How does someone become a behavioral health professional? What education and training is required?

Determining a career path within the field of behavioral health can be a daunting and overwhelming process. You already know that you have a passion for helping others and you want to be a part of developing a better community, but what do you have to do to put that passion into practice? There are several different ways that you could pursue a career in behavioral health; and it is highly recommended to research the different options to find the best fit for you. Some options you may consider include becoming a behavioral health therapist, a social worker, or a psychologist. All of these options have a similar career path that begins with a bachelor’s degree. Keep reading for an overview of what is needed to become a behavioral health professional.

Obtain a Bachelor’s degree. Choosing your major for your bachelor’s degree is important because it will help you build a foundation for your future career in the behavioral health field. It is recommended that your major be selected from within the social sciences, which includes psychology and sociology.

Get accepted into an accredited Master’s program. This will be where you choose what licensure you want to work towards, such as a behavioral health therapist or a social worker. Be sure to look for a program with CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs) accreditation.

Complete hands-on experience. At the end of your Master’s program, you will have to complete your internship where your skills are developed and supervised by a professor. Each program has a specific number of hours that you have to complete working with actual clients.

Complete Doctoral program. This is not necessary for most professions in the behavioral health field, however your goals may require a doctoral degree.

Pass any required exams. Most states and programs will require you to complete a national licensing exam before applying for licensure. Be sure to look for your specific states and programs requirements for these exams.

Obtain supervision. To maintain your license, you will need to have weekly supervision with a licensed professional for a specified number of hours. Supervision is typically needed the first two years of having your license. Supervision is often something that you will pay for out of pocket, so it would be beneficial to ask possible employers if they provide supervision to employees.

Apply for that dream job and continue educating yourself. The learning does not stop once you graduate and get that dream job. Continuing education credits are required to maintain your license. Check your state and programs specific requirements for continuing education.

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