Therapists are arguably some of the most important professionals in the modern world. Therapy is an essential healthcare service, allowing patients of all backgrounds to establish and maintain good mental, emotional and behavioral health. In many cases, therapists are responsible for giving individuals and groups the tools to survive and thrive, sometimes in the most adverse circumstances.
Many people assume that all therapists have psychology degrees, but that isn’t the case. The field of psychology is interesting — but getting a degree in psychology isn’t for everyone. Psych degrees can require intensive science courses, which demand expertise in math as well as participation in labs that do not come easily or comfortably to many students. If you are looking for a path into the therapy field that does not involve several years of psychology study, you might consider the following non-psych options:
Social work is a professional field that is dedicated to helping vulnerable individuals and communities overcome challenges and achieve goals. Social workers can maintain a diverse set of responsibilities, from working one-on-one with individuals facing specific challenges, like homelessness or domestic abuse, to functioning as community advocates for social justice. Social workers often work for government agencies, though social workers are also employed by schools, hospitals and counseling clinics.
A Master of Social Work degree provides the necessary qualifications to transform a regular social worker into a clinical social worker — meaning that they have the training and credentials to work as therapists. Many clinical social workers are devoted to providing counseling services to underserved communities and groups, and thanks to their foundation in social work, these therapists can also help individuals with advocacy, policy analysis and social justice issues.
While social workers often work directly with vulnerable individuals, human services professionals tend to focus on developing programs and resources that benefit vulnerable communities at large. Human services is a broad field that is difficult to describe in a handful of sentences; there are many different types of human services professionals that are completing a diverse range of tasks to achieve various different goals — but all human services efforts are directed at making the world a better place.
Like social workers, human services professionals can specialize through experience and education. Some human services professionals opt to gain skills associated with social work to boost their ability to make an impact. However, it is possible to earn a master in human services with a focus on counseling, which can provide the necessary qualifications to function as a therapist or in a therapy setting.
A foundation in a field such as social work or human services ensures that a professional feels passionately about helping people and understands common challenges that vulnerable people face. However, it is possible to become a working therapist with any kind of background thanks to counseling graduate programs.
A Master’s in Counseling teaches students how to perform counseling on a variety of clients. Coursework tends to focus on the diagnosis of mental health conditions, the development of treatment plans and the techniques of therapy. While some counseling master’s programs require a bachelor’s degree in a related field, like psychology or counseling, many do not, so professionals who feel called to work as counselors can do so regardless of prior studies.
A standard Master’s in Counseling will equip professionals with the tools necessary to deliver therapy to typical clients, but in many cases, professionals are interested in working with a specific group that struggles with specific challenges. There are potentially dozens of specializations that professionals might explore within the therapy field, but some of the more common specialties to pursue through education include:
Marriage and family
Addiction and substance abuse
Anxiety and depression
Children and teen
Some would-be therapists already feel compelled to commit their careers to addressing the challenges of a specific group, while others might need to explore their options during their graduate program. Fortunately, this path to a therapy career overlaps with the counseling path, so students can keep taking steps toward their profession as they identify their calling.
It feels good to help people become their best selves, which is why therapy is such a captivating career path. Fortunately, you can make your therapist dreams come true by following any of the following education routes outside of the psychology field.