Since some of you might be passionate enough about psychology and mental health to pursue a career in this filed, perhaps a post on how to become a therapist will offer you a bit clarity and guidance.
And even if you’re not interested in this profession, you can use this opportunity to find out more about this relatively new ‘craft’ which aims to promote mental health and cultivate well-being.
Many consider psychology a fascinating field; something makes people smile in amazement when they ask you about your job. But the road from ‘how to become a therapist’ to being an actual therapist can be quite tricky to navigate.
A licensed therapist doesn’t just use ‘talk therapy’ to help people who are going through a rough patch; he/she must know how to use various psychometric instruments (questionnaires, tests, assessment scales), stay up to date with all the latest advancements in the field, and revise his/her practice constantly.
But before we get to the steps one needs to take to become a licensed therapist, let’s take a moment to understand what a therapist does.
Therapists are licensed mental health professionals who can help you understand the emotional and psychological issues you might be dealing with and find appropriate solutions to manage them.
In a way, therapists are doctors of the mind. Just like a medical professional evaluates the condition of patients and proposes treatment options, so does a therapist zeroes-in on the patient’s emotional problems and helps him overcome them.
But the job of a therapist doesn’t stop here.
With in-depth knowledge about the inner workings of the human mind, a therapist can help you discover your internal resources and use them to achieve personal and professional growth.
Therapists usually work in clinical settings or private practice. Depending on their training, they can provide individual, group, family, or couples therapy. But the way they address psychological problems varies based on the therapeutic approach they choose to pursue.
The word ‘therapist’ is a general term that encompasses several specializations that vary depending on the academic background required to achieve it and the type of problem it addresses.
The Ph.D. vs. Psy.D. dilemma is sometimes a source of anxiety for psychology majors who are pondering their career path. Although both degrees represent a superior academic achievement that opens the door to a wide range of career options, there are some notable differences between the two.
While a Ph.D. is a Doctor in Philosophy, a Psy.D. is a Doctor in Psychology. Ph.D.’s follow the scientist-practitioner model and earn their degrees in about 5-7 years, while Psy.D.’s are specialized in clinical work and earn their degree in about 4-6 years. 
Compared to earning a Ph.D. or Psy.D., a master’s degree in counseling is the relatively faster and less strenuous way to become a therapist. Master’s programs in counseling equip you with all the tools you need to help people improve their mental health.
Aside from gaining extensive knowledge in interpersonal, family, group, and child psychology, licensed counselors are required to partake in supervised clinical work. 
After completing a bachelor’s program, the next step toward becoming a therapist could be a master’s program in psychology. You can opt between Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.).
Although psychology and counseling have a lot in common, there are some differences between a master’s degree in counseling and a master’s degree in psychology.
For starters, psychologists focus more on conducting research that innovates the field, while counselors are mainly interested in using their knowledge to help people overcome emotional and behavioral problems. In other words, psychologists push the boundaries of this field, while counselors transform it into something practical, with real-life applications.
Similar to master’s programs, a degree in clinical social work, provides the necessary knowledge and training to help people deal with emotional issues. Licensed clinical social workers provide therapy in various clinical settings such as hospitals, community mental health centers, primary care, and even private practice.
To obtain your license in clinical social work, you must complete two years of coursework beyond the undergraduate degree and also follow an internship program that helps you gain supervised experience. 
As the name suggests, therapists who specialize in drug and alcohol counseling are trained to handle substance abuse disorders. While some choose to start a private practice, others prefer clinical settings such as hospitals, rehab centers, or transitional living programs.
To obtain your license in drug and alcohol counseling, you must have a master’s degree in Behavioral Sciences and complete a certification program that includes education and supervised practice.
Since relationships play a crucial part in our day-to-day lives, some of today’s psychologists opt for a license in marriage and family therapy. Just like drug and alcohol counseling, this form of therapy can take place both in private practice and clinical settings.
A therapist who’s specialized in this particular niche works with families in distress and couples who are often ‘stuck’ or on the brink of divorce.
Aside from the academic steps – which can be relatively challenging – there’s also the financial aspect which weights heavy for today’s aspiring therapists. Although the salary of a therapist fluctuates depending on the country, level of experience, and academic achievements, therapists typically earn decent money.
For example, the average salary of a therapist in the US is around 50,000 dollars a year, while in the UK therapists make about 40,000 pounds a year, which is relatively the same.
But the best part about this profession is that it gives you the opportunity to generate several streams of income. In other words, aside from working at a clinic or in private practice, you can also write books, create online courses, hold workshops, or even train aspiring therapists (once you reach a certain academic level).
If you wish to learn more about how to become a therapist, visit the American Psychological Association website for more details about this profession and what it takes to practice it.
So, you’ve decided that the time is right to start up your own clinical practice. Where do you start? Whether you’re fresh out of training or going solo after leaving another work setting, there are many things to consider. It’s recommended that you do some planning before taking the plunge. In this article, we cover the basic information that you need to know about how to start a private psychotherapy practice. Read on to learn more.
Many of us begin our clinical training with the dream of eventually opening our own practice. Survey data suggests that the majority of mental health workers share this dream – although not all achieve it, and private work is certainly is not for everyone. What’s the appeal?
For starters, you get autonomy: the freedom to determine your own work schedule and areas of clinical work. You get flexibility and you’re building your own dream, rather than contributing to someone else’s (i.e. your employer). If financial freedom is a part of your dream, then private practice work certainly provides the opportunity to achieve this. Let’s talk about what you need to consider in order to make this dream a reality.
Why are we, as therapists, so often uncomfortable about foraying into the world of business? Is it because this vital component of therapy work is often neglected in our training? Or is it because many of use identify as “helpers” and feel uncomfortable about charging for our services?
Dear reader: you are likely a trained clinician with an in-depth knowledge of concepts such as denial, repression and suppression. It’s time to own the fact that being a successful therapist means running a business! Once you’ve accepted this fact, you’ll be better equipped to serve your patients. You’ll also be ready to start thinking about some practical aspects of how to start a psychotherapy practice, which we discuss below.
First things first, you’ll need an approved business license. These are generally affordable – the price varies according to your annual income bracket. The business can be registered under your own name or under a more general name that you may choose for your practice. In the case of the latter, you’ll need to submit an additional application to have your practice’s name formally registered.
For any clinician that’s wondering how to start a private psychotherapy practice, it’s essential that you protect yourself. Apply for malpractice insurance before opening your doors to the public, as it can take a month (and sometimes longer) for your application to be approved.
What about business insurance? This may not be necessary if you are subletting your space and are automatically covered by an existing insurance policy. However, if you own or are leasing your own space, business insurance is a must.
Your clinical notes need to contain information regarding a) why your client is seeking therapy, b) your own observations, c) your clinical assessment and formulation and d) your treatment plan. Where should these notes be kept?
If your notes are hand-written you could store them in a locked cabinet. If you take notes on your computer, make sure that they’re password protected and encrypted. Also keep in mind that most states require clinicians to keep their notes for at least 7 years.
Finally, when it comes to paperwork, you’ll need to provide a consent form, in which you explain the limits of confidentiality and other important aspects of the therapeutic relationship. You’ll also need a release of information form which gives you authority to communicate with other health care providers when necessary. When it comes to forms such as these, it’s easiest to be guided by an existing template. These can be online or by speaking to colleagues who have already drawn up such documents.
When thinking about how to start a private psychotherapy practice, you need to consider how you’re going to do your books. In the ideal world, we’d all have qualified and well-paid office assistants who manage the books while we manage the patients. The truth, however, is that many therapists lack the financial flexibility to take on an assistant when they’re starting out. Initially, you’ll probably have to manage your own accounts and invoices. There are many resources available online, and this is another area in which guidance from colleagues can be very valuable.
Dear readers, we’re in the 21st century. It’s not impossible to get yourself established without touching a keyboard. But know that you’re probably shooting yourself in the foot if you’re not developing an online presence! Setting up a website is a great way to attract clients while also building a name for yourself.
Importantly, your website gives your clients a sense of who you are and how you work so that they can make an informed choice before making the trip to your consulting room. The added benefit of setting up a website is that, believe it or not, it promotes personal growth. Why? You are forced to clarify your own values and vision and explicitly state this for all to see.
Many of us shy away from the idea of posting our faces all over the internet. Clinicians often think that the idea of self-promotion contradicts their desire to help people. And yet, upon entering the world of private practice, it becomes apparent that the one (online marketing) is a precondition for the other (doing therapy).
So, you want to know how to start a private psychotherapy practice in the most efficient way possible? Setting up a website is important, but don’t stop there: ongoing marketing is essential to your success as a therapist.
First off, consider printing business cards and brochures. Attend conferences and if possible give presentations. When it comes to your online presence, why not set up a Facebook business page and LinkedIn account? You may also want to consider investigating Google Adwords (to make sure that your name is coming up on google searches) and internet marketing strategies more generally. It’s also important that you list your practice on Google Maps so that clients are able to find your practice easily.
For therapists who are wondering about how to start a private psychotherapy practice without sky-rocketing your stress levels, consider starting part-time. Why? The first thing to acknowledge is that by opening a practice you’re likely to incur significant expenses, many of which we have already mentioned to in this article. The most significant cost is likely to be your office rental – and the specific prices vary significantly depending on the sort of area that you’re looking to rent in.
However, apart from the office rental, you’ll need to fork out for insurance, business cards, domain hosting (if you launch a website), general advertising, utility costs, furnishing your space, basic office supplies, licensing fees and continued professional education. If you are just starting out and are not guaranteed access to an instant referral network, it makes financial sense to start part-time – perhaps one or two days per week. This will give you time to grow your practice, reputation, and referral networks without taking too big a risk.
All the while, you’ll (hopefully) have a supplementary income coming in. Psychologists are able to do far more than simply treat patients. For example, you could conduct research and lecture at universities; or you might host public workshops for the community, which also increases your visibility and may help attract clients. Some therapists choose to provide employee-wellness interventions for corporations. Others still find themselves writing about how to start a private psychotherapy practice (and other psychology-related content) on platforms like ThriveTalk!
What if the options mentioned above don’t appeal and you’re deadest on doing traditional clinical work? Work for an established practice. This will provide a more stable income while also giving you an opportunity to learn first hand about how a psychotherapy business is run. Do this part-time, so that you have the chance to start growing your own practice simultaneously. The point to consider is that you have options. You don’t need to put all of your eggs into one basket.
For the clinician who is wondering how to start a private psychotherapy practice and make it work, there is a lot to consider. From insurance and office rental to advertising and setting up a website, the range of non-clinical factors that need addressing can feel overwhelming. Don’t let this put you off! It’s certainly possible to make it work; and when it does, running your own practice can be an exceptionally rewarding experience.
Do thoughts such as the following ever force themselves into your head?
“I have been contaminated with germs”.
“I left the oven on”.
“I keep having dark sexual fantasies, so I must be a bad person”.
People who repeatedly experience these sorts of thoughts may end up feeling upset stressed, ashamed and out of control. In this article, we provide some suggestions for how to stop them. But first, what exactly are obsessive thoughts?
Obsessive thoughts are ideas, urges or mental images that force their way into your mind. For some, this causes a lot of distress. Often, obsessive thoughts are “ego-dystonic”, meaning that they seem to be in contradiction with a person’s morals and values. Obsessive thoughts are the hallmark of a common psychological disorder called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). However, intrusive thoughts themselves are normal and natural – not everyone that experiences them necessarily has a psychological disorder.
Rumination involves getting stuck in a mental rut where you go over and over an obsessive thought or theme for extended periods. Ruminative thoughts tend to be negative and filled with a sense of hopelessness. So, you end up wasting large amounts of time worrying about the intrusive topic, rather than taking a proactive problem-solving approach. Ruminative thoughts are common amongst people with OCD, but they are also very common amongst people with depression.
Thought-action fusion essentially means that you become confused about the distinction between thinking about something and actually doing (or being) that thing. For example, say you’re having intrusive thoughts about molesting a stranger. Naturally, you do not act on these thoughts! Nonetheless, due to thought-action fusion, you experience an overwhelming sense of feeling guilty and immoral – as if having the thought is equal to carrying out the act.
Here’s another example. You struggle with obsessive thoughts about contracting HIV. Every time you think about it, you feel incredibly distressed. On some level, you believe that thinking about HIV makes you more likely to contract the illness. Obviously, this is untrue!
To demonstrate this phenomenon, we’d like to ask you to take a quick break from this article. Close your eyes and spend the next thirty seconds making absolutely sure that you do not think about Donald Trump.
Welcome back. I’m willing to bet that you inadvertently thought about Donald Trump. Why? Research shows that the more energy you spend on avoiding a thought, the more likely you are to trigger that thought; and then to become distressed by it.
People with OCD may find themselves spending a large amount of time “monitoring” themselves for any hint of an obsessive thought. As soon as the thought arises – which it inevitably does – they try their hardest to suppress the thought, which makes it more likely to resurface.
Let’s cover some suggestions for how to stop obsessive thoughts.
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to realize that fighting against obsessive thoughts simply gives them more power (recall the Donald Trump exercise). Instead, why not try to focus on changing your responses to the obsessive thoughts?
For example, you might consciously choose to observe your obsessive thought with an attitude of nonjudgmental acceptance. Acknowledge the thought; allow it to visit you for as long as it wishes. It will pass; and it may come back – but that’s ok.
Once you give yourself permission to stop fighting against your obsessive thoughts, you create the opportunity to see them in a new light. At this point, you can embrace your thoughts for what they are: meaningless and harmless firings of neurons in your brain. Remember that a thought is just thought – not an action and not an indication of your value as a person.
If you’re still wondering how to stop obsessive thoughts, identifying opposites can be a very powerful approach. Often, an obsessive thought has an opposing value – and it’s possible to find an opposing thought which you can use to combat your obsession.
For example, suppose you have obsessive thoughts about committing violent acts. The very fact that you experience these thoughts as distressing or intrusive provides evidence for the fact that your own morals and values are non-violent. If you were an inherently violent person, thoughts about violence would not be distressing or intrusive: they’d just be thoughts!
Take this a step further by creating your own “opposite” thought that you can bring to mind as a way of countering your unwanted thoughts. Let’s say your obsessive thought is as follows: “I want to kill my neighbor and I’m a horrible person”. An opposite thought might include a) a mental image of you being kind to another person; and b) the words: “I am a good person”.
Are you still unsure about how to stop obsessive thoughts? If so, why not get some support? There’s absolutely no reason why you should struggle alone. Talking your situation through with a trusted friend or family member may help. Alternatively, you could seek out a therapist or even a support group in your area. For those who would like to receive help from the comfort of their own home, there is always the option of online therapy. Fortunately, today there are many platforms (including ThriveTalk) that enable therapy to take place online over voice, text or video chat.
Obsessive thoughts can cause a lot of unnecessary distress. People with OCD often assume that they alone have such thoughts; and that this makes them bad, weak or out of control. But the truth is that intrusive thoughts – even the strangest and ugliest ones – are natural and acceptable!
Millions experience these sorts of thoughts from time-to-time, but they acknowledge them for what they are – random and meaningless. Someone with OCD, by contrast, is likely to get caught up in the emotions and assumptions (“I must be a bad person for having this thought”) that arise. If you’re wondering how to stop obsessive thoughts, then, the answer is simple. Fighting obsessive thoughts doesn’t help, so rather work toward changing how you respond to them!
We live in a world where good looks can be a ticket to fame, fortune, popularity, and ultimately happiness. Unfortunately, the pressure of staying in tip-top shape can be so intense that some of us end up dealing with eating disorders.
Even though the feminist movement has managed to bring some changes to society’s perception of beauty, we can’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable every time we pass a giant billboard that advertises this year’s swimsuit collection.
But while many of us can quickly shake off that annoying inner voice whispering Your body’s a mess, there are those who simply can’t ignore it.
Regardless of the cause, eating disorders are always fueled by a set of irrational beliefs we hold about ourselves. The constant negative self-talk, coupled with impossible beauty standards and a distorted body image, can result in unhealthy eating habits that threaten our physical and mental health.
Food represents a considerable part of our lives, and it’s not just about satisfying a basic need. Sometimes, we use food to comfort ourselves after a bad day, deal with unpleasant emotions, or celebrate an accomplishment. In short, eating holds a complex meaning that extends far beyond necessity.
Unfortunately, there are times when this everyday behavior gets entirely out of hand, causing severe health problems.
Eating disorders represent a classification that includes conditions characterized by a persistent disturbance of eating behaviors which can significantly affect your physical and mental health.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the three most common forms of eating disorders are bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. 
If left untreated, your unhealthy eating habits can lead to severe medical and psychological problems that threaten your health and well-being.
To gain a better understanding of this condition, let’s take a quick look at some stats on eating disorders.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health: 
Although experts in mental health have been studying this issue for decades, no one can put their finger on the exact cause of eating disorders. As in the case of any other mental health condition, there’s a multitude of factors contributing to the onset and development of eating disorders.
But what we do know for sure is that body image plays a crucial role in anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and other similar conditions. Showing constant discontentment towards your body (or certain parts of it) is one of the main triggers of eating disorders.
As long as you keep trying to achieve impossible body standards, you are bound to engage in unhealthy eating habits that will worsen your condition.
Aside from negative body image, other factors that may cause (or contribute to) eating disorders are:
People who struggle with eating disorders are often in a state of denial, refusing to admit that their eating habits present a life-threatening risk.
Although each type of eating disorder has its own set of diagnostic criteria, as presented by the DSM-5, there are several symptoms which are defining for the entire spectrum.
Have you experienced any of the following over the last several weeks?
If you’ve experienced at least four of the above symptoms, perhaps you should address a mental health professional.
Mary is 17 and has recently moved to an uptown school.
Ever since she began classes there, her mother noticed that Mary’s habits had changed significantly. She spends two hours a day exercising, barely eats anything and is always tired. She has lost a lot of weight over a period of just five weeks but continues to follow a rigorous diet routine.
Although Mary says there’s nothing wrong with her and that she’s just trying to stay “healthy and fit,” her constant mirror-checking and relentless obsession with good looks indicate otherwise.
After many heated debates with her parents, Mary finally agrees to see a doctor who recommends her to a therapist. The clinical evaluation reveals that Mary is struggling with anorexia. The constant pressure of looking “at least as good as other girls from my school,” coupled with her low self-esteem and negative body image has determined Mary to engage in risky eating habits.
To overcome this problem, Mary is encouraged by her parents to begin therapy. Furthermore, she needs to see her physician regularly to make sure she doesn’t encounter other complications that might derive from anorexia.
Dealing with eating disorders isn’t easy. Depending on the severity of the condition, people who engage in life-threatening eating habits might even require hospitalization.
Without proper care, problems like binge eating, bulimia, or anorexia can cause severe physical and mental damage.
Medical complications are a relatively common consequence of eating disorders.
For example, people with anorexia are often way below a weight level that would be considered reasonable based on their age, gender, height, and other variables. The lack of essential minerals and vitamins can cause muscle cramps, heart, and gastric problems, hair loss, anemia, cognitive decline. In women, anorexia can also cause menstrual problems and infertility.
As for bulimia, the story goes relatively the same. From chronic fatigue, muscle cramps, gastrointestinal problems, and infertility to dizziness, dry hair, and heart complications, this condition can trigger a whole array of medical and psychological conditions.
Considering the extent to which eating disorders can affect our minds and bodies, experts sometimes resort to drastic approaches such as hospitalization.
Although the data is not 100% accurate (it never is), experts believe mortality rates rise to 4% for anorexia, 3.9% for bulimia, and 5.2% for other eating disorders. 
In fact, some experts believe that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders. Furthermore, suicide rates seem to be alarmingly high among those struggling with bulimia.
On a brighter note, there are several treatment options which have proven to be effective in helping people manage and prevent eating disorders.
Although there are no drugs explicitly designed for binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders, mental health professionals often use psychiatric medication to treat the underlying symptoms of eating disorders.
For example, in the case of anorexia, a psychiatrist could prescribe antidepressants to treat co-occurring conditions like anxiety and depression. There are also situations when specialists recommend a mix of antipsychotics and behavioral interventions.
But aside from psychiatric treatment, some forms of eating disorders might require the use of drugs that induce weight gain.
In severe cases, hospitalization is the only solution to prevent a potential tragedy that might result from putting your body through extreme dietary habits.
Once admitted to the hospital, the first step is helping the patient restore his/her physical health. For example, a patient with anorexia will undergo nutritional restoration, medication for weight gain, and psychotherapy.
Rehabilitation centers provide a healing environment where people with unhealthy eating habits can find the professional guidance and emotional support they need to overcome their problem.
For those who’ve struggled with a severe form of eating disorder, this step usually comes after a period of hospitalization.
Through individual and group therapy, people with eating disorders can develop healthy coping mechanisms that allow them to handle unpleasant emotions without resorting to food. Furthermore, they learn how to cultivate a healthy relationship with food thus improving their overall health and well-being.
In many cases, the health risks associated with eating disorders are aggravated by problems such as alcohol and drug addiction. Just as food, the use of alcohol or other substances represents an unhealthy way to cope with ‘bad’ feelings.
When seeking treatment, one of the issues that many of those struggling with eating disorders are concerned about is insurance coverage.
Whether the treatment is covered or not depends mostly on your insurance plan. Some of the most common reasons why your insurance company might deny benefits include:
With eating disorders becoming a growing issue, especially in First World countries, many organizations have begun to promote and implement various programs to raise awareness and offer support to those in need.
Pro-ana is a controversial movement which aims to provide support to people who struggle with anorexia by promoting behaviors related to this eating disorder.
The entire philosophy behind this movement is that anorexia (and other forms of eating disorders) are not medical conditions but lifestyle choices.
But it’s not reserved exclusively for people with anorexia.
Organizations, online groups, and Facebook pages that promote this movement often advertise to bulimics as well. People on these groups share tips on how to lose weight, extreme diets, and even advice on how to refuse food without being suspected (veganism is the most popular excuse).
Sadly, these online groups are often the only form of support that people with eating disorders find.
Thinspiration (or thinspo) is another “pro unhealthy eating habits” movement that has caught root in the vast and fertile ground of the online environment.
The focus of this movement is to help people achieve thinness. The only problem is that what members of this community advertise as “a thin body” often relies on impossible and unhealthy body standards.
In a way, thinspiration is almost like a cult to thinness, where members share tips on how to get and stay thin.
Eating disorders represent a serious issue with potentially devastating effects on both physical and mental health. If you feel like you’re eating habits have gotten out of control, perhaps it’s time to consult a mental health professional.
A licensed mental health professional is a trained specialist who’s accredited by a higher authority to provide you with adequate treatment.
Finding a counselor, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist who can evaluate your situation and suggest a treatment plan represents the first step in getting a handle on your unhealthy eating habits.
Although some healthcare professionals are specialized in eating disorders, any therapist or psychiatrist possesses enough training to at least assist you in finding the help you need.
The best way to find an expert on eating disorders is by looking for a clinic in your area or word-of-mouth recommendations.
Once you’ve found a specialist you want to consult, pick up the phone and ask a few questions before you set up an appointment.
Since eating disorders have become a severe mental health issue, many clinics and centers offer helplines where people can receive useful information and support.
There are also online support groups and chat rooms where people share their experiences and help each other overcome this condition.
One platform where you can find the help you need is ThriveTalk. There you will find plenty of licensed professionals who can assist you anytime, anywhere. By getting professional help, you will be able to keep your unhealthy eating habits in check and learn to accept and love yourself.
Meta description: Eating disorders can be extremely challenging to overcome. Fortunately, there are plenty of viable solutions to help you regain your health and enjoy a balanced life.
A. P. Association., Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013
n.a., “Eating Disorders,” National Institute of Mental Health, November 2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/eating-disorders.shtml
n.a., “health consequences,” National Eating Disorders Association, [Online]. Available: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences
Imagine a time in the distant future. Try to picture someone talking to a therapist on a screen that is set up in their home. Think of how they could be lying down on their own personal therapy couch, discussing their most intimate fears and concerns with a qualified mental health professional.