For Those Who Want to Become a Therapist:

For Those Who Want to Become a Therapist:


We are starting a new blog post series focused on those who would like to pursue becoming a therapist. The plan is to breakdown important questions to not only ask your future graduate school, but to ask yourself.


Now, as a precursor to this post, I want to direct your attention to a post our director, Andrea, has written about what it takes education wise to become a therapist, as well as how to maximize your own therapy experience. She states in “Maximizing Therapy”,


By the time a new therapist graduates from their masters program, they have spent more than 600 hours in graduate level classrooms taking courses dedicated to the art of helping people with life problems.  They have sweated almost 2000 hours on homework and completed 1000 hours of supervised internship.  All at a price tag of over $35,000 (minimum).  Upon graduation, they must work under supervision for at least two years, complete an additional 1500 hours of client service and pass a national competency exam.  When you show up in a therapist’s office, or log on to their teletherapy platform, you are meeting with a highly trained clinician who is there to help you reach your mental, emotional, and relational health goals.


Whew. The journey to licensure is no joke, but is highly rewarding to those who believe being a therapist is part of their calling. Let’s dive in to a few questions to ask yourself as you decide whether this journey is right for you.


Why do you want to be a therapist?

This will be a common question on graduate school applications. Take some time as you are researching different schools to explore what is driving you. 

Every individual enters into the master’s program for a different reason, many times because of their own stories. Responding from a place of healing and wanting the same for others can be powerful.

Alfred Adler was a psychotherapist in the 1900’s. (You’ll learn about him in grad school.) He commented on the nature of therapists who have struggled through different aspects of life and the power that comes from having done your own work. Now it was written in 1928, but there is much truth to what he says.

There must be experience [for the therapists] as well. A real appreciation for human nature, in the face of our inadequate education today, will be gained by only one class of human beings. These are the contrite sinners, either those who have been in the whirlpool of psychic life, entangled in all its mistakes and errors, and saved themselves out of it, or those who have been close to it and felt its current touching them….The best knower of the human soul will be the one who has lived through passions himself. (pg. 13)


Are you open to doing your own work?

One of the best mirrors to your own unhealed areas in life will be your clients. This is why it is so vital that you have explored your own story before sitting with someone else. Your clients are not there to save you, fix you, or help you figure out your stuff. You are there for them. As our supervisor, Larry Shyers, loves reminding us, “It is never ever, ever, ever, ever about you”.

I highly encourage you to continue therapy throughout graduate school. Implement the things you are learning, allow yourself to go on the adventure. Having an openness to growth and knowing that you are selecting a profession that will constantly challenge you is a necessity. 

If not, then when something comes up in session that reveals an area of wounding in you, it is so much easier to stick your head in the sand and push it down. When this happens, we can cause harm. The session inadvertently becomes about us and our own avoidance, thus taking the focus off the individuals coming to us for help.

At the end of the day, you are pursing a profession that has a profound impact on people’s lives. You may be the first person they share their deepest, darkest moments with. You may be the only support they have at this time. Please don’t take that for granted. Realize the impact you have on people’s lives and walk through your own story. Pursue your own healing. 

At the same time, you also have to realize that you cannot save your clients or rescue them from their problems (as much as we wish we could). There will be nights this rocks you to the core. There will be days you wish you could pull them out, especially when they are not a number or a “session” to you.

Continuing to walk through your own story helps you remain present and humble, no matter who may walk through your door. It also creates an environment of authenticity in the room that can be felt (even through telehealth).

Join us next week as we continue to explore important considerations and aspects of learning how to be a therapist.

Career Work

One of the courses I teach regularly is Career Development.  As a result, that topic is regularly on my radar.  I really enjoy teaching the class and love even more – working with people who are making decisions about their career.  So, how does the process work?

Career development begins with knowing yourself.  (Does this blog have a theme or what?) How can we determine our best career fit if we don’t fully know ourselves?  Thus, the counseling process begins with working collaboratively to drill down to the true self – who God created you to be.  I use a combination of the Career Style Interview (CSI) developed by Savickas as well as results from familiar assessments like the MBTI or the Strong Interest Inventory.  Assessments are wonderful for identifying specific traits, interests and talents but if the goal is to get to know the true self, we have to go deeper and that’s where the CSI comes in.  It offers a creative way to explore who you really are, the foundational ideals that define you, environments in which you thrive, how you deal with problems, and the deeper preoccupations that drive you.  This gives context to the assessment results.

The second part of the career development process applies to clients who wish to include their faith journey.  For this, I use Gordon T Smith’s book, Courage and Calling.  It is the best resource I’ve found for walking through the process of discerning God’s call on our lives.  Not everyone is a reader so perhaps we use the book on audio or I share the videos I’ve created from the book for the class I teach…whatever works to get into the material.  Then, we digest it all according to your learning style: journaling, expressive projects or discussion.

The peak of the process is in stepping back and looking at all the data: the contextual picture of self, specific assessment results, and the spiritual principles learned (if we took that route).  At this stage, I provide interpretation and suggestions to help you create the vision for your future that feels most authentic to your God-given purpose.  Homework usually involves the research needed to craft your specific strategy – typically interviews with folks in your field of interest, visits to schools if further education is required, etc.  With this information, we are able to set out a step by step plan for walking in your vocation.

Incidentally, as we work through this career focus, it is not unusual to uncover issues that need counseling attention: holes in self knowledge, self esteem deficiencies, unaddressed losses or traumas that hinder living out your calling.  In such cases, you have the option to detour and attend to it, or simply make note of the need and commit to the work at a later date.  Overall, the career development process can be one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences in counseling!