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How to Become a Nurse Psychotherapist

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A report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHA) shows that 10 percent of the population over the age of 18 experience mental health issues at least once in their lives, but less than half of those people ever receive treatment that could increase their quality of life. This alarming statistic has led many health professionals to consider careers in mental health, including nursing careers. A nurse psychotherapist has advanced training in psychiatric nursing and can practice psychotherapy: treatment of mental health disorders through counseling.

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Earn a bachelor's degree. Becoming a nurse psychotherapist first requires a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (BSN), followed by an advanced degree. Determining the right BSN program is the first step for someone who wants to become a nurse psychotherapist. The National Leage for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc. (NLNAC) has a listing of all accredited nursing programs throughout the United States. It is important to spend time researching BSN programs to learn what differentiates each school. A BSN degree will allow the nurse to diagnose patients with mental illnesses and provide basic care. Studying for an advanced degree is the next step in becoming a nurse psychotherapist.

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Attain an advanced degree. Upon completion of a BSN program, a nurse must receive an advanced degree to perform psychotherapy. A common route for nurse psychotherapists includes a two-year master's program in psychiatric mental health nursing along with a supervised clinical rotation in psychotherapy. (See link in Resources to NLNAC for accredited masters programs.) Once the nurse completes this degree she will hold the designation of APN or Advanced Practice Nurse. This designation will allow the nurse to not only perform psychotherapy, but also to prescribe medications.

Research job opportunities. Upon completion of a master's degree, the nurse is now ready to determine a setting to practice psychotherapy. Advanced practice nurses can work in hospitals, private practices, mental health centers and substance abuse treatment facilities.

About the Author

Based in Milwaukee, LeighAnn Zimmer-Abel began writing professional business articles in 2008. Her pieces focus on business and human resources. Zimmer-Abel holds a bachelor's degree in human resources from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a Master of Business Administration from Cardinal Stritch University.

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