professional certification through these organizations, which can enhance your work credentials and job opportunities.
If you plan to work as a child therapist, you can expect to undergo a background check by both employers and licensing agencies. While many professional licensing boards and employers often request such background checks, you may come under more intense scrutiny if you work with children. This is because children are a particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by authority figures, and background checks can help detect whether an individual has a history of harming children or others.