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How to Become a CBT Therapist

Updated March 23, 2017

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that encompasses several different approaches, including cognitive therapy, dialectic behaviour therapy and rational emotive behaviour therapy. Therapists who use this approach emphasise the role our thoughts and behaviours play in our lives. To become a CBT therapist, you must study at the graduate level and train under someone who specialises in this therapy. You can get certified from the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, an organisation that brings standards and uniformity to the field.

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  1. Complete a bachelor's degree program in psychology, social work, counselling or related field. Take any electives offered that focus on cognitive-behavioural therapy or cognition and behaviour in general. Participate in volunteer research at one of your professors' laboratories.

  2. Ask your undergraduate professors for references to graduate programs that emphasise the cognitive-behavioural therapy approach. Look through the most recent edition of the APA's "Graduate Study in Psychology" guide if you're looking for an APA-accredited psychology program. Read program descriptions to determine training emphases. Try to find one that offers cognitive and behavioural therapy training. For example, Eastern Michigan University, Caldwell College and Long Island University all have programs that emphasise this approach or have faculty, as of publication, that specialise in CBT therapy.

  3. Complete the master's or doctoral program in psychology, social work, counselling or related field. Look for a postdoctoral or internship training site which has clinicians or psychologists that use the CBT treatment modality or a similar approach.

  4. Seek employment within a mental health facility or private practice. Provide psychological and therapeutic services to clients and apply CBT principles to each case. Contact the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists to obtain case supervision and continue this practice for six years to meet the requirements for NACBT certification.

  5. Complete one of the certification programs recognised by the NACBT, such as the Rational Living Therapy or Cognitive Therapy program.

  6. Obtain three letters of recommendation from mental health professionals who are familiar with your cognitive-behavioural skills and use of the therapy. These can be from supervisors or even colleagues who can verify your experience.

  7. Download the "Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist" application from the NACBT or request one to be sent to you from the Association. Send your application along with the required fee and all supporting materials to the NACBT. Wait for the Association to accept your application and certify you as a cognitive-behavioural therapist.

  8. Tip

    You can search for psychology internship and postdoctoral training opportunities in the directory online at the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers' (APPIC) website. If you want to get licensed as a practicing psychologist, check the requirements of your state's board of psychology before you apply to graduate schools to determine if you must attend an APA-accredited program.

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About the Author

Matthew Schieltz has been a freelance web writer since August 2006, and has experience writing a variety of informational articles, how-to guides, website and e-book content for organizations such as Demand Studios. Schieltz holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He plans to pursue graduate school in clinical psychology.

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