Behavior Therapist Education Requirements and Career Information

Cognitive therapy and behavior therapy are two classifications of therapy. Both are often employed to aid people in solving psychological and behavioral problems. A behavior therapist focuses on eliminating objectionable behaviors and replacing them with acceptable behaviors. Some unwanted behaviors that a behavior therapist may address include attention deficit problems, eating disorders and addictions.

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Educational Requirements for Behavior Therapists

A minimum of a master's degree and state license is required of all therapists, but many behavior therapists hold doctoral degrees. Education beings with a bachelor's degree in psychology and continues with graduate programs in psychology or counseling. Some master's and doctoral programs offer a specialization within behavior analysis and therapy, or cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Graduate programs teach students about effective research methods, conditioning and learning, treatment techniques and ethical issues. Clinical experience is gained by working with patients under the supervision of a licensed professional. State-licensing requirement vary by state.

A licensed therapist who wishes to specialize in behavioral therapy attends continuing education programs and seminars in behavioral or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Additional training may be earned under an experienced behavioral therapist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy certifications are voluntary and available through the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists ( The Behavior Analyst Certification Board ( also certifies individuals as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA).

Career Information

Behavior therapists may work one-on-one with clients or in group settings. They analyze patients, identify problems and suggest appropriate treatments for issues that impede a person's lifestyle. These suggestions may include relaxation training, positive reinforcement, desensitization and modeling. Under the supervision of a behavior therapist, clients try these different techniques until a satisfying solution is found.

Behavior therapists work in many categories of counseling, including marriage and family, substance abuse, mental health, rehabilitation and school. Mental health clinics, assisted living facilities, academic institutions, and hospitals offer employment opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 21% increase in jobs for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors between 2008 and 2018 ( The BLS reported that the median annual wage for this field in May 2008 was $37,030.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics