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Do I Want to Be a Therapist? How to Get Started

Meg Mulroy, LPC 

If you clicked on this blog, chances are that being a therapist is a career that might interest you. Maybe you enjoy helping people or have a therapist that inspired you to work in this field. Maybe you’ve heard from family or friends that you’re a great listener and that you could make a career of it. Whatever the case may be, choosing to become a counselor is a wonderful and rewarding career choice. 


There are a few things to bear in mind as you research graduate programs, and the first thing to decide is if you want to get a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate. With a Master’s Degree, you can be a counselor or a social worker, and having a Ph.D. or a PsyD will give you the Psychologist title. Psychologists’ training is informed by behavioral science research and clinical-based treatments while Master’s Level Clinicians look more to philosophical and rhetorical theories ( If you are more drawn to science and research, getting a doctorate might be the best option for you. Having a doctorate will also allow you to use formal assessments and tests to work with clients. If you enjoy big picture ideas, social science, and philosophy, studying to get your master’s may be the right path for you. It’s important to remember that there is a lot of overlap between both options and both will allow you to engage in talk therapy and helping others. Neither will allow you to prescribe medication, so if that is of interest to you, you may want to think about going to medical school to become a psychiatrist. 


Once you have decided what kind of degree you want, the next task is to choose what school to attend. It’s helpful to look at schools that are accredited, but by no means is it necessary. You may want to consider where you live, or where you want to live. Look into scholarships, part-time jobs, and costs to compare each program you apply to.  The University I went to had a discount on grad school tuition if you did your undergraduate degree there as well, so make sure to look into what your college may offer alumni. It’s also important to note that you do not necessarily need an undergraduate degree in psychology to succeed in a counseling program. I went to grad school with art majors, business majors, and English majors! One of my dearest friends has a degree in Chinese Studies and after completing her graduate degree in counseling started working as a school counselor. 


Many graduate programs will have you specialize in a certain area of counseling. I got my Masters at DePaul University, and they required their students to choose between three different tracks: clinical mental health, school counseling, and college and career development counseling. Take some time to figure out what interests you most. If you want to work with mental health agencies, private practices, or hospitals a clinical track is best for you. If working with students interests you, school or college counseling is your best bet. Try and talk to people in the field and ask around if you are unsure. There is a lot of overlap in each track, so if you end up switching tracks (like me!), that is totally doable. 


Perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself when you are deciding to become a therapist is the WHY. Why therapy and not sales or marketing? What is it about being of service to others feels appealing? Taking a deep dive into yourself as to why you want to bear witness to others’ deepest pains, joys, and sorrows and be there with them in it is extremely important. I highly recommend working with a therapist to unpack your own personal reasoning for wanting to be a counselor. Contact  Symmetry Counseling to set up an appointment by calling 312-578-9990 or scheduling an appointment here.   

Sources Cited: 

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