Is becoming a counseling psychologist right for me?

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How to become a Counseling Psychologist

Becoming a counseling psychologist requires completing a specific educational and training path. Here are the steps to pursue a career as a counseling psychologist:

  • Obtain a Bachelor's Degree: Start by earning a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology or a related field. Ensure that the program you choose provides a solid foundation in psychological theories, research methods, and human behavior. It's also beneficial to take courses related to counseling, therapy, and interpersonal skills.
  • Earn a Master's Degree: Pursue a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology or a closely related field. Look for programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the American Psychological Association (APA). This graduate program focuses on theories and techniques of counseling, assessment, ethics, and research. Gain hands-on experience through internships or practicum placements offered by the program.
  • Gain Supervised Experience: After completing your master's degree, engage in supervised experience to meet licensing requirements. Most states require a specific number of supervised clinical hours, typically ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 hours. This experience allows you to practice counseling skills under the guidance of experienced professionals.
  • Earn a Doctoral Degree: Pursue a Doctoral Degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in Counseling Psychology. Doctoral programs provide advanced training and research opportunities. Look for programs accredited by the APA or the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Doctoral programs typically take four to six years to complete, and they involve coursework, practicum placements, research, and a dissertation.
  • Complete a Pre-Doctoral Internship: As part of your doctoral program, complete a pre-doctoral internship. This is a full-time, supervised training experience that typically lasts for one year. Internships are highly competitive and should be accredited by the APA or the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC).
  • Obtain State Licensure: After completing your doctoral program and internship, you must obtain a license to practice as a counseling psychologist. Licensing requirements vary by state, but they typically include passing a state-recognized examination, such as the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), and meeting the required supervised experience hours.
  • Optional: Gain Post-Doctoral Experience and Certification: Some counseling psychologists choose to pursue post-doctoral experience or seek specialized certifications in areas such as couples and family therapy, clinical supervision, or substance abuse counseling. These additional credentials can enhance your expertise and professional opportunities.

While counseling psychologists are not typically required to obtain specific certifications to practice, there are several optional certifications available that can enhance professional credentials and demonstrate expertise in specialized areas. Here are some certifications that counseling psychologists may pursue:

  • National Certified Counselor (NCC): Offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), the NCC certification is available to counseling professionals who meet specific education, experience, and examination requirements. It is a general counseling certification that demonstrates competence in the field.
  • Board Certified-TeleMental Health Provider (BC-TMH): This certification, offered by the Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE), focuses on providing mental health services via technology-assisted platforms. It validates expertise in ethical and effective delivery of online counseling and teletherapy.
  • Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC): The CCMHC certification, offered by the NBCC, is specifically designed for clinical mental health counselors. It requires meeting rigorous education, experience, and examination criteria to demonstrate advanced knowledge and skills in clinical counseling.
  • Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS): The ACS certification, offered by the Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE), is for counseling professionals who provide supervision to other counselors. It signifies expertise in clinical supervision and adherence to ethical and best practice standards.
  • Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC): The CRC certification, offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC), is designed for professionals working in the field of rehabilitation counseling. It validates competence in assisting individuals with disabilities in achieving optimal functioning and independence.
  • Certified Eating Disorders Specialist (CEDS): Offered by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP), the CEDS certification recognizes expertise in the treatment of eating disorders. It requires a combination of education, supervised experience, and successful completion of an examination.