Thinking of Becoming a Therapist? 5 Things to Know

June 7, 2021 •

If you have dreams of becoming a therapist, prepare to embark on a challenging but rewarding career path. You’ll need the appropriate training and education as well as malpractice insurance. Once these elements are in place, you can choose to work in any number of different settings.

Thinking of Becoming a Therapist? 5 Things to Know

1. The Case Load Is Increasing

Before the 2020 pandemic, many Americans struggled to receive the mental health care they needed. Now it’s even more difficult as demand continues to exceed providers. Data from the American Psychological Association reveals around 33% of mental health professionals now see an increased number of patients, and many are forced to turn away additional patients because their schedules are full.

Full-time counselors see an average of 25 patients per week. Right now, however, many exceed that number as patients struggle to transition into post-pandemic life. Marital and family conflicts are also becoming increasingly common, and some patients call to schedule appointments while in the middle of a panic attack. In short, mental health providers are in greater need than never, and being prepared for this will help you prepare for the career.

2. Education Is Essential

You can complete the necessary training for this profession in four easy steps, but each is equally critical. The first is to complete a bachelor’s degree in a mental health field such as counseling, sociology, or psychology. Keep in mind you’ll need to attend a school with regional accreditation so you can pursue your master’s degree – the second step in this process. Steps three and four are detailed below – clinical hours and applying for a license.

Complete Supervised Clinical Work

Your master’s program will require that you complete supervised clinical work. The number of hours necessary for your degree is mandated independently by each state but typically ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 supervised hours. This allows your clinical supervisor to provide feedback you can then use in real-world settings.

Clinical training also prepares you to work with diverse people seeking therapy for any number of reasons. It’s true you’ll likely work outside your intended specialization, but the skills you acquire will be crucial to the practice you eventually build.

Apply for Your License

Once you’ve obtained your master’s degree and completed your clinical experience, you can apply for licensure from your state’s licensing board. Each state maintains its own requirements, and some even provide their own licensing exam. Many, however, accept the Association of Social Work Boards Clinical Examination or the Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards Exam.

3. You Will Need Malpractice Insurance

Mental health providers are faced with ethical dilemmas every day, including when to make a report to child protective services. These challenges also pose legal obstacles, and even professionals with only the best of intentions can face legal liability if a client suffers specific harm. For instance, a provider who fails to adequately handle a suicide threat might face a lawsuit if that client suffered serious injuries after attempting suicide.

The point is providers are human beings prone to mistakes, and malpractice insurance can protect both you and your practice if you get sued. Examples of behavior that may lead to a medical malpractice suit include:

  • Failing to protect a client from themselves
  • Neglecting the duty to warn others of potentially violent acts
  • Failing to report child abuse

A Must-Have Policy

Malpractice coverage can protect your practice from closure and ensure you receive the legal help you need. Sometimes, your insurance provider can intervene when a client has threatened a lawsuit and prevent such a filing. Last but not least, for any settled lawsuits that fall under your policy’s coverage, payment to the plaintiff will be covered.

4. Building Your Practice Takes Time

If you choose to open a private practice, it can take years to cultivate a strong and steady client base. You’ll need to introduce yourself to others, network, and encourage referrals from your clients. Referrals, however, depend on maintaining good business practices, staying organized, and offering excellent service. Specializing in a certain field can also help, especially if it’s needed in the area where you live.

5. You Can Work in a Variety of Places

People tend to associate mental health providers with big, leather chairs seated behind important-looking desks. While such a scenario might be possible for private practitioners, your education and training can prepare you for work in any number of settings, including corporations, engineering companies, and even universities. Recognizing the many options available can help identify the career path that’s right for you.

Working in the mental health field isn’t easy, but it can be immensely rewarding. The key is in being patient with yourself and those you treat and ensuring you are adequately protected from lawsuits. That’s where NOW Insurance can help, by providing policies that will protect you and your good name. Visit our website to learn more about professional liability insurance for mental health professions. Complete the easy NOW Insurance online application to get a quote in under three minutes.

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