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How to Become a Therapist

Do you want to make a difference in people’s lives and stay on your 9-to-5 routine? It sounds like you should consider working in therapy...

With the National Career Service estimating 33% of therapy job vacancies are due to skill shortages, there’s never been a better time to get yourself properly trained. But it’s easy to see why candidates are lacking in crucial skills; therapists must be able to think like a psychologist, diagnose like a doctor and communicate like a humanities graduate.

It’s a daunting task, but we’re sure you’re up to it. Here’s what you need to know in order to take your interest in therapy to the next level...

1. Find the Right Course

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As with any postgraduate degree, it helps if your course is accredited by an industry governing body such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). They legitimise courses in the minds of employers and the criteria for the awards will ensure that you’ll be taught well.

"BACP’s accredited courses must consist of at least 400 face-to-face taught hours’ says Ruth Clowes, Deputy Head of Membership at the BACP. ‘Our courses have a requirement for students to complete a supervised placement for 100 supervised client hours minimum. It’s integral for the training."

Contact time with clients and frequent work placements means that you’re learning vital skills on the job as well as in the classroom - and the more placements you can add to your CV, the better impressed potential employers will be. You can view a full list of the BACP’s accredited courses here


2. Alternative Routes

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To become a therapist, Clowes suggests a minimum qualification level of Postgraduate diploma or equivalent. While other courses have become available via initiatives such as the NHS’ Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, the top picks are industry-specific courses such as the Diploma for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

But while these courses are tailor-made to getting you into the industry, the specific nature of the course may narrow your job prospects.

For those wishing to keep their options open, equivalent postgraduate diplomas (or higher) in social care, nursing, psychology and medicine-related courses may also help you get on the therapy ladder. However, these courses won’t give you the therapy-specific placements that will be crucial in securing a first job, so you’ll have to hunt these down on your own.


3. Changing Tack

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Although specific graduate courses are all well and good, therapy requires the analytical mind of a psychologist or medic, combined with excellent communication skills only netted in the field. This is why therapy is often a second career choice, as nurses, caregivers and psychologists often pick up these skills first-hand.

"Many students are mature," says Clowes. "Some may have either have a background in another caring profession such as nursing or social work, or they are changing from an unrelated career, often after having a positive experience of counselling themselves."

A background in a previous medical profession with face-to-face interaction may allow you to bypass going back to postgraduate study altogether, with applicable real-world experience beating out graduates that only have a few placements to their name.  Your application’s got to be strong, though – may we suggest heading to our application help section?


Next Step: Find a Therapy Course

Your Next Steps