To become a mental health counselor, professionals must obtain an advanced graduate degree (master’s or doctoral) in mental health counseling or a related equivalent, such as marriage and family therapy.
While many professionals have college undergraduate degrees in psychology, this background is not always required. In fact, becoming a clinician later in life or as a second career has become increasingly more common, with studies highlighting that 22% of mental health counseling doctoral students were between ages 35 and 44, and 12% were aged 45 to 59.
Students should consider school accreditations, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) in their application processes, as these may increase employment opportunities after graduation.
All mental health counseling students must also engage in professional practice, which includes extensive practicum and internship experience under licensed supervision. These experiences provide students with the opportunity to apply theory and begin initial stages of performing therapy and clinical services.