Want to Be a Therapist? A Rewarding Career, and We Need More

How to become one, perks, and more…

I’m not sure when I decided to be a therapist…I read a book called ‘Dibs’, about a boy who had a one-on-one helper at his school, and that was definitely part of the beginning.

Then I did an internship, once I realized that my psychology degree was teaching me about the brain and not about helping people, which I found fascinating. I had definitely planned to be a psychologist, which I’m not.

Once I finished my master’s degree in 1995, I was ready to work for a while. I wanted to have babies, I was already married, and I was ready to be done with school.

I have been thinking lately that we really need more therapists. The media is encouraging people to go see a therapist, and in Texas, there are certainly a lot more than there were in Indiana.

But still not enough.

I decided to write about it, but first, I thought I’d ask some of my fellow therapists what helped them decide to go into this field.

I sent out some texts to different therapist friends about what has led them to be therapists.

One friend answered me back quickly. She told me that she was working for a place that was understaffed and she was working to balance that with taking care of her kids and her art.

Another friend, who owns her own private practice and provides solely Telehealth, talked about how she had initially planned to be a psychologist and started having children. She’s working on her PhD, but it will be in a different area from psychology.

Another friend I have talked about how she had a very lonely childhood with parents who are less than ideal. She wants to be there for kiddos the way that her therapist was there for her.

I remember another friend talking about the therapy she received as a teen, and how that led her to want to be a therapist. She talked about the positive experience she had, and wanting to provide that to someone else.

Another person I know talked about how she knew of someone with a brain injury who had made some mistakes with his behavior. Her work has led her to want to understand people, particularly those with brain injuries, and to be a person who can provide help to others.

What do you do for a living?

Sometimes I said I supervised people, sometimes I said I did home-based work, other times I just said the name of where I worked.

I learned fairly quickly that telling people that I am a therapist frequently had me listening to a story about someone in that person’s life who had a therapist, or who needed one.

At some point in the last few years, I have realized that it is important to embrace my field and what we do.

When people ask me my profession, I usually state that I am a therapist. I have been asked ‘Physical? Occupational?’

To which I answer ‘mental health’. I am working to say that I am a mental health therapist as a starting point.

You may have heard newscasters, morning show broadcasters, or even your everyday sitcoms start to integrate therapy into their stories and recommendations. We have heard from Michael Phelps, a spokesperson for TalkSpace, talking about the importance of therapy for him. For anyone who watches Ted Lasso, he is seeing a therapist for panic attacks that he is having following a death in his family.

A series on HBO last year with Nicole Kidman, named The Undoing, cast her as a therapist and in one of the early scenes she can be seen providing therapy, and in another one she is hesitantly interacting with someone.

We hear about how important it is to look for a therapist if you need someone to talk with, and ways to go about doing that.

Let’s be a Therapist!

My latest passion has been to work to get more therapists in the field.

There are currently more than three types of master’s level therapists.

There are those who have a Masters of Arts in Counseling, which is what I have. To go that route, I encourage people to attend a CACREP accredited program. People who attend programs such as this will have a Master’s of Arts, will be taught how to be a therapist, and will probably be in a very supportive, encouraging environment if the program is similar to the one I attended at the University of Cincinnati.

Many people I know in Texas have attended either the Texas Women’s College or the University of North Texas. Both are North of Dallas in a suburb in Denton County, and both are reputable programs. UNT is ranked one of the best programs in the nation, and I currently work with people who have attended each of these schools.

The CACREP programs meet criteria to ensure that those graduating have been taught a specific number of skills. In Indiana, the accepted test is the NCMHCE, which is a vignette test. The license for masters level therapists in Indiana is LMHC.

In Texas, the accepted test is the NCC, which is a memorization test. The licensure in Texas for those who have passed the NCC test is LPC. In February, 2019, Texas began accepting the NCMHCE test and transitioning licenses from other states. Prior to this change in 2019, people with the NCMHCE licensure completed internship hours and then had a LMFT, which I’ll describe a little below.

A second type of masters level degree is a Marriage and Family Therapist. The licensure for that is LMFT. The LMFT programs focus on marriage and family therapy, which is what the letters stand for. I have supervised people in Indiana with this degree, and would recommend that type of licensure for those who wish to focus on marital, relational, or individual therapy.

Another route to go is to be a Clinical Social Worker. Social workers have a lot of organizational history, and are well recognized by insurance companies. I am least familiar with this training and degree, but am aware that people in programs for social work can choose their area of focus, which might be child protection, substance use/abuse, health, mental health, organizational, and others.

I have known of a social worker who attended and received her MSW degree in Minnesota,who focused on macro, meaning big picture. At the time of her training, she was able to choose between big picture (macro) or smaller, more individual types of social work, micro.

She chose macro, which has helped her leadership skills and natural abilities to lead and work for both non-profit and academic programs.

I know another Licensed Clinical Social Worker who provides therapy near where I work. She has her license in Texas. In Indiana, the Social Work school I’m most familiar with trained therapists in Indianapolis.

I am familiar with people who have their Master’s in Psychology, Masters in Clinical Psychology, and Master’s in Art Therapy.

In Texas, and other states, you can have a certification in Art Therapy. An RPT is a registered play therapist, and there are many other certifications that can be achieved as well, including a certification in Telehealth.

All three types of licensure have third party reimbursement, meaning that insurance will pay for sessions provided by a person with a license.

Getting a PhD is also a route to go, and includes a large research piece as part of the schooling from what I understand. I know of a person who has her PhD in Clinical Psychology, a person who has his PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, I have participated in therapy with someone who has her PhD in psychology, and find all of the above mentioned people very competent.

The licensure for a PhD providing therapy varies someone by state. In Indiana, the people I know with a PhD obtain an HSPP licensure. I am still learning what people who have a PhD in Texas get their license in, and my friend with the clinical psychology degree has lived all over the USA and Japan, and has worked in all of these environments.

Benefits

There are many benefits to being a therapist. The work is fascinating, and there’s no question that you are working to make a difference in people’s lives.

Personal and professional boundaries are an important aspect of the work, and I would encourage anyone going into the field to work on these.

Having a therapist for the therapist is also something I would recommend. There are some schools that require students to undergo therapy as part of the masters of PhD training, and I would agree that having a therapist to process some of the trauma that can be triggered hearing stories of others’ lives is important.

There is variety in the work, and we are getting more respect as a field by the day. The stigma of therapy is getting less and less, man’s currentlythere is an overwhelming need for more therapists to provide therapy.

I would imagine that the reimbursement rates of insurance companies will follow suit at some point. Currently, reimbursement rates for therapists compared to medical providers is much lower. With the amount of need and some support from insurance companies, I am hopeful that the rates will increase.

Feel free to email me at tparke@terriswritings.com if you are thinking about getting into the field.

It is a 2 year master’s degree, and people of all ages can go to school and get their degree.

Come join us…all the cool kids are doing it 🙂

Published by terriparke

I have an MA in Community Counseling and a BS in Psychology. I like to provide mental health talk therapy, write, and consult. I'm an Indiana girl at heart, both the state and the University. My 20 something twin sons and older than 40 husband could tell you more-Happy reading!

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