What Degree Do I Need Licensed Psychotherapist

Becoming a licensed psychotherapist is both a challenging and rewarding journey. While getting the right degree and finishing licensing is no easy feat, it can open doors to a diverse and lucrative career in the field. From financing options to various degree paths to becoming a licensed psychotherapist, this article will provide a comprehensive guide to take into consideration before starting your psychotherapist journey.

The What, Who, and When of Becoming a Licensed Psychotherapist

licensed psychotherapist

Psychotherapists are mental health professionals who provide diagnosis and treatment to individuals, couples and families affected by mental illnesses and emotional distress. Becoming a licensed psychotherapist requires a combination of education, training and most importantly licensure. Depending on the country and type of therapy, psychotherapists may hold different types of professional certifications such as a Registered Psychotherapist, Certified Psychotherapist, Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist, etc.

Who typically becomes a psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist typically has a Master’s degree or PhD in psychology or a related field. The ideal candidate for this profession is someone who has an interest in mental health and helping people, as well as the drive and ambition to pursue a higher education and licensure.

When should someone pursue becoming a psychotherapist?

Most psychotherapists begin their journey right after completing their undergraduate degree. However, some psychotherapists may choose to pursue a career in psychology after gaining experience in the healthcare field or working in the professional world.

Deciding On the Right Psychotherapist Degree for You

What type of degree is needed to become a psychotherapist? It depends on the specialty or expertise you plan to pursue, as well as the appropriate licensure you may need to obtain. Most professionals in this field typically obtain a Master’s or Doctorate degree in psychology, counseling or social work.

Types of Master’s Degrees:

  • Master of Science in Psychology: Focuses on the scientific foundation of psychology and its foundations in modern theories and research in the field.
  • Master of Arts in Psychology: Provides an emphasis on theoretical knowledge and understanding of the history of psychology.
  • Master of Psychology: Focuses on the sciences and trainings as they relate to the practice of psychology in a clinical setting.

Types of Doctorate Degrees:

  • Doctor of Psychology: Provides the most comprehensive training to later practice as a clinical psychologist.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology: Focuses on the understanding and advancement of psychological theory.
  • Doctor of Social Work: Focuses on the theoretical and practical practice of working with individuals, families and communities to bring about social change.

Benefits of Earning a Psychologist License

A Licensed Psychologist or any professional providing psychotherapy services typically has the autonomy to independently assess, diagnose and treat mental health issues. A license also signifies that a professional has passed the expectations established by their state or professional board. A psychologist license also comes with the potential of a career in teaching, research or consulting as well as working in mental health institutions.

In addition to working in private practice, psychologists have the potential to work:

  • In consultative roles: providing expert advice to families, companies and other organizations.
  • In research positions: focusing on the understanding and advancement of psychological theory.
  • In teaching positions: providing lectures on psychology and other related topics in universities and colleges.
  • In public health positions: directing public health policies related to mental health at the state or federal level.

Unpacking the Requirements for Obtaining a License in Psychotherapy

Getting a psychologist license varies depending on the state. Generally, becoming a licensed psychotherapist involves a combination of education, supervised professional experience, state and national board or examination, and, often, an ethics review.


Most states require at least a Master’s degree in psychology, counseling or social work, as well as supervised professional experience.

Supervised Professional Experience:

Most states require hundreds of hours of supervised experience in a clinical setting before an applicant can acquire a license.

State and National Board or Examination:

Depending on the state, there may be specific national or state board examinations that need to be taken to attain the license.

Ethics Review:

Ethics review is often required where applicants must demonstrate their understanding and commitment to professional, ethical and legal standards of practice.

Techniques for Financing a Degree in Psychotherapy

Financing a degree in psychotherapy can become a challenge for many aspiring psychotherapists. The good news is, there are a variety of sources that can help aspiring psychotherapists finance their degrees.


Specialized scholarships set aside for graduate students pursuing a degree in psychology are available from a variety of sources such as state and federal governments, universities, employers and professional organizations.

Students Loans:

Federal and private student loans are available for students seeking to finance a degree in psychotherapy. This can be done through a variety of student loan providers such as banks, credit unions or private student loan lenders.


Grants are also available for graduate students studying psychology and psychotherapy. Eligibility for grants depends on the provider and the student’s individual financial situation.

Notable Resources for Finding the Best Psychotherapist Degree Programs

Pursuing the best psychotherapist degree program is essential to have a successful career in this field. While there is a plethora of resources available, the following ones stand out:

Choosing the Right College or University

  • The Princeton Review
  • College Board
  • Peterson’s
  • University.com
  • College Navigator

Finding the Best Psychotherapist Degree Program

  • PsychEducation.org
  • American Psychological Association
  • Psychology Degree 411

Tips for Starting a Career in Psychotherapy

Starting out a career in psychotherapy can become overwhelming but there are a few tips to make the journey smoother:

1. Gain Experience:

Look for clinical, research or teaching opportunities while pursuing a degree in psychology.

2. Build a Network:

Attend meet-ups, seminars, events and more to create connections with professionals in the field.

3. Become Certified:

Start the process for becoming certified by looking up and applying for the appropriate exams related to your specialty.

4. Develop an Online Presence:

Promoting one’s skills and services online through social media or professional websites is a great way to begin building a practice.


Pursuing a career as a psychotherapist is a long and difficult process, but a rewarding one. With the right degree and appropriate licensed psychotherapist, psychotherapists can start off their journey as a mental health professional with a competitive edge. Financing and finding the best program can be achieved through careful research and due diligence. In addition, starting a career in psychotherapy involves further knowledge and understanding of what’s required to become a successful clinician. With the right tips and resources, aspiring psychotherapists can begin their journey towards a successful and lucrative career.