Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So You Want To Become A Psychotherapist!

Most undergraduate students in psychology or social work or some other “people-helping” field want to get into the field of mental health, but they don’t know how to go about it. Well, I don’t blame them. To begin with, there are so many different terms that seem to sound like the same thing (for example: psychotherapy, psychology, psychiatry) it can be quite confusing. To add to the confusion, there are different professions that all seem to do the same thing, and different educational pathways towards these professions.

The purpose of this post is to provide an introduction to the different psychotherapy professions and the educational pathways you can consider (and it will be from a biased perspective: my bias!). I will limit my discussion to psychotherapy as it is taught and practiced in North America. First, let us clarify some important terms.


Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a broad term that covers therapy that makes use of the psyche (or the mind) for treatment. A psychotherapist uses talk-therapy, cognitive therapy, behavior modification, etc. to treat a person while a medical doctor will tend to resort to pharmacotherapy (or drug therapy) to treat a person. In the USA and Canada, the psychotherapy is NOT a profession, but a description. A more official term to use than Psychotherapist is Mental Health Professional (see wikipedia link).

Profession. A profession is a paid occupation, esp. one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification (e.g. lawyer, doctor, psychologist). The training tends to last at least 2 years, the formal qualification is often granted by an association after a formal exam, and the individual is licensed by the state and/or country. It is a crime to refer to yourself as a lawyer or a medical doctor, or a psychologist unless you have been trained and qualified as one. These professional titles are legally protected. Types of mental health professions include: Psychiatry (MD), Clinical/Counseling/School Psychology (LP), Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT), Clinical Social Work (LCSW), Counseling (LPC).

Main Differences Between Mental Health Professions

PSYCHOLOGIST. There are many different kinds of psychologists, and not all are “mental health professionals” in the vein of a psychotherapist. For example, an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist will not see patients with depression. The psychotherapy oriented psychologists include: Clinical psych, School psych, Counseling psych. Nowadays, in order to become a Licensed Psychologist (LP), you need to have a doctorate, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.

Clinical psychologists tend to do a lot of mental health assessments from diagnosing depression to figuring out if you have a personality disorder, or even if you have learning disabilities. They can see people of all ages, but usually, will specify if they specialize in seeing children (because special training and skills are required to work with young children).

School psychologists also do a lot of mental health assessments, but they work in the school setting seeing children from K-12. If your child is having problems (learning difficulties or mental health issues), a teacher may likely have them be consulted by a school psychologist.

Counseling psychologists are what you see in movies and TV: the kind that sits on a nice comfy chair opposite their clients, ask questions, nod and look very empathetic. They mostly specialize in adult talk-therapy.

If you are having a simple problem with depression, all the above psychologists should be able to help you.

(See American Psychological Association and Wikipedia entry on Clinical Psychology)

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST. This is my profession, and so I understand this best compared to all the other mental health professions. It is a fairly young profession compared to psychology and social work, but in some states, it is a very strong profession (e.g. California, Minnesota). A marriage and family therapist who is trained through the AAMFT-accredited schools will have training in working with multiple relationships beyond any of the other professions. We are comfortable working with multiple family members at the same time (and I’ll admit that I find it more interesting when there is actual conflict in the room than when everything is going smoothly!)

To become an LMFT, you need to get a two-years masters in an accredited program, then get 1000 hours of face-to-face supervised therapy experience, and then sit for a national exam followed by state oral exam. The key difference between LMFTs and the other professions is that we specialize in working with marriage and family relationship problems.

(See American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and Wikipedia entry on MFT)

COUNSELOR. The problem with the term counselor is that it is a very generic term, and so people don’t often realize that “going to see a counselor” could mean anything from getting credit counseling from a bank to receiving hypnotherapy at a hospital. And just to make things more complicated, both the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association both use the term “counselor” in their professional titles: an LP (licensed psychologist) specializing in counseling psychology or an LPC (licensed professional counselor). In this section, I’m referring to the Licensed Professional Counselor.

An LPC is a masters trained mental health professional that uses a variety of psychotherapy modalities to address people’s mental health concerns. The training received by LPCs is a lot less rigorous than LPs (which require a doctorate) and a little less rigorous than LMFTs (in terms of clinical face-to-face hours).

It is interesting to me that if you go to the CACREP website, you will find programs in career counseling, college counseling, community counseling, gerontological counseling, marital couple and family counseling, mental health counseling, etc.

In general, of the LP, LMFT, LCSW, and LPC licenses, the LPC license is considered the less well regarded (at least in California and Minnesota). But I have met a couple of LPCs whose work I respect very much.

(See American Counseling Association and Wikipedia entry on Licensed Professional Counselor)

CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER. The main difference between social workers and other psychotherapists is that their field advocates going out into the field where the people are. If psychology is about seeing people in private offices, then social work is about going to the people where they are. Some social workers train to become clinicians, in that they are licensed to do psychotherapy. These are often referred to as Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW, or LiCSW).

To become a LCSW, you go through a Masters Degree in Social Work, and do a few more psychotherapy-related coursework. Of all the psychotherapy training mentioned here, social workers are least trained to be “clinicians” (compared to psychology, counseling, or MFT). This does not mean that a LCSW is a bad psychotherapist—they may have obtained further training on their own to build up their competence as a clinician. I personally know some LiCSWs who are excellent clinicians.

(See National Association of Social Workers and Wikipedia entry on Social Work)

PSYCHIATRY. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. Psychiatry is a specialty of medicine, and you need to have a medical degree in order to become a psychiatrist. It is the highest salaried of all the mental health professions. Psychiatrists often see patients to diagnose mental health disorders and to prescribe medication. At the same time, psychiatrists tend not to be very well trained in talk-therapy. They tend to see mental health problems as pathologies using the language of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), for example, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, etc.
Usually, a patient will go and see a psychiatrist through the referral of a counselor (LPC) or a clinical psychologist (LP). And usually, patients are referred to a psychiatrist for specific diagnosis of mental health disorders and to receive medication.

(See American Psychiatric Association or Wikipedia link on Psychiatry)


Sometimes, too much information can be more confusing than helpful. The reason why people give a lot of information is so that they can be accurate as to their representation. I’m sure many psychologists, social workers, and counselors will read my entry and offer corrections (you are welcome to do so, please leave me a comment). But for the student who wants a “big picture,” let me offer very some grossly exaggerated caricatures of what each of these professions do or are regarded (from my lens as an MFT). Here we go.

• The psychiatrist is a medical doctor. He (usually a man) is more interested in giving out drugs than in talking to patients. We psychotherapy types don’t usually consider him as one of us, unless we need his help for assessment and to have our clients get medicine when talk therapy is not working.

• The psychologist is the “ooh—aah” of the psychotherapy professions. We masters-level trained types think that they think too highly of themselves. But we secretly wish we were LPs too because they earn a lot more than we do (average $70k compared to our measly average of $40k). When we masters-trained types feel stuck with our clients or need specialized assessments, e.g. for learning disability, we will consult them.

• The marriage and family therapist is a snob. (Yes, we are!). We think that ours is the best field of all because we are systemically oriented—all “problems” stem from relationships. We are so snobbish that some of us will even refuse to use mental health disorder categories (like borderline personality disorder) because we think they come from an individually oriented medical model, and is not a helpful way to think of problems, for example, a woman who is depressed is not depressed by herself, but rather her depression is strongly associated with her poor marriage or family of origin problems, etc. We marriage and family therapists are a small profession, and unless we are loud and aggressive about our work, we may likely get squeezed out by psychology or social work in the future.

Social workers are not really clinicians. They are more advocates than anything else. And their training in psychotherapy is very poor. The only reason why they are well accepted as a license is because social work as a profession overall is very old (as old as psychology) and they are very loud and aggressive.

Licensed professional counselors are master’s level psychologist-wannabe’s. Comparatively speaking, it’s one of the easier of the mental health professions in which to get licensed

Ph.D. = the ticket! You can increase your salary to be at the same level as a psychologist if you obtained a Ph.D. in MFT, or Social Work, or Counseling. Not only will you be better reimbursed, you will also get the same level of respect that a psychologist gets. In fact, even a psychiatrist will respect you when you say that you are Dr. So-And-So with a Ph.D. in MFT or Social Work, etc. BUT, you pay for it through about 4-6 more years of schooling post Masters.

[This post was written for Avis and other people in her situation.]


Anonymous said...

This is just what I needed to know. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much this has been very insightful.

Anonymous said...

thank you very much, this was indeed very helpful. I would be grateful if you can also help me with this:
I have a Ph.D. in philosophy, do I have any chance to become a psychotherapist (let's say LP or LMFT)? And if yes, do I need to do a masters, or just practical training?

Lonely Dissertator said...

Dear Anonymous (Nov 2, 2008): You cannot get a clinical license unless you go through the educational requirements that have been stipulated by the various professions. These may or may not be a full masters degree. In many cases, e.g. with MFT, you can just take the required courses if you already have another masters degree. There are many different clinical professions in addition to LP, LMFT, LCSW, or LPC. For instance, addictions counseling, or pastoral counseling. Check with the profession's website, and check with the schools that offer further training.

Anonymous said...

that's is pretty clear, thank you very much. i am sure you can help me with this:
if someone has a Phd in something like social psychology or biological psychology, can he or she apply for a psychoteraphy school and then become a psychotherapist?
thank you

Lonely Dissertator said...

Dear Anonymous (Nov 10): If the person's PhD is in a branch of psychology, usually, what would be required are the coursework plus clinical experience that pertain to the clinical-branch of psychotherapy that would be required. What matters is that if the person already has the requisite coursework/experience, he/she should not have to re-do the coursework/experience.

Lolli said...

Can a person who has there MFT license in CA also say that they are a psychotherapist? and how would you branch into sex therapy if you wanted to specialize in that?

Lonely Dissertator said...


Hmm... looks like I'm turning into a bit of an adviser for budding psychotherapists.

Anyone in the U.S. can refer themselves professionally as a psychotherapist so long as that title "psychotherapist" has not be protected legally in their state. So, yeah, even if they are not trained, I think they can call themselves that.

Sex therapy is a tricky field mostly because so many therapists get into trouble when they do that kind of work, and get sued. The best thing to do is to get advice from an organization on sex therapy, such as SSTAR ( or a faith-based version would be Sexual Wholeness (

Hope this helps.

Lolli said...

This is very helpful! Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Hello, i need some help.
To become a psychotherapist, is it necessary to have Bachelor and Masters degrees in 'PSYCHOTHERAPY'? Or can I get a Masters in 'PSYCHOLOGY' first and opt to follow a training afterwards to become a psychotherapist?

And also when I complete my Bachelor degree in psychology, do I have the right to start working in schools or organisations as a school counsellor before doing my masters degree? Or am I compelled to finish my Masters in psychology first to start practising?

Lonely Dissertator said...

Dear Anonymous (Feb 16),

Re-read my post more carefully and you will find the answers to the questions in your first paragraph.

As for your second question, many people work in the "human services" field (also called "social work") after they have received a bachelor degree in psychology or social work or family studies. Some people only have bachelors degrees and work in human services for their entire lives. Some may even do the work of a counselor in a school situation, but they cannot call themselves a "school counselor" unless they have the proper education that is required to become that profession (read my post again and pay attention to the definition of a "profession.")

Anonymous said...

Do you have to be married to earn a masters in marriage therapy?

Lonely Dissertator said...

Anonymous (May 12): No, you don't have to be married to earn a masters in MFT.

Anonymous said...

How far would an Advanced Diploma in Psychotherapy and Counselling (studied in England) get me if I want to move and persue my career in Canada?? I would like to practice privately,

Lonely Dissertator said...

Anonymous (June 28): In Canada it is more restricted as there are fewer types of mental health professional licenses issued. I don't think you can hang a sign on your shingle as anything other than simply "psychotherapist" with your diploma unless you are able to register with an existing board in the province.

You can always practice with simply "Advanced Diploma in Psychotherapy and Counselling" on your name card, and when people ask, you provide your credentials and experience. Be sure to get good liability insurance to cover yourself. You are not likely to be reimbursed by insurance companies unless you have another professional affiliation such as psychology or social work.

I don't believe there is any legal title-restriction on "psychotherapist" but you'd need to check with the government (I'm not sure which body in which province you'd need to check with).

Good luck.

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Anonymous said...

Some of what your wrote can be misleading. LPC (in some states) is the first of a two tiered license system where the terminal license is an LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor) and is basically the same as having an LCSW.

Lonely Dissertator said...

Hi Anonymous (Jan 22): Some of what I said can be misleading because it was said in 2008! So, thanks for the update.

Anonymous said...

Alot of the information here is very opinionated. As an LCSW, I have stood toe to toe with many psychologist and other clinicians and have been respected by those clinicians as well as effective in the work that I do. I beg to differ that we are the least trained in "psychotherapy" because just as any other clinician there are specific tracks available for social workers who would like to specialize in direct practice and mental health. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion; however just as it is true for any profession, if you don't apply yourself and increase your training and knowledge once you graduate, you could be just as ineffective as a person who never attended school. Anyone who pursues and education, be it a bachelors degree, masters or doctorate, should be all takes discipline and commitment. No one deserves more respect than the other. It is time that we dispell all of the old traditional views on certain professions and begin to educate on the many different avenues one can take in whatever clinical degree they choose and leave out all of the opinionated stuff.

Lonely Dissertator said...

Dear Anonymous (Feb28).

Of course it was opinionated. I made that very clear in my write-up. Your comment was likewise opinionated. Nevertheless...

As I had said somewhere in the write-up (it was written a long time ago), I know of many LCSWs who are excellent clinicians. At a clinical level, I refer clients based on the clinicians abilities, not just their license. You may very well be one of them.

When I wrote this article, it was intended "For Avis" who was struggling to understand the many different avenues to become a licensed psychotherapist. Having taken several social work courses at the PhD level, my interactions with the social work students told me that their training (at least in my state) did not require the kind of clinical internship that MFT training required.

For instance, MFTs are required to have 500 face-to-face supervised hours (half of which had to be relationship hours) in their masters training, whereas what I understood was that LCSWs could to log any kind of hour in the office, not necessarily face-to-face hours. After the masters, MFT post-grads are required to log 1000 face-to-face supervised hours (half of which are relationship hours) over a minimum of two years and take a national and then an oral exam to receive their license (no oral exam needed in California).

The difference in training requirements does, in generaI produce a different cadre of clinicians. But individuals can certainly differ in their abilities and expertise no matter their particular field. For instance, I would send my couple clients to an LCSW well-trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy rather than an individually-oriented psychologist any day!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am British and currently live in the UK and am studying a Masters degree in Child Psychotherapy and work as a trainee psychotherapist in a school. I have many friend sin California and wonder about being able to work over there one day and wonder how my masters would be recognised there? Any idea whether it would be and then I just do the licensing exams? (this is all assuming i was offered a job and could actually legally live in california!!)
thanks for any advice

Lonely Dissertator said...

Dear Anonymous (August 23, 2010),

I'm surprised that people are still finding this post and asking question. :-)

I am not very familiar with California state licenses on mental health. Generally, you can forget about being a psychologist anywhere in the US with only a master's degree. However, some licenses for mental health professionals (social work, marriage and family therapy, counseling, etc.) require only a masters and then some kinds of credentialing.

Your best bet is to look up the California BOARDS on mental health and then send in your question to them. I did a search on "California board mental health" and found this:

All the best in your search.

Cheers mate!

Lonely Dissertator No-more

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am currently working on my Masters in MFT in San Diego, CA. However, I also have a passion for counseling people who suffer in substance abuse. While working the hours I need to get my LMFT , I am planning to get a second masters which is much shorter on substance abuse. My question is would I have to get licensed as a substance abuse councelor as well, even if I already have an MFT?

Lonely Dissertator said...

Dear Anonymous (Sep 8, 2010):

The more licenses you have, the greater you increase your chances for seeing clients, getting onto insurance panels, being referred clients, etc. But each license will require fees, so it won't be free to upkeep multiple licenses.

Generally, substance abuse counseling is a more specific degree and does not provide students with the fuller range of abilities to see clients as, say an MFT might. So, you can practice as an MFT in CA and communicate that you have a speciality in substance abuse (cite the kind of training you've had doing so). That will keep costs down for you.

I would contact the "California board of mental health" and ask them the same question. There might be benefits to being a substance abuse counselor that you might not want to miss out on.

- Lonely Dissertator-No-More

Sara ♥ said...

Hi :) I have a few questions for you! :)

I'm fixing to graduate college and head off to the big unknown realms of Grad School at the University of Oklahoma. This May I'm set to grad with my degree in Psychology.

I'm interested in getting my Masters in Clinical Psychology. Psychotherapy sounds like the profession I want to go into... My question is this... if I just want to work somewhere as a Psychothereapist, what should I do education wise? I need a step by step... LOL. I'm a very detailed person and I tend to be visual in a spatial sort of way, if that makes sense.

Thanks! :)

Lonely Dissertator said...

Hi Sara (heart back to you).

Finally, a question from someone who has their own blog and not another anonymous questioner!

Ok, my advice is don't go into clinical psychology if you just want a masters. Do a "terminal" degree that will get you a license: let it be MFT or LPC or LCSW. But do NOT get a masters in a mental health field that will not get you a license.

LICENSE = license to earn money!

If you don't want to do a PhD in clinical psych, you can always do a masters and then a PsyD, and then you can be a Licensed Psychologist in most states.

All the best.

Lonely Dissertator-No-More

dan said...

Hi LD,

First of all, congratulations on finishing your PhD! Quite an accomplishment.

I'm about to turn 51 and am wanting to start a new career as a psychotherapist (in private practice). I have a BA and MA in English Literature (first career: English teacher) and a BS in Computer Science (second career: Computer Software Development) already, but will obviously need training to pursue my new path.

I'm guessing the fast track will be either an MSW (and then pursuing an LCSW from there) or a Masters in Pastoral Counseling. A PhD feels too long a path at this point, and too expensive. There's also the option of becoming a "Life Coach," but I'm worried this trendy field has already become saturated.

Finally, I'm intrigued by some non-conventional offerings, such as the Masters in Transpersonal Counseling offered by Naropa University in Boulder. I have a strong eastern-oriented spiritual bent and would like to bring some of the benefits of non-dogmatic spirituality (e.g., mindfulness meditation) into my practice, if possible. I'm also interested in working with couples.

My question is, in your opinion, is 51 too late to start pursuing this field (for all practical purposes)? If not, which path do you recommend for my circumstances? I currently reside in Maryland, but may relocate in the coming years.


Lonely Dissertator said...

Dear Dan,

My good friend who came into my PhD program a year after I did hopes to get her PhD done before she turns 60. So, at 51, you've got a whole mental health professional life before you. After all, 50 is the new 40, y'know. ;-)

I know people who do non-conventional psychotherapy. If you have a good financial background or don't need to rely on a license to practice, then by all means, do what brings you the most fulfillment (needless to say, without harming the people with whom you work).

The key to having income as a mental health professional is to be on insurance panels. In the state where I worked (I've moved), the big insurance co's will allow you to be on their list after 2 years of license. People will come to see you if your services are coverable by their insurance.

Whatever you want to get trained in, you are best to have a recognized license. For instance, if you want training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, they will want to know that you are in a "conventional" license-able profession. If you want to do EMDR, same thing.

Even some very strongly research-backed treatments these days draw on Eastern philosophies. For instance, dialectical behavior therapy, which is an empirically supported treatment for borderline personality disorder is based on buddhist philosophy and teaches mindfulness. Yet it is also backed with science!

There are plenty of non-conventional, non-licensed psychotherapists. I don't advise going that route unless you're pursuing mental health as a hobby and you don't need it to pay your bills. I advise going to the licensed route, and then find the "niche" with which you most identify. There are many licensed MHPs who use non-dogmatic spirituality.

All the best!

- LD-no-more

dan said...

Thanks, LDNM! :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Dan,

As the friend of the LD who is working to get her PhD before 60, I'd like to share that when I took this turn in my career (I had been a chemist before), I was accepted at both Naropa and a MFT program: I chose the MFT program because the degree is accepted by state licensing depts. Also, at that time, Naropa was long on mediation work and short on actual clinical training, and that makes a big difference.

I also found that Mindfulness is turning up everywhere in the field, and you can either use your own understanding plus guidance from some of the better known books (if you are a mature meditator), or take any number of MM training programs that are offered by professional companies that train therapists. It is becoming well accepted in the medical community too, and there are a number of medical schools that are teaching it. I just did a full Kabat-Zinn body scan with a patient with anxiety yesterday, and loved doing it. So did the patient!

All the best (and love to LD),


littleblackraincloud said...

Hi Mary,

Thank you for your post. I am currently looking into the Naropa Transpersonal Counseling Masters Program --full-time residency clinical track option--with emphasis in wilderness therapy. I am curious to learn more about your decision to pursue the MFT that was in sync with your state's licensing laws rather than attend the Naropa program.

I am wondering how many years ago you were admitted into Naropa and considering entering the program (I ask because I am hoping that maybe the clinical experience may have improved to acceptable or more widely accepted levels since you were last considering the Naropa option--I am assuming you had applied and been admitted to the school's clinical counseling Masters track?).

I am wanting to know how an aspiring psychotherapist (like me)--can be sure that a Graduate program offering a terminal Masters degree -- would have adequate clinical experience in the Grad program. Any ideas?

What should I be looking for within the curriculum and/or what type of questions should I be asking the school in regard to the clinical training to ensure it's sufficient? (For Naropa or any Grad Masters program for that matter?)

Before spending a ton of money on a Grad program, I want to be sure that there will be an adequate clinical component built into the curriculum that would be recognized by the majority of states. And, if for some reason a Grad program proves to not have enough clinical experience, how would students in the program supplement outside of the school for this type of clinical training?

Can additional clinical training to meet a particular state's criteria be done after the Grad program or outside the MA program or must it be done within the confines of the MA program itself?

Thanks in advance to anyone who may be able to chime in here and let me know if you have any feedback in regard to any of these points I bring up here-- many thanks in advance!!)

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate you creating this blog. I am considering a career change and becoming a psychotherapist. Your blog, more than any other website I've run across, broke down the differences between the various mental health professions in a way that is humanistic, funny and helpful.


Michael in Palm Springs, CA.

Lonely Dissertator-No-More said...

To LittleBlackRainCloud (Oct 5, 2010):
I didn't see your comment earlier. I'll ask Mary to comment.

To Michael in Palm Springs (Dec 28, 2010):
You are most welcome. Humanistic and helpful I aspire to be. But funny? Wow. (I'm funny!) :-D

grace said...

Hi there, I was researching the process of becoming a psychotherapist and came across your wonderful blog. You have great insight and advice! I hope you can answer a few of my questions.

I currently attend art school in NY and will graduate this year with a BFA in Communications Design/Illustration. In order to obtain a Masters to become a MFT, LCSW, or LPC, am I required to get a 4 years Bachelors all over again, except this time majoring in Psychology? Then would I attend grad school for 2-3 years afterwards? I ask because I have so much student debt now, and I am worried I would be unable to pay for 6 more years of school.

Also, would the psychology classes I completed as my liberal-arts credits be accepted by a grad program?

And my final question: how do I begin the search for schools? I honestly have no idea where to start (other than knowing I want to stay in NY). I assume the more prestigious the school the better?

Thanks for your patience,


Lonely Dissertator-No-More said...

Dear Grace (Jan 13, 2011),

The following links are a good place to start. You'd need to check with the programs themselves to find out the answers to your questions.




All the best!

p.s. You may be interested to know that many artists and musicians go into psychotherapy as a second or alternate profession!

grace said...

Thank you for your help and encouragement; I really appreciate it! :D


Kay said...

Great entry! But, what if I want to do it all; psychotherapy, testing and diagnosis, and to design and implement policy in the community or a non-profit? I have BS in Psychology and I really would like to get started on a master's level degree as soon as possible, but I'm finding it really difficult to narrow it down. I like the social work emphasis on environment, but I don't want to pursue it at the expense of missing a more clinical scope. However, there's so much overlap that it would seem pointless to pursue more than one license.

Lonely Dissertator-No-More said...

Kay (Jan 31, 2011): If I were you, I would pursue a PhD in Counseling Psychology with a research focus on community counseling, and get a lot of internship experience in community-based settings. You can also take elective courses in social work and policy, and family therapy. The key is finding a good counseling psych faculty who are supportive of community-level and policy work.

Dianne said...


Thanks for this helpful post. So popular after all these years! I have a question, and a suggestion.

First, the question - I've heard of many different branches of psychotherapy - such as freudian psychoanalysis, depth psychology, feminist psychology, to name a few. Is it possible to get a license in one of these schools of thought? Or would one be trained as a psychologist and then take on extra training to practice these specific forms of psychotherapy?

Lastly, a gentle suggestion - in your post, you indicate that a psychiatrist is "usually a man". While it's possible there are more men with this license than women, I'd encourage you to use gender neutral language, and steer away from statements that make it sound as though a certain field may be limited to men. I don't think this was your intention, but it had that impact when I read it. My mother is a psychiatrist! She's the only one I've ever met.

all the best,

Lonely Dissertator-No-More said...

Hi Dianne,

Your question: Find out from your state mental health board(s) whether any of your interests are "licensable." I am doubtful, but check. If they are not, then go for any mental health license and then specialize. Hope this helps.

Your suggestion: Gender neutral language is appropriate if one has the purpose of being gender neutral. I was making a point that there are significantly more male than female psychiatrists and chose to be gender-specific. If you read the rest of my blog, you will notice my pathetic attempts to be gender neutral here and there. It's awkward and cumbersome to do in the English language.

In any case, you may find it interesting to know that from some googling I did (motivated by your comment), it looks very likely that there will be a parity of female-to-male psychiatrists in the future as there appears to be as many women enrolled in psychiatry programs as men -- well, at least in the US. Here is a cut and paste:

"The increasing percentage of female medical students is a trend evident among female residents as well though the numbers, as would be expected, lag behind medical school enrollments by several years. In 2000, 38% of all residents were women. The percentage is higher in psychiatry residency programs where, in 2000, women achieved statistical parity with men by comprising 49.8% of all psychiatric residents. The only medical specialties with higher percentages of women residents were dermatology, medical genetics, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics (3)."

Same seems to be the case in Korea:

syeeda said...


I would to become a psychologist, but i am not a wealthy person who can afford to pay for grad school without a job. What is the best way to proceed. I really like the advice given to Sara heart on sept 14 2010. I would like to become a clinical psychologist. What is the difference between a PhD and PsyD? Is it really 4-6 more years of schooling to become a psychologist after being licensed as let's say, an MFT?

Anonymous said...

Lonely Dissertator or Psych Staff,
I am very much so interested in becoming a Psychiatric Occupational Therapist, in your professional years, what has your experience with the type been? I understand it involves quite a bit of "Psychotherapy-esk" conversations with patients of all types.


Anonymous said...

thanks so much for this "space", it is what I was looking for.
I'm Italian and I'm studying psychology at an online university, as I'm working. After finishing the univerity I have to do a one year internship in order to pass the Examination test and become a psychologist. After that I'd like to specialize to become a psychotherapist in Canada or USA. In Italy you have classes on week-ends. so you can study and work at the same time, is it possible in Canada or USA? After that I would like to work there, but I don't know how it works with the visa. I would like to do private practice.
Thanks so much in advance, and my compliments for your Phd.

AP said...

Hello there,

Your site is such an awesome resources for mental health professionals in N.America. Thank you so much for taking your time in sharing your knowledge and resources. Much appreciated.

I have a Master's Degree in Counselling Psychology (M.Ed) and am a certified counsellor/psychotherapist in Canada. I am planning to find a mental health job in counselling and/or psychotherapy in the state of California. Can I work without a licence like MFT or LPCC in CA? If I have to get a licence, am I eligible since my degree is from Canada? How do I go about this?

Any kind of information will be much appreciated.

Social Work CEU Courses said...

Thanks for the post. I'm interested in working for some type of social work institution and any information helps.

Anonymous said...

hi, i'm from italy and i'm about to finish my master's in developmental psychology (i think that's what you call it in english).

Ok so this is how it works here... once you get your master's degree, you have to do a 1000 hour experience in some structure that will allow it, where you will be supervised by another psychologist. Once you do that, you can take the state exam, and at that point you are a licensed psychologist (as in you are recognized as a psychologist by the state, although i don't think it corresponds to what you call a licensed psychologyst). Now if you want to become a psycotherapist, you have to study 4 more years in a school of specialization... now my question is, do you know what the corresponding degree after these additional four years is in the states, if any? I've lived most of my life in the states, and i think i might want to go back there some day... so i'm asking if after these extra four years of training, one can be considered a LP in the states.


Maaira said...

Jennifer Graf carries out sessions of the psychotherapy in such a way that the patient changes their behavior, thinking and feeling about life and the things around them. She would clearly take t he picture of what the life actually is and what is the life that the person expects.

Anonymous said...

This was exactly what I needed and as such deserves to be my first blog comment to anyone. Ever. Thank you so much for outlining it all. It's so very appreciated.

Anonymous said...

So here's my situation. I'm a year into a M.A. in pastoral care and counseling (clinical track) in Illinois and am increasingly feeling as though I will likely want to practice elsewhere (probably California). I'm wrestling with whether I'm better served finishing the clinical degree here in Illinois and dealing with the headache of crossing state lines with training that isn't entirely aligned with California or if I opt for the non-clinical M.A. that the school offers and work toward licensure only once I'm in California.

Any thoughts?


Lonely Dissertator-No-More said...

Dear GDA (August 21, 2012 1:29 AM):

If I knew I were going to CA for sure, and that my current degree does not fit the clinical requirements for licensure in CA, I would see how much of my current coursework can be transferred to another program in CA that will help me work towards a license in CA. Either that or finish my non-clinical MA and follow up with licensure in CA. But if there were ever the chance that I might return to Illinois to work, I'd complete my clinical MA in Illinois and get that license, and then see how I can also become licensed in CA, thereby giving me both options.

Good luck!

Lonely Dissertator-No-More said...