Over 198,811 therapists currently work in the United States. This might seem like a lot, but there is a therapist shortage plaguing the country.
The shortage is not showing signs of slowing down, either. In fact, by the year 2025, researchers from the Health Resources and Services Administration estimate that the U.S. will be short approximately 238,000 therapists needed to address mental health challenges.
There may be a therapist shortage in the U.S. right now, but there are also lots of people who are considering a career as a therapist or mental health counselor. For those who fall into this category, some frequently asked questions about becoming a therapist are answered below.
Table of Contents
(click on a question to be directed quickly)
Why does someone become a therapist?
What types of people make good therapists?
What types of people should not become therapists?
Is being a therapist a fulfilling career?
How do I become a therapist?
Why Does Someone Become a Therapist?
A desire to connect with and help others is one of the most commonly cited reasons why people choose to become therapists. However, other factors also influence their decisions, including the following:
- An interest in psychology and a desire to stay informed about the latest research and therapy practices
- A desire to combat stereotypes and stigmas surrounding mental health conditions
- A desire to engage in meaningful work that brings about change in people’s lives
It’s important to note, too, that therapists rarely cite money as a driving factor in their decision to pursue their specific career path. They seem, generally, to be more motivated by a desire to help others and bring about positive change in the world.
Check this article out for a comprehensive guide to becoming a therapist.
Photo by Jopwell
What Types of People Make Good Therapists?
There is no one specific personality type that is associated with being an effective therapist. After all, all kinds of people seek therapy, so it stands to reason that a variety of different types of therapists would be needed to better serve them.
That being said, some personality traits are more beneficial to those who work in the therapy field than others. According to this article from Post University, the list of desirable traits includes the following:
Good Communication Skills
Being a good communicator involves more than just being able to deliver a message effectively and compassionately. Good communicators must also be good listeners.
A therapist who can’t listen well or get their message across will have a hard time connecting with clients and helping them make positive changes.
Good therapists are patient. They don’t rush their clients to progress faster than they’re capable of or comfortable with, and they work according to each client’s unique timeline.
Good therapists should be confident in their knowledge and abilities. However, they should not be arrogant or unwilling to listen and learn from others.
Lack of Judgment
A therapist should not be judgmental. If their clients feel judged during their sessions, they might be unwilling to open up and share their struggles or concerns. They might also be less inclined to work with a judgmental therapist long-term.
Good Observational Skills
Part of being an effective therapist is being able to read between the lines and hear what the client isn’t saying. If you’re not observant — for example, you don’t notice changes in body language, hear shifts in tone, etc. — you’ll have a hard time understanding your clients on a deeper level.
To be a good therapist, you must be self-aware.
You need to be aware of your shortcomings and the areas in which you are not an expert. You also need to know when to refer a client to someone with more knowledge and a better understanding of a particular condition or set of issues.
Appreciation for Diversity
According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 83 percent of the psychology workforce in the U.S. is white. Hispanic therapists make up 7 percent of the workforce, followed by Asians (4 percent) and African Americans (3 percent).
These demographics do not accurately represent the demographics of the U.S. population or those who need help from therapists.
If a therapist does not have an appreciation for diversity and the unique challenges that people of different races and ethnicities face, they will struggle to be effective and serve their clients.
What Types of People Should Not Become Therapists?
There are plenty of people who possess the characteristics needed to become a good therapist. At the same time, though, there are also some types of people who likely aren’t cut out for the therapy profession, including the following:
- Those who lack empathy or compassion
- Those who are judgmental
- Those who are poor listeners
- Those who are too interested in giving advice
- Those who aren’t open to continuing education and long-term growth
These personality traits can hinder a person’s ability to connect deeply with their clients and give them the tools they need to make positive changes in their lives.
Is Being a Therapist a Fulfilling Career?
Being a therapist can be a very fulfilling career. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 93 percent of psychologists in the United States were either “somewhat satisfied” or very satisfied with their jobs.
Survey respondents indicated that they were highly satisfied with many aspects of their jobs as therapists, including the amount of independence their careers provide as well as their ability to contribute to society as a whole.
How Do I Become a Therapist?
Several professionals can work as therapists and offer counseling services in the United States, including clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, licensed counselors, and marriage and family therapists.
There are a few different routes one can take to becoming a therapist, but they all involve a great deal of education.
For all of these careers, the minimum level of education required is a master’s degree in psychology or a related field. Many people go on to earn doctoral degrees, though, to increase their chances of being hired faster and earning a higher salary.
Written By: Natalie Thongrit
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Kyle Zrenchik
Edited By: Dr. Kyle Zrenchik
Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.