How to Become a Social Therapist

The Basics

Social therapists can work in marital, mental health, school, education, or private practice focusing on social behavior and interaction versus career advancement or planning. A social counselor may address family issues, coping skills, healthy relationships, anger management, physical and emotional abuse, stress, grief and loss, depression, self-injury, suicide, and addictions.

The main focus of social therapy is to help those with mental disorders, social challenges, addictions, or social anxieties. This may require the therapist to communicate with family, advocate for a patient’s needs, and hold therapy sessions.

A social therapist is available to help clients face their problems, find a strategy to cope with them, and have a better quality of life. Mental health issues can affect more than emotions, they can start to affect a person’s health. Social therapists help address the cause of a person’s emotions in order to adapt better in life and social situations.

Where Does a Social Therapist Work?

Social therapists can work in a variety of environments including hospitals, private practice, medical centers, schools, education, and their own practice. The work environment is demanding based on what the social therapist specializes in. Often, it is a team effort where the therapist works with psychologists, doctors, psychiatrists, and other health-oriented personnel.

What Does a Social Therapist Do?

The main job duties are to listen to the patient, accurately assess their mental health problem, and create a strategy for coping. Job duties also involve keeping proper paperwork as part of case management requirements. All therapists must maintain proper non-disclosure, as well as work within local, state, and federal laws.

What are the Requirements to Become a Social Therapist?

Education

Social therapist education begins with a 4 year bachelor’s degree program. Emphasis is placed on core courses along with psychology, counseling, sociology, and other similar electives. The bachelor’s degree in psychology or counseling is highly recommeded. The candidate needs to continue on to a graduate degree program to earn a master’s degree in counseling. Social therapists can also hold a master’s degree in social work as many places of employment accept both along with proper licensure.

Training

Once undergraduate and graduate degree programs are fulfilled, candidates need 2000 to 3000 hours of internship. During this training social therapists learn skills from qualified professionals, are supervised, and able to treat patients only with the help of a fully licensed social therapist. Most places of employment require at least 2 years’ experience, which is also what the licensing board requires. Continuing education courses, on the job training after initial training completion, and continual reading of psychology magazines is necessary to keep up with changes in a social therapist’s field.

Licensing and Certification

State licensing requirements will vary. It is possible to obtain a national license, National Certified Counselor (NCC) for social therapists. This license transfers from state to state. The state license can be Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). The NCC requires passing the National Counselor Examination, while state licensing can pass the NCC or NCMHCE (National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination) through the National Board for Certified Counselors. More information can be found at National Board for Certified Counselors website.

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Social therapists require knowledge of guidance and counseling procedures, patient appraisals/assessments, and critical thinking. The candidate should have excellent listening skills, and a patient demeanor to help their clients realize and cope with their issues. It also helps for candidates to have organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills. Depending on the work environment social therapists are in, they may need additional skills such as educational experience to work in a school or hospital rotations to deal with in-coming patients. For social therapists owning their own practice, managerial and marketing skills are necessary.

Opportunities for Advancement

Based on job placement several advancement opportunities are available. Candidates can continue their education to become psychologists or psychiatrists. A change of focus towards school, social work, or other therapy positions is also possible. Remaining as a social therapist advancement is mainly into supervisory positions or owning a business.

What is the Salary for a Social Therapist?

Social counselors fall into the mental health counselor category according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual wage in 2014 was $43,990, with a per hour breakdown of $21.15. Salary range can be as little as $26,030 and over $66,000 depending on the level of experience, education, and public or private sector work.

What is the Job Outlook for Social Therapists?

Mental health and all health industries are beginning to see a growth as baby boomers come closer to retirement and the need for retirement facilities. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, mental health or social counselors have the largest growth outlook at 29%. An employment change of 48,200 between 2012 and 2022 is projected. Part of the reason for a high growth rate is also due to mental health services being covered by insurance carriers making it an affordable option for those in need of counseling.

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