How Do I Become a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 26 February 2020
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A mental health practitioner may become a cognitive behavioral therapist through training and practice, taking classes that offer certification, or applying to one of many certifying agencies. The route to certification in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) varies by region and agency and there is more than one way to achieve this goal. It isn’t necessary to have any sort of certification except for a license to practice therapy to employ CBT with individuals or groups. It is highly advisable that anyone wanting to use CBT has sufficient training and practice in this form of therapy.

The baseline requirement to become a cognitive behavioral therapist is a license to practice therapy. Licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, and professional counselors meet this requirement. Marriage and family therapists and licensed clinical social workers can specialize in CBT, too. If possible, any of these professionals should take CBT classes while in school and get the opportunity to use this therapy in supervised practice.

College training provides a strong foundation for using CBT once a person has a license. Occasionally, training at the grad school level can lead to provisional certification in CBT. The British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies follows this model.


Not everyone gets much practice at the graduate school or practicum level. Fortunately, there are numerous post-graduate seminars and continuing education unit opportunities that will give people who are already licensed the skills they need to become a cognitive behavioral therapist. Some of these programs lead to certification.

There are no requirements, save licensure and competence, when it comes to practicing cognitive behavioral therapy at the professional level. Many practitioners are satisfied with being competent, and they skillfully work in this modality with clients. Some practitioners want to become a cognitive behavioral therapist to demonstrate their competence to clients, align themselves with particular therapy techniques, and/or to join a professional group of CBT therapists. No matter the reason for certification, practitioners may have a variety of options.

Classes in CBT are one way to become a cognitive behavioral therapist with certification. Another method is to apply to professional agencies that offer certification. For example, in the United States, individuals may get certified through the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists (NACBT) or the Academy of Cognitive Therapy (ACT).

Applications to certifying agencies can be somewhat expensive and may require letters of recommendations from colleagues. Certification to become a cognitive behavioral therapist may also depend on a certain amount of years of experience and demonstration of CBT skills with case review or videotapes. There are different types of certification and specific type could depend on the practitioner's area of experience, such as in group therapy versus individual therapy.

Any practitioner should review certifying agencies carefully. The benefit of certification from any of the professional organizations depends upon their reputation. The best agencies should include members who are recognized in the field of CBT as experts.


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Is this same as a behavioral interviewing skills practitioner?

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