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How Do I Become a Therapist?

Leigia Rosales
Updated May 17, 2024
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The term therapy may apply to a variety of different careers that may all be divided into two main categories — physical therapists and counseling therapists. Within the group of physical therapists can be found occupational, speech and language, and physical therapists. Counseling therapists can include psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors. Given the wide variety of occupations that can be classified as therapists, it is not surprising that the educational path required to become a therapist can also vary. In most cases, however, in order to become a therapist, an individual must complete a minimum of an undergraduate level education with most therapist careers requiring a master's or doctorate degree.

Many therapists help people with physical problems or limitations. For instance, an occupational therapist works with disabled individuals by helping them learn how to complete daily tasks, such as getting dressed or preparing simple meals. A speech and language therapist works with individuals who suffer from a speech impediment or who must learn to talk again after an accident or stroke. A physical therapist is a broad title that includes people who provide therapy to individuals who have physical injuries or limitations.

Within the United States, individual states regulate most physical therapy careers, making the requirements differ slightly from one state to the next. As a rule, however, in order to become a therapist in any of the physical therapy areas, an individual must complete an undergraduate degree. A master's degree, however, is frequently required for licensure and a doctorate is often recommended. Aside from the required education, many states also require a number of hours of on-the-job training or internship training as well. After completion of the required education and training hours, most states require passage of a state licensing examination in order to become a therapist.

The other area in which one may become a therapist involves counseling or mental health therapy. The term "therapist" can refer to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, although the most common usage is to refer to a psychologist or psychiatrist. While a counselor may be someone with an undergraduate education in any one of a number of disciplines, a psychologist or psychiatrist will have additional education and be licensed by the state wherein he or she practices. In order to become a psychologist, an individual must usually complete a master's degree as well as pass the required state licensing process. A psychiatrist is actually a medical doctor, which requires an additional four years of medical school and a residency after completion of an undergraduate degree, as well as the successful completion of a number of state examinations.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Leigia Rosales
By Leigia Rosales
Leigia Rosales is a former attorney turned freelance writer. With a law degree and a background in legal practice, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers. Her ability to understand complex topics and communicate them effectively makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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Leigia Rosales
Leigia Rosales
Leigia Rosales is a former attorney turned freelance writer. With a law degree and a background in legal practice, she...
Learn more
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