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Psychotherapist Education Requirements and Career Information

A psychotherapist talks with patients to help them understand and modify their feelings and behavior. Psychotherapists work in health care facilities, businesses, schools, clinics, private practices and government agencies. Psychotherapist education requirements differ by state, but a master's degree is the minimum requirement in some states. Other states require a Ph.D.

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Education Requirements

Every state requires that aspiring psychotherapists obtain a master's degree in clinical psychology, counseling or clinical social work, preferably with an emphasis on psychotherapy. Some states require a Ph.D. in the field. Master's and doctoral degree programs require students to complete two years of supervised clinical practice. Psychotherapist education programs at the doctoral level emphasize psychotherapy research, psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychotherapy and medicine.

Ph.D. psychotherapist education requirements typically include a written exam, oral exam, supervised clinical work and a dissertation. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in psychiatry, also practice psychotherapy. However, most psychotherapists aren't physicians.

Certification and License Information

Prospective psychotherapists must take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). The test covers psychotherapy techniques, psychological research methods and assessment. Every state requires psychotherapists to obtain a state license before practicing. Some states also mandate that prospective psychotherapists serve a residency with a licensed psychotherapist. Depending on the state, psychotherapists might be required to complete continuing education courses in order to keep their license current.

Career Information

The demand for psychotherapy continues to increase because people are living longer and because mental health problems are being more readily diagnosed. Job opportunities will be most plentiful for applicants who hold a Ph.D. in psychotherapy from a top college program in the field. Jobs for clinical, counseling and school psychologists, a category which includes licensed psychotherapists, are projected to increase 22% between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). According to Payscale.com, the median annual salary of psychotherapists was about $54,700 in 2013.

Job Duties

Psychotherapists can work as licensed professional counselors, marriage and family counselors or clinical social workers. They treat patients with a variety of mental and emotional conditions, including stress, bipolar syndrome, depression and obsessions. Some psychotherapists specialize in group counseling or children and adolescents. During sessions lasting 30-60 minutes, psychotherapists examine patients' dreams, fantasies, behaviors and thoughts. A psychotherapist may specialize in one or more types of psychotherapy, including humanistic constructivist, cognitive, humanistic integrative, hypno-psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

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