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Become A Therapist

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Working As A Therapist

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $42,170

    Average Salary

What Does A Therapist Do

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.   

Duties

Social workers typically do the following:

  • Identify people and communities in need of help
  • Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals
  • Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment
  • Research, refer, and advocate for community resources, such as food stamps, childcare, and healthcare to assist and improve a client’s well-being
  • Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse and mental health emergencies
  • Follow up with clients to ensure that their situations have improved
  • Evaluate services provided to ensure that they are effective
  • Develop and evaluate programs and services to ensure that basic client needs are met
  • Provide psychotherapy services

Social workers help people cope with challenges in their lives. They help with a wide range of situations, such as adopting a child or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Social workers may work with children, people with disabilities, and people with serious illnesses and addictions. Their work varies based on the type of client they are working with.

Some social workers work with groups, community organizations, and policymakers to develop or improve programs, services, policies, and social conditions. This focus of work is referred to as macro social work.

Advocacy is an important aspect of social work. Social workers advocate or raise awareness with and on behalf of their clients and the social work profession on local, state, and national levels.

The following are examples of types of social workers:

Child and family social workers protect vulnerable children and help families in need of assistance. They help families find housing or services, such as childcare, or apply for benefits, such as food stamps. They intervene when children are in danger of neglect or abuse. Some help arrange adoptions, locate foster families, or work to reunite families.

Clinical social workers—also called licensed clinical social workers—diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression. They provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy; they work with clients to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with difficult situations; and they refer clients to other resources or services, such as support groups or other mental health professionals. Clinical social workers can develop treatment plans with the client, doctors, and other healthcare professionals and may adjust the treatment plan if necessary based on their client’s progress. They may also provide mental healthcare to help children and families cope with changes in their lives, such as divorce or other family problems.

Many clinical social workers work in private practice. In these settings, clinical social workers also perform administrative and recordkeeping tasks, such as working with insurance companies in order to receive payment for their services. Some work in a group practice with other social workers or mental health professionals.

School social workers work with teachers, parents, and school administrators to develop plans and strategies to improve students’ academic performance and social development. Students and their families are often referred to social workers to deal with problems such as aggressive behavior, bullying, or frequent absences from school.

Healthcare social workers help patients understand their diagnosis and make the necessary adjustments to their lifestyle, housing, or healthcare. For example, they may help people make the transition from the hospital back to their homes and communities. In addition, they may provide information on services, such as home healthcare or support groups, to help patients manage their illness or disease. Social workers help doctors and other healthcare professionals understand the effects that diseases and illnesses have on patients’ mental and emotional health.

Some healthcare social workers specialize in geriatric social work, hospice and palliative care, or medical social work:

  • Geriatric social workers help senior citizens and their families. They help clients find services, such as programs that provide older adults with meals or with home healthcare. They may provide information about assisted living facilities or nursing homes, or work with older adults in those settings. They help clients and their families make plans for possible health complications or for where clients will live if they can no longer care for themselves.
  • Hospice and palliative care social workers help patients adjust to serious, chronic, or terminal illnesses. Palliative care focuses on relieving or preventing pain and other symptoms associated with serious illness. Hospice is a type of palliative care for people who are dying. Social workers in this setting provide and find services, such as support groups or grief counselors, to help patients and their families cope with the illness or disease.
  • Medical social workers in hospitals help patients and their families by linking patients with resources in the hospital and in their own community. They may work with medical staff to create discharge plans, make referrals to community agencies, facilitate support groups, or conduct followup visits with patients once they have been discharged.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients with mental illnesses or addictions. They provide information on services, such as support groups and 12-step programs, to help clients cope with their illness. Many clinical social workers function in these roles as well.

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How To Become A Therapist

Although most social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and 2 years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting. Clinical social workers must also be licensed in the state in which they practice.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement for entry-level positions. However, some employers may hire workers who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology.

A BSW prepares students for direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. These programs teach students about diverse populations, human behavior, social welfare policy, and ethics in social work. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship.

Some positions require a master’s degree in social work (MSW), which generally takes 2 years to complete. Master’s degree programs in social work prepare students for work in their chosen specialty by developing clinical assessment and management skills. All programs require students to complete a supervised practicum or an internship.

A bachelor’s degree in social work is not required in order to enter a master’s degree program in social work. Although a degree in almost any major is acceptable, courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended. Some programs allow graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work to earn their master’s degree in 1 year.

In 2015, there were more than 500 bachelor’s degree programs and more than 200 master’s degree programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Some universities offer doctoral programs in social work, where students can earn a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) or a Ph.D. Most doctoral programs in social work require students to have a master’s in social work and experience in the field. Many doctor’s students go on to work as postsecondary teachers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states have licensure or certification requirements for nonclinical social workers. Requirements vary by state.

All states require clinical social workers to be licensed. However, some states provide exemptions for clinical social workers who work in government agencies. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires a master’s degree in social work and a minimum of 2 years of supervised clinical experience after graduation. After completing their supervised experience, clinical social workers must pass a clinical exam to be licensed.

Because licensing requirements vary by state, those interested should contact their state board. For more information about regulatory licensure boards by state, contact the Association of Social Work Boards.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Clients talk to social workers about challenges in their lives. To effectively help, social workers must be able to listen to and understand their clients’ needs.

Empathy. Social workers often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different groups of people is essential for social workers. They need strong people skills to foster healthy and productive relationships with their clients and colleagues.

Organizational skills. Social workers must help and manage multiple clients, often assisting with their paperwork or documenting their treatment.

Problem-solving skills. Social workers need to develop practical and innovative solutions to their clients’ problems.

Time-management skills. Social workers often have many clients and administrative responsibilities. They must effectively manage their time to provide adequate service to all of their clients.

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Therapist jobs

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Average Length of Employment
Physical Therapist 5.1 years
Staff Therapist 5.0 years
Oral Therapist 5.0 years
Music Therapist 4.1 years
Psychotherapist 4.1 years
Senior Therapist 3.8 years
Therapist 3.0 years
Clinical Therapist 2.9 years
Lead Therapist 2.9 years
Movement Therapist 2.9 years
Activity Therapist 2.8 years
Family Therapist 2.8 years
Dance Therapist 2.8 years
Clinical Counselor 2.6 years
Case Therapist 2.5 years
Clinician 2.5 years
Milieu Therapist 2.4 years
Group Therapist 2.4 years
Sex Therapist 2.4 years
Health Therapist 2.3 years
Play Therapist 2.3 years
Primary Therapist 2.3 years
Couples Therapist 2.2 years
In Home Therapist 2.0 years
Counselor 2.0 years
Behavior Therapist 1.7 years
ABA Therapist 1.5 years
Line Therapist 1.2 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 17.4%
Case Manager 11.4%
Counselor 9.9%
Clinician 4.2%
Volunteer 3.7%
Teacher 3.1%
Supervisor 2.8%
Top Employers After
Counselor 8.0%
Clinician 7.6%
Internship 5.1%
Supervisor 3.7%
Director 2.9%

Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

74.9%

Male

23.0%

Unknown

2.2%
Ethnicity

White

80.5%

Hispanic or Latino

10.0%

Asian

7.0%

Unknown

1.7%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

65.7%

French

6.3%

Swedish

5.5%

German

3.3%

Russian

2.2%

Japanese

2.1%

Portuguese

1.8%

Arabic

1.7%

Chinese

1.6%

Thai

1.4%

Hindi

1.3%

Korean

1.2%

Italian

1.2%

Hebrew

1.2%

Mandarin

0.9%

Armenian

0.7%

Polish

0.7%

Cantonese

0.5%

Vietnamese

0.4%

Gujarati

0.4%
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Therapist Education

Schools

Capella University

10.4%

Walden University

8.5%

University of Phoenix

7.5%

Liberty University

7.3%

Nova Southeastern University

5.5%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

5.3%

Webster University

4.9%

New York University

4.6%

Fordham University

4.2%

Troy University

4.2%

University of Louisville

4.2%

University of Southern California

4.1%

West Virginia University

3.9%

Wayne State University

3.8%

Temple University

3.8%

Arizona State University

3.8%

University of Maryland - Baltimore

3.6%

Western Michigan University

3.5%

Florida State University

3.4%

University of Pittsburgh -

3.4%
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Majors

Social Work

26.6%

School Counseling

11.9%

Counseling Psychology

11.2%

Mental Health Counseling

9.8%

Psychology

9.7%

Clinical Psychology

6.7%

Family Therapy

5.1%

Education

2.3%

Rehabilitation Science

2.1%

Business

2.1%

Human Services

1.8%

Physical Therapy

1.6%

Nursing

1.5%

Occupational Therapy

1.4%

Criminal Justice

1.2%

Special Education

1.2%

Sociology

1.2%

Human Development

0.9%

Educational Leadership

0.9%

Medical Technician

0.9%
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Degrees

Masters

66.1%

Bachelors

12.1%

Other

9.2%

Doctorate

6.7%

Certificate

2.6%

Associate

2.6%

License

0.4%

Diploma

0.3%
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Internship
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Real Therapist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Head Performance Therapist Golden State Warriors LLC Oakland, CA Sep 03, 2015 $160,000
Therapist Caron Foundation of Florida, Inc. Boca Raton, FL Dec 09, 2016 $132,318
Therapist Caron of Florida Inc. Boca Raton, FL Dec 09, 2016 $123,165
Therapist Caron Foundation of Florida, Inc. Boca Raton, FL Sep 12, 2013 $115,000
Musculoskeletal Therapist Steven D. Bowditch Flower Mound, TX May 01, 2015 $106,000 -
$150,000
Therapist New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Centers NY Sep 21, 2016 $100,176
Physcial Therapist Restore Professionals, LLC Birmingham, AL Aug 01, 2015 $100,000
Musculoskeletal Therapists Steven Bowditch Flower Mound, TX May 01, 2015 $100,000 -
$150,000
Therapist Brookhaven Medical Centers, Inc. Snyder, TX Mar 01, 2015 $91,828
Physcial Therapist Orthopaedic & Neurological Rehab., Inc. San Francisco, CA Oct 06, 2014 $91,745 -
$93,915
Phyical Therapist Friendship Health & Rehab Center, Inc. Roanoke, VA Jan 09, 2016 $87,654
Phyical Therapist Fenster Chiropractic P.C. New York, NY Sep 18, 2013 $64,043
Phyiscal Therapist Grandison Management, Inc. South Windsor, CT Dec 18, 2016 $63,925
Physcial Therapist Management Health Systems, Inc. Fort Pierce, FL Nov 14, 2014 $62,610
Therapist The Arbour Hospital Boston, MA Sep 30, 2014 $62,610
Physcial Therapist Prime Healthcare Services Inc. Middletown, NY Aug 26, 2015 $62,610
Physcial Therapist RN Staff, Inc. Terre Haute, IN Apr 05, 2013 $62,193
Bcba Therapist Central Texas Autism Center, Inc. Austin, TX Sep 11, 2015 $61,859 -
$80,000
Nutritional Therapist Homemade Cooking, Inc. San Francisco, CA Sep 11, 2014 $61,110
Therapist I Firelands Regional Medical Center Fremont, OH Dec 08, 2014 $47,174
Direct Therapist The May Institute, Inc. Randolph, MA Aug 20, 2015 $45,914
Therapist Association To Benefit Children New York, NY Dec 15, 2015 $45,860
Therapist (Social Work) Seneca Family of Agencies Oakland, CA Jan 01, 2013 $45,698 -
$56,300
Therapist La Clinica de Familia, Inc. Las Cruces, NM Jul 08, 2016 $45,000
School Based Therapist Penny Lane Centers San Fernando, CA May 31, 2013 $45,000

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Top Skills for A Therapist

GroupTherapySessionsIndividualTreatmentPlansMentalHealthServicesCrisisInterventionFamilyTherapySessionsSubstanceAbuseIssuesChildIntakeAssessmentsTraumaIndividualTherapySessionsAnxietyDisordersDischargePlanningCognitiveBehavioralTherapyAngerManagementCommunityResourcesTherapeuticServicesDialecticalBehavioralTherapyDomesticViolenceSocialSkillsMentalIllness

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Top Therapist Skills

  1. Group Therapy Sessions
  2. Individual Treatment Plans
  3. Mental Health Services
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provide individual therapy to middle/high school males Conduct group therapy sessions dealing with issues such as domestic violence and aggression
  • Conducted mental health assessments, developed individual treatment plans and developed supervision plans and safety plans.
  • Supported six elementary schools with delivery of mental health services to children and families in a school setting.
  • Provided crisis intervention to individuals and families.
  • Conducted weekly family therapy sessions with all individuals on caseload.

Top Therapist Employers