How Do I Become a Counseling Psychologist?

Jessica F. Black

To become a counseling psychologist, you will need to obtain at least a master's degree in the field. There are many graduate schools that have degree programs in counseling psychology. You may want to consider researching the general requirements in your local area by visiting mental health facilities and inquiring about the necessary qualifications for this position. Most employers will require that you have previous experience in the field. You may want to apply for an entry level position with a mental health care provider, which will further prepare you to become a counseling psychologist.

Prospective counseling psychologists might gain hands-on experience in an internship.
Prospective counseling psychologists might gain hands-on experience in an internship.

Although most undergraduate psychology degree programs do not focus solely on counseling psychology, there are many programs that offer additional courses directly related to your intended field. Some courses that may help you to become a counseling psychologist include addiction counseling, counseling ethics, family and marriage counseling, and counseling methods. Psychology internships can help you familiarize yourself with the field and will prepare you for career specific internships during graduate school.

Future counseling psychologists might study marriage counseling, among many other areas.
Future counseling psychologists might study marriage counseling, among many other areas.

Most counseling psychology internships may require that you are enrolled in a graduate program and you may need to complete at least one semester of graduate studies before applying. These internships can take up to six months to complete and are designed to provide you with first-hand training experience. You may work closely with patients including children, couples, and families in group or individual therapy settings. Internships generally progress alongside your coursework and some classes that you may need to take during your internship include group counseling, introduction to couples and family therapy, and theories of counseling psychology.

Psychologists may need to counsel people dealing with a pain killer overdose.
Psychologists may need to counsel people dealing with a pain killer overdose.

Recommendations from your internship director will improve your chances to become a counseling psychologist because interaction with patients is the primary duty of this profession. Once you have received your master's degree, you will need to research local licensing requirements in order to work directly with patients. Most jurisdictions will require that you have a license to legally perform the duties of this profession. A master's degree is usually the minimum degree requirement, and will allow you to work closely with professionals who have a doctoral degree.

A counseling psychologist needs to be an excellent listener who inspires faith in her patients.
A counseling psychologist needs to be an excellent listener who inspires faith in her patients.

There are numerous facilities that employ this position including correctional facilities, hospitals, schools, and private institutions. Some graduates choose to enter an education field and teaching counseling psychology is an additional employment opportunity. Once you have become a counseling psychologist, you may want to consider working on a doctoral degree if you plan to start a private practice, as that is the industry standard.

Counseling psychologists may work with children who have behavioral issues.
Counseling psychologists may work with children who have behavioral issues.

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