How to Become a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist

Updated February 21, 2017

According to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (NACBT), cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) refers to a broad range of therapy techniques that all utilise similar approaches in emphasising how the individual thinks when acting. CBT utilises techniques to change the emotional response of the individual, or change the way that the patient thinks, in order to bring about a new and better response to circumstances in his life. CBT is utilised by psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and other mental health professionals. Becoming a cognitive-behavioural therapist requires extensive training in the mental health field. Aside from formal training to become a therapeutic care provider, cognitive-behavioural therapists usually engage in extensive training beyond their graduate-level education.

Earn you bachelor's degree. Most cognitive-behavioural therapy training programs require that you attain professional credentials in a mental health field like counselling, which will require a graduate degree. Your bachelor's degree can be in any field that you wish, but you can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to reach your goal by majoring in psychology, social work or any other field that emphasises mental health or therapeutic services like, for example, psychiatric nursing.

Complete a master's degree or doctoral program in a therapeutic health field. Depending on what type of therapy you plan on providing, you can complete a degree program that corresponds with your overall goal of becoming a therapist that utilises cognitive-behavioural techniques. If you plan on working as a counsellor, most states will only require that you obtain a master's degree in order to be fully licensed. Psychologists and psychiatrists need to obtain a doctorate degree. Psychologists typically obtain a PhD, while psychiatrists must hold both PhD and MD in order to practice. Occupational therapy is yet another field you may delve into and apply the techniques of cognitive-behavioural therapy. Which route you go is ultimately up to you and is based on your overall goals as a therapist.

Apply for and obtain licensing in the state in which you intend to practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all 50 states require licensure of mental health therapy professionals. Licensing usually requires a master's degree or higher, a supervised internship and one to two years of supervised experience working in your field. Once all qualifications have been met, you can apply for and take your state's licensing examination.

Seek additional training in cognitive-behavioural therapy. This can usually be accomplished through an organisation that is devoted to the practice of cognitive-behavioural therapy, like the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research in Philadelphia or the NACBT. The Beck Institute offers regular workshops, postdoctoral fellowships, webinars and videoconferencing seminars, and even individualised programs of instruction under the supervision of a cognitive-behavioural therapy expert. The NACBT offers various seminars and workshops as well as in-house training in facilities like hospitals and mental health centres.

Obtain certification from a nationally recognised organisation like the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists. The NACBT offers four different certifications in cognitive-behavioural therapy. Certification requires a combination of education and experience, along with the completion of a cognitive-behavioural therapy training program recognised by the NACBT.

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About the Author

Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.