Psychological therapists are doctoral-level psychologists who provide psychotherapy and counseling. They help people deal with and/or resolve a variety of problems, such as stress, job loss, relationship issues, mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, as well as grief and bereavement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for psychologists is expected to increase by 22 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than the national average for other occupations. As of May 2010, they earned an average of $68,640 per year.
Education and Training
Psychological therapists must have a doctoral degree in psychology and a state license to practice. There are two doctorates in psychology that allow you to practice as a psychological therapist -- a Ph.D., or doctor of philosophy, in psychology, or a Psy.D, or doctor of psychology. Both require around five years of full-time study and the completion of an internship. The Ph.D. tends to focus more on research and requires a dissertation, while the Psy.D. focuses more on clinical practice and evaluation of clinical work.
The work environment for psychological therapists can vary. Some psychological therapists are self-employed and operate private practices, in which they might work out of a home office or rent private or shared office space. In such cases, they may work during the day, in the evening or on weekends to accommodate their clients' schedules. They may need to arrange for billing services or apply to become a provider with insurance providers. Other psychological therapists work in mental health clinics or community health centers, in which they might work full- or part-time, during regular business hours, in the evenings or, in some cases, on Saturdays. Mental health clinics and community health centers are rarely open on Sundays. Billing and scheduling services are usually handled by other staff members in these settings.
Psychological therapists provide a range of services, depending on their personal preferences and areas of expertise. Some specialize in specific forms of psychotherapy, especially those who work in private practice. For example, they may choose to practice only cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoanalytic psychotherapy or other forms of talk therapy. They also might offer psychological testing services, such as IQ testing or tests to determine the presence of a psychological disorder. Those who work in mental health clinics or community health centers may offer similar services, but the types of services they offer are usually dictated by their employer.
Dealing with and listening to other people's problems on a daily basis can be draining and stressful, so it's important that psychological therapists have strong interpersonal boundaries and adequate external support networks. They should have excellent stress-management skills and avoid taking their work home with them. Psychological therapists should be observant, empathetic and have good people and communication skills. In addition, since they often work closely with people from all walks of life, they should be able to relate well with others and display sensitivity to ethnic or multicultural issues.