What Are the Different Types of Psychotherapist Qualifications?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2019
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Psychotherapists are medical professionals who help treat mental illness and who assist individuals with a wide range of psychological issues. An individual interested in psychotherapy may attain various levels of education — such as a master’s degree or a doctorate degree — and each of these psychotherapist qualifications will impact the individual’s potential career paths. Specific requirements for professional licensure range from real-world training to passing specific exams. A psychotherapist may gain further certification in specialty subjects like marriage counseling or in specific therapeutic approaches such as psychoanalysis or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Almost all psychotherapy disciplines require some degree of higher education. At the bachelor’s degree level, an individual may be limited to certification in the most basic counseling positions, such as educational outlets or public residential centers. Certificates are offered provided once the individual completes necessary coursework. In many regions, a bachelor’s degree only allows the individual to work as an assistant for a more qualified psychotherapist.

Pursuit of a master’s degree is often the next step after a bachelor’s degree, and this will enhance an individual’s psychotherapist qualifications. Individuals with a master’s degree can usually gain certification to pursue independent work as a licensed psychotherapist. These programs are designed to expose individuals to various theories and practices, and to give students real-world practical experience in a psychotherapeutic setting.


In order to treat actual psychiatric illnesses, a doctorate or medical degree must usually be among the individual’s psychotherapist qualifications. The highest level courses provide specific training in diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. These are typically the individuals known as psychologists or psychiatrists. Individuals with less advanced psychotherapist qualifications cannot prescribe medications, for example, in most regions.

Different regional governing bodies may offer accreditation for psychotherapist qualifications. Accreditation generally requires the completion of an education program of so many hours and credits. A designated period of supervised psychotherapist training where the individual will interact with patients is another common component of accreditation. Other psychotherapist training requirements might include the passing of a comprehensive examination and the completion of a research project.

Individuals may seek psychotherapist qualifications for specialization in many different types of psychotherapy, such as marriage and family therapy or addiction treatments. Other related career branches may also require some psychotherapist qualifications, like social work or psychiatric nursing. In the former cases, individuals are often licensed professional counselors with specific training, coursework, and expertise for the area in question. For related disciplines, the major area of study for the degree may be different than a psychology degree.

Those with more advanced psychotherapist qualifications may further specialize in a specific therapeutic approach. Some examples are cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis. Certain target organizations focused on these singular approaches may assist the individual in gaining the necessary credentials for specialization.


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