How to become a psychotherapist

Job description: What does a psychotherapist do?

Many people who are in a difficult phase of their life or suffer from a psychological, emotional or psychosomatic disorder seek psychotherapeutic help. However, it is often about uncovering and coming to terms with traumatic experiences in childhood that can burden you well into adulthood.

At the beginning of psychotherapy, there is an anamnesis, i.e., inquiring about the patient’s history. It helps the therapist to recognize which disorder they are suffering from. Another important function is creating a relationship of trust; because the success of the therapy depends very much on the extent to which the client can open up during the therapy sessions. Based on the problem, the psychotherapist selects the appropriate form of therapy. The most common are:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: It assumes that human behavior and thoughts, feelings, and individual self-image have been learned and can be changed through targeted exercises. As an essential part of this form of therapy, the patient, either alone or in the company of his / her therapist, exposes himself to specific fear-inducing situations, for example, taking a lift as a claustrophobic or climbing a tower with a fear of heights.
  • Psychoanalysis: It goes back to Sigmund Freud, who was convinced that the causes of psychological problems and conflicts are mostly to be found in early childhood. The aim is to work through repressed traumatic childhood experiences and injuries with the psychotherapist’s help and to overcome them. The interpretation of dreams also plays a significant role here.
  • Systemic therapy deals not only with the person affected but also with his social environment and the relationships, especially the conflicts between him and the other group members. In addition to individual therapy, couples, family, or group therapies are also offered.
  • Hypnotherapy, mainly used for patients with fears, phobias, panic attacks, eating disorders, and psychosomatic disorders, is not ordinary. The psychotherapist makes use of the patient’s altered state of consciousness during a trance. Hypnosis mostly serves as a supplement to classic therapeutic approaches.

Psychotherapists are employed in the following industries: in psychotherapeutic practices or community practices, in hospitals and (psychosomatic) clinics, in the health care system, in counseling centers, and prisons and reform homes. Numerous large companies also employ industrial psychotherapists.

Average salary: How much does a Psychotherapist make in the United States?

The average salary for a psychotherapist is $67,000 per year ($49.50 per hour) in the United States. Wages typically start from $54,600 and go up to $113,200.

Source: U.S. Bureau of labor statistics

Psychotherapist responsibilities and requirements

The prerequisite for working as a psychotherapist is a completed degree in psychology, followed by a three-year or five-year full-time or part-time training course. Also, the profession requires constant readiness for further training.

Depending on the area of ​​activity, a psychotherapist must have specific specialist skills. This includes knowledge of different therapy methods and their possible uses. It is also essential to have a good understanding of people and good powers of observation. This is the only way to interpret the symptoms of mental illnesses and addictions correctly.

Anyone leading a therapy group should be able to perceive and control dynamic group processes in good time. Two of the essential personal requirements that a psychotherapist should bring with them are friendliness and pleasure in dealing with other people. Patients who confide in him/her expect secrecy, discretion, and acceptance. They want their problems to be taken seriously. It is not always easy to devote yourself to each of them with full attention, but it is also one of the profession’s requirements.

The therapist should be eloquent and open-minded and listen patiently to the client and accept their limitations. Despite all the sensitivity, he/she must be able to maintain an inner distance from his / her problems and not make them his / her own. This is the only way to keep your mental health over a long period.

As in many other professions, flexibility, reliability, an independent, self-reliant way of working, and the ability to work in a team are on the wish list of employers.