How To Become A Behavioral Therapist [2022 Guide]
If your forte is helping people overcome their challenges and have better relationships then becoming a Behavioural Therapist might be just right for you.
As with any other profession or career, becoming a behavioral therapist involves several processes including getting trained, earning degrees, and being licensed.
Follow us as we explore ways on how to become a behavioral therapist, career opportunities, and salaries.
How To Become A Behavioral Therapist
Although the process of becoming a behavioral therapist may vary depending on the type of therapy you decide to specialize in, the steps listed below will give you a general idea of what to expect.
1. Earn A Bachelor’s Degree
Earning a bachelor’s degree in fields like psychology, counseling, social work or a related field is the first step to realising your dream of becoming a behavioral therapist. It provides you with sound knowledge and a strong foundation in behavioral therapy.
2. Get An Advanced Degree
Most employers require applicants to have an advanced degree. It could either be a master’s or a doctorate in counseling, social work, occupational therapy, psychology, behavior analysis, or any other related field depending on your area of focus.
3. Gain Relevant Work Experience
As a behavioral therapist, you need practical experience working with a specific population like adults struggling with substance abuse or children with autism.
Before you receive a license for independent practice, you would have to earn a set number of post-graduate hours under the supervision of professionals. Most students gain this experience through internships.
4. Apply For State Licensure
Behavioral therapists are required to hold a clinical license as social workers in their area of specialty to work in private practice. Requirements and professional titles for clinical licensure vary by state.
The National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) are approved industry exams and the states typically expect applicants to have passed them.
5. Pursue Certifications
Certification shows commitment to superior professionalism, and demonstrates expertise, competence, and continued learning. There are many certifications for behavioral therapists and they are offered by professional industry groups. In some states, you can get certifications before getting a license.
What Is A Behavioral Therapy?
Behavioral therapy focuses on helping people change their patterns of behavior and thoughts.
It is a broad field with several sub-disciplines, including cognitive behavioral therapy and applied behavior analysis.
Behavioral therapy techniques can be useful for a range of conditions or experiences. It is particularly beneficial for people with autism, anxiety, depression, substance abuse disorders, and more.
Behavioral therapists use different techniques including positive reinforcement, modelling, role-playing, and breathing exercises. These techniques or procedures are used to help individuals improve their self-control and learn new abilities and skills.
Common Types Of Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapy is a broad term with sub-categories. Here are some common types of behavioral therapy;
1. Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy
Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that is used to improve social, communication, and learning skills through reinforcement strategies. It is mostly used for children with autism spectrum disorders.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that is used to help people learn how to identify and change the destructive or disturbing thought patterns that influence their behavior and emotions negatively.
The idea behind CBT is that, by adjusting people’s thoughts, you can help them change the ways that they feel and act. Through therapy, people learn tools and techniques for overcoming negative patterns in their lives.
3. Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy
CBPT is a form of CBT based on cognitive and behavioral techniques designed especially for young children between the ages of 2 and 8.
These therapy techniques are utilised to illustrate social skills development for elementary school students and used as a treatment for mental health conditions in children..
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4. Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical Behavior therapy is useful for people with personality disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It emphasises acceptance, mindfulness and other techniques to manage feelings.
5. Exposure Therapy
This type of therapy is particularly for individuals with specific fears or aversions. With controlled exposures, it helps people overcome their fears.
Behavioral Therapist Skills
A good behavioral therapist is expected to have the following skills;
- Good listening skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Ability to engage and motivate others
- Strong verbal and written communication skills
- Problem-solving skills to help patients identify solutions to their problems
- Behavioral analysis
- Detail oriented
Career Opportunities As A Behavioral Therapist
Your training in behavioural therapy opens you up to numerous career opportunities in different fields including heallthcare, education, social service and criminal justice. Below are some careers in behavioral health or therapy;
1. Behavior Disorder Therapist
Behavioral therapists provide counselling services for kids and adults in different settings including hospitals, community service agencies, group homes, prisons, or private practice offices.
As a behavioral therapist, your patients could be persons with autism, anxiety, depression, addictions, or other concerns.
2. School Psychologist
With your knowledge in behavioral therapy, you could become a school psychologist where you are able to meet students’ needs (behavioral disorders and learning needs).
3. Health Services Manager
These professionals do not work directly with patients.
They help run a mental health organization and are responsible for organising work schedules, staffing a behavioral health practice, planning budgets, coordinating communication, and ensuring regulatory compliance.
Behavior Therapy Careers & Salaries
Here are some careers in behavior therapy and their average salaries according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
|Annual Median Salaries
|Medical and Health Services Managers
|Social and Community Service Managers
|Special Education Teachers
|School and Career Counselors and Advisors
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
|Preschool and Childcare Center Directors
Behavioral Therapist Qualifications
Having the necessary educational qualifications are one of the crucial ways of becoming a behavioral therapist. Most therapists have an advanced degree and your career options depend on it and your area of study..
Professional credentials demonstrate that you are sufficiently trained and prepared to be an expert who can implement positive reinforcement and interventions. Some common credentials include;
- Individual DBT Therapist
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
- Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Group Facilitator (CBGF)
Behavioral Therapy Programs Accreditation
If you are selecting a school to attend, you should opt for schools that are accredited. Accredited schools are verified to provide high quality education and facilities that can help you achieve your goals.
Whether you are applying for a masters or doctorate degree, or transfering to another school it’s important that you look out for regionally accredited schools. Boards for licensing and certification also require relevant studies from accredited colleges.
Behavioral therapists deal with a variety of approaches to help people change their behavior.
Becoming a behavioral therapist involves a couple of processes including earning a bachelor’s degree, pursuing an advanced degree, and getting licensed.
You can take up online classes; most of them are affordable with flexible schedules that will suit you. Of course, it will take some time to achieve these things but the payoff would be worth it.
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