From Teacher to Therapist

The professions of teaching and counseling share similar qualities. To be a teacher, you need to be caring, patient, understanding, and possess an underlying desire to improve the lives of your students through education. Counselors (or therapists) must also possess these traits, but they help improve the lives of their clients through different means.

Therapy is becoming even more common in the modern era. People go through various mental health struggles all the time. Millions of people suffer from depression each year, and they need to be able to get professional help to cope. For this reason, therapy has become an essential part of many people’s lives. Read here to find out exactly what a modern therapist is and does.

If you are considering to make a career change from a teacher to a therapist, it doesn’t require a tremendous leap, but it does require additional education and training.

First of all, regarding education, teachers already have experience working with children and teenagers, which can be a tremendous benefit in becoming a youth clinical counselor. They should already understand how to relate to and interact with children and teenagers. However, you will need to go back to school to complete a specific course of education in professional counseling.

Clinical counselors, regardless of whether they specialize in working with children or adults, are required to have at least a Master’s degree in counseling, although some clinicians also pursue doctoral degrees. According to the American Counseling Association, they should obtain a degree from a national or regionally-accredited school, as this is usually a state requirement for licensure.

During their graduate studies, they will be required to complete a clinical internship, where they’ll provide counseling services under the direct supervision of a qualified clinical supervisor. Some schools might assign them to an internship, so they might have very little say in the type of setting they’d prefer. However, other schools offer them the chance to choose their own placement, in which case they should select an internship working with children, teens and families. This will give them a foot in the door when the time comes to begin their job search. Counseling can be a competitive field, so showing some experience can give an edge over other job applicants.

therapist in session

Having a teaching license can be a plus when it comes to finding a job as a therapist, but there is still need to obtain a state counseling license if you want to practice in most US states. Licensing laws for professional therapists vary by state, but typically include submitting proof of education; showing that they have completed a certain number of post-graduate supervised hours of clinical experience; passing a national licensing examination; and agreeing to adhere to a professional code of ethics. In addition to state licensure, they can also obtain voluntary certification from the American Counseling Association, which provides even more professional credibility.


Salary and Qualifications of Therapists

As for salary and qualifications, therapists earn an average annual salaries of $69,460 according to the job website Indeed. Most have Master’s degrees in divorce or mental health counseling, psychology or social work. All must pass state license exams.

Qualifications for state licensing vary, but most therapists, including divorce counselors, must complete a minimum number of clinical hours to qualify for licensing. Mental health counselors – a career from which divorce counseling stems – must have 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience to qualify for licensing through the National Board for Certified Counselors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other essential requirements for therapists include compassion and listening, speaking, and organizational and people skills. Average salaries for therapists vary considerably within the U.S. regions. In the Midwest region, the highest salary is $58,000 in Illinois and the lowest of $42,000 is in South Dakota. Those in the Northeast make between $47,000 and $65,000 per year, respectively, in Maine and New York. Counselors earn $38,000 to $60,000, respectively, in Hawaii and California, which were the lowest and highest salaries in the West. Their earnings in the South were $46,000 to $64,000, respectively, in Louisiana and Washington.

However, many factors affect the salary, for example, therapists can increase their salaries as they gain experience. They may also warrant higher salaries by getting Ph.D. degrees in social counseling or related counseling fields. These licensed therapists may also earn more in certain industries.

In conclusion, making a mid-career change from teaching to counseling requires multiple steps, including a degree, supervised training, and a licence.

How to become a mental health professional | Kati Morton


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Cameron Wei
Researcher educator specializing in EdTech, educational innovations, computer-supported collaborative learning, technology integration and learning analytics.


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