The necessary therapist qualifications vary according to the exact type of therapy that is going to be practiced. There are, however, several therapist qualifications that are shared by all therapists. A college degree is a requirement of all therapists, as is specific course work pertaining to the type of therapy that will be practiced. While the typical four-year degree is required for all therapists, many types of therapy require even higher education, such as a master's or doctorate degree.
One of the most basic of all therapist qualifications is a bachelor's degree in psychology. While other fields can also be accepted into master's or doctorate programs for prospective therapists, the psychology field is one of the most common in which many therapists begin the course of study. Depending on the type of therapy the student wishes to pursue, courses in family counseling, child behavior or substance abuse must be taken. Occasionally, therapist qualifications may also require completion of an internship with a qualified mental health provider in conjunction with a college education.
Once the college education requirement has been fulfilled, other therapist qualifications must typically be completed after obtaining employment as a therapist. Many areas require a therapist to receive some amount of specialized training in order to practice any type of therapy work with patients. This training is commonly taken while working and deals specifically with the type of therapy being performed on the job. The training is also typically required on a scheduled basis and is intended to maintain the therapist's knowledge of the most up-to-date therapy practices. One aspect of this training commonly focuses on mandated reporting of suspected abuse for those therapists working with children.
In many areas, the therapist qualifications include a background check of the prospective therapist. This check often focuses on any history of mental health issues, physical abuse history and substance abuse history. Due, in part, to the extremely sensitive and personal bond between a patient and a therapist, a check of the applicant's financial history and personal conduct is required by many employers. In some areas, a therapist who wishes to begin a private practice in the therapy field is required to have these checks completed by an independent firm and make the results accessible to clients. The requirements to become a licensed therapist include completing training and passing an examination in most areas, with the educational requirements for specific types of licensing ranging from bachelor's to doctorate degrees.