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Guidance on how to become a psychotherapist

Posted May 06 2009 1:32pm

Dear Tina,
Please could you give me some guidance on how to become a psychotherapist. 

My brother, Robert, had a stroke four years ago.  It makes me sick what a stroke can do to
someone.  Before  the stroke he was making six figures as a stockbroker and spending most of it.
He lived in North Carolina in a large house and was a member of a beautiful country club.  He
has a wife and two twin year old sons.  When he had his stroke, his wife left him.  He had to quit his
dream job of working for himself as a stockbroker.  They both refuse to get a divorce. She would
rather whine and complain and be the "victim". Robert had to sell his house in North Carolina.
My parents are the primary caretakers of my brother now. My parents live in Tennessee near me.
Robert is 41 years old.  He is paralysed on his left side.  Robert's wife's entire focus now is on her
two twin year old boys. She has not helped his healing at all!  She has moved in her parents
house, forcing her dad to get remarried and move out.  It makes me sick how this can happen to him, his wife, his children; her family, and me and my family.  I can't fix them; yet this is the reason I am
interested and so inclined in becoming a psychiatrist. I would like to specialize in Jungian or
Gestalt therapy.

I would like to know if you were advising someone how to become a psychotherapist these days,
what type of bachelor degree would you recommend? Thank you for your feedback and guidance

Dr. Romance Responds:

Your brother's situation is truly a tragedy, and I am sorry for everyone involved.  I can hear your
distress and grief in your letter, and suggest you (and perhaps most of your family) get some
counseling to help you handle the emotional pain of this situation.  I believe every therapist
should begin with his or her own personal work, so that would be a good place to start.  Read my article
"Guidelines for Finding and Using Therapy Wisely."

Before I telll you how to become a psychotherapist, I want to explain some terminology.  A psychiatrist is not a psychotherapist, and does not normally do counseling.  Psychiatrists are medical doctors, with a specialty in psychotropic medicine.  They interview patients to diagnose a problem, and then prescribe medication.

There are several choices if you want to do Gestalt or Jungian therapy. You could become a
psychotherapist (often called a family counselor), a psychologist, or a licensed clinical social
worker (LCSW.)  Laws vary by state, but in California, where I am, a psychotherapist must have
a master's degree in clinical psychology, which includes certain courses required by the
California State Board of Behavioral Science Examiners (BBSE).  Then, you must have 3,000 hours of
counseling under the supervision of a licensed person, and sit for a state licensing exam
administered by the BBSE.  LCSWs follow a similar process, but their Master's Degree is in
Social Work.  Psychologists must have a doctorate, then 3,000 supervised hours and a licensing

Your bachelor's degree can be in either psychology or sociology, but the Master's Degree or Doctoral Degree must conform to your state's licensing body rules. You can get more information from the American Association of Marriage, Family Therapists   or the American Psychological Association about rules in your state.

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