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How and Why to Change Your Career to Become a Therapist

If you are currently working in a career where you feel like most of your time is spent wishing you were doing something else or even checking the clock to see how long you have left before it’s time to go home, then it might be time to think about getting into something else. A career change to mental health counseling might be an ideal choice for you if you have always dreamed of working in a job where you can use your time to help other people and help them overcome situations, problems, trauma, and mental health conditions. If you have a lot of empathy for others and have strong listening skills, then you might be a good fit for a career in mental health counseling. Along with the fact that this career is highly rewarding, it can also offer flexible work with the opportunity to be self-employed, a great work/life balance, and generous salaries. 

As society begins to learn more about mental health, why it’s important to look after our mental health, and how it can have an impact on various aspects of our lives, the need for mental health counselors is growing. These days, younger generations are challenging old-fashioned ideas and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health, and going to therapy. 

More and more people are talking openly about their positive experiences in therapy and how talking things through with somebody has helped them in various ways, which in turn has led to more and more people feeling empowered and encouraged to seek help with their own lives. As the stigma of previous years continues to fade and a growing number of people realize that therapy is an important and useful tool that they can use to help themselves succeed in many areas of their lives, the demand for good mental health counselors and therapists is rising. 

Here’s what you need to change your career to work as a therapist. 

Becoming a Mental Health Counselor

From start to finish, the process of becoming a mental health counselor will take around eight to nine years. This includes four years to get a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, two to three years to get a graduate degree in mental health counseling, and two years to complete supervision and gain clinical work experience. Once you have completed this, you will then be required to sit an exam, which you will need to pass in order to apply to get a license to practice as a therapist in your state. In most cases, this is the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination. 

If you currently have a bachelor’s degree, then you may be able to skip the first four years and use your current qualification to enroll on a master’s degree to prepare you for working as a counselor. Most of the time, bachelor’s qualifications in relevant subjects such as human services, psychology, anthropology, and sociology will be accepted. However, some master’s degree programs might accept students with a different bachelor’s degree on the condition that you take additional courses. This article on how to become a mental health counselor goes into more detail, but the main steps include:

1 – Getting an Undergraduate Degree

If you do not already have a relevant bachelor’s degree in a subject like sociology, psychology, or similar, then you will need to earn one. Most master’s degree programs will have their own entry requirements in terms of which bachelor’s degrees are accepted, so if you have a degree in a different subject, it is worth spending some time researching and checking out what is available to see if you can qualify to get onto a master’s without getting a second bachelor’s degree. 

2 – Getting a Master’s Degree

You will need a relevant master’s degree in order to be eligible for getting a license to practice. Most of the time, students choose a master’s in mental health counseling, counseling psychology, or similar. There are various relevant degree programs that are accepted when it comes to getting into this career, so spend some time looking for the right one for you. One of the most important things to consider when choosing the right degree program for you is the coursework that will be required for you to get your license in the state where you want to practice since this can vary depending on the individual state licensing board. 

3 – Clinical Work

Once you have your bachelor’s and master’s degrees, the next step is to complete a specific number of clinical working hours that you will need to get before you can apply for a license. Most of the time, this is done at your first employed position after graduating with your master’s but you can also do it through internships and other forms of work experience that you might be able to get. You’ll also need to work directly with a licensed counselor to get a required number of supervision hours. 

4 – Taking the Exam

Finally, once you have met all of the above requirements, you will be ready to take the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification or a similar exam depending on which is required by the state where you are planning to practice. Once you have passed the exam, you can then go ahead and apply for your license

Reasons to Consider a Career Change to Counseling

With online degree programs now available that have made it easier for people who want to get into a career in counseling, there are plenty of reasons to consider changing your career to work as a therapist if you are not satisfied in your current role. People change their careers to become a therapist for various reasons, including:

1 – Desire to Work With People

If you have excellent people skills and love the idea of working in a role where you can work directly with people to get to know them better and offer personalized advice and support based on their specific situations, then a role as a mental health counselor might be an ideal choice for you. Counseling as a career is all about working directly with other people to help them improve various life situations, overcome mental health conditions, and strengthen their coping skills for the future. In this role, you have the chance to work with people from all walks of life and help them as they go through various different situations that might affect them in several ways. If you are good at giving advice and enjoy it, and love nothing more than to help people deal with issues and improve their lives, this career may be something you’re naturally good at. 

2 – Desire to Make a Difference

If you’re thinking about a career change and are bored with your current role because there’s not much of a chance for you to actually make a difference, then working in counseling might be a great change for you. As a mental health counselor, you will often be one of the first people that your clients will turn to when they need help and advice with things. Therapists are trusted by their clients to be there for them when they need help, whether that’s helping them directly in sessions or referring them to another professional who is better equipped to deal with the specific problem or situation. Often, people decide to speak to a mental health counselor when they are dealing with mental health issues that are having a negative impact on their everyday lives or when they aren’t sure what to do next and need some guidance and direction. Working in this role will certainly provide you with a lot of satisfaction and reward as you see your clients go from strength to strength as they take on your help and advice. 

3 – You’ve Got a Lot of Empathy

If you are a person who has a lot of empathy and compassion for others, you might feel like you are wasted in your current role if you don’t get the chance to practice this skill a lot. If you’re naturally the type of person who runs towards people who are in trouble to help them out the best you can and always find yourself empathizing with those people who nobody else seems to be able to understand, then working as a therapist might be the ideal role for you. If you are the type of individual who doesn’t judge others and always tries to see both sides of the story, then these are qualities that are highly sought-after in a counseling career. 

When you work as a mental health counselor, this will involve getting to know and working with people from all walks of life that you might not always see eye-to-eye with personally and being able to understand where they are coming from and empathize with their point of view will certainly help you get further in this profession. 

4 – You Want to Improve Mental Health Services

While the demand for mental health professionals is on the rise and people are becoming more aware of the importance of caring for their mental health, there is still a lot of improvement that can be made. If you are passionate about making sure that future generations will easily be able to access the mental health services, help and support that they need, then changing your career to work in this industry can be one of the best ways to contribute to this. 

5 – You Want a Flexible Career

If you’re growing tired of working the same old 9-5 hours every day or simply want to get into a line of work that is going to allow you more flexibility, then this is just another reason to consider changing your career to become a mental health counselor. Once you have the appropriate qualifications and a license to practice in your state, you can either work for an employer, offer counseling as a self-employed therapist, or both. Many therapists are self-employed individuals as this is an ideal career choice for people who want to work for themselves or even set up a business offering mental health services and support. For those who prefer the idea of being employed and the security that it provides, there are several opportunities to consider including working in rehabilitation centers, psychiatric units, mental health centers, schools, prisons, and more. 

6 – You Enjoy Building Relationships

If you love being around other people, meeting new people, and building meaningful relationships with others while learning more about them, then becoming a therapist might be the ideal career choice for you. In this career, you will have more opportunities than most professionals when it comes to getting to know people on a deeper level. As a therapist, you are offering confidential support and advice to your clients, who will trust you with some things that they might not have even told their close friends and family members. If you understand the gravity of this and are willing to work in a position where you are going to be responsible for protecting the integrity of your clients and keeping their secrets, then you may want to consider getting into a counseling career. 

7 – You Want to Improve Your Own Mental Health

Finally, while it’s important to be working on improving your own mental health before you get into a career a counselor, if you are dedicated to being the best version of yourself and continuous improvement, this might be the right career change for you. It is difficult, if not impossible, not to focus on your own mental health, personal development, and interpersonal skills when you are in a career that is all about it. Not only that but working in this role means you’ll meet and develop relationships with other mental health professionals who can offer advice, support, and help to you when you need it too. 

If your current role is just not rewarding enough for you, then there are lots of reasons to consider changing your career to work as a mental health counselor. 

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