How to Become a Social Therapist

Last Updated: June 23, 2024

Social Therapist Career

Most people act differently when they are alone or with different groups of individuals. That’s because our peers almost always influence our actions, thoughts, and behaviors. Social therapists focus on how people impact and are impacted by other individuals, social settings, and social environments.

Social therapists are similar to sociologists, but instead of studying society and social interactions as a whole – as do sociologists – the focus of social therapists is that of individual behavior. These professionals examine how society as a whole influences the actions, thoughts, and choices of individuals.

Many social therapists work with clients to help them cope with and overcome life’s issues. Social therapists do this by listening to their patients, assessing their needs, and working with the client to create a coping strategy.

These professionals often work in close collaboration with other mental health professionals including counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists.

What Does a Social Therapist Do?

Social therapists help their clients get along in the world. Social therapists are highly educated and trained specialists who help their clients face and cope effectively with such issues as relationships, depression and anxiety, marital discord, stress, grief, trauma and the like.

A social therapist is usually a trained and licensed mental health counselor. In general, a social therapist will help evaluate the problem or set of problems that a client faces, help develop of treatment plan for that client and will help implement that treatment plan along with the client.

Some of what a social therapist will do on a daily basis will be dictated by the employment setting and by the therapist’s theoretical orientation.

For example, a social therapist in a county mental health program may perform intake assessment to determine a client’s needs, and may determine those needs are best suited to individual or group therapy. The therapist can see clients in either setting.

If a social therapist is employed at a college or university, for example, he or she may spend the majority of their time engaged in researching social issues such as childhood obesity, race relations, and conflict management.

Theoretical orientation will dictate how a social therapist works with a client. Some social therapists specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In cognitive behavioral work, treatment modalities focus on changing thought and behavior patterns which cause a client to suffer.

A psycho-dynamic therapist will use a client’s past relationships and unconscious thought patterns to help the client gain a deeper sense of self awareness which can help the client understand their present behavior and feelings. There are many theoretical orientations that a social therapist may use and adhere to.

While most of the therapeutic work is done while talking with the therapist, occasionally, a social therapist may use other tools such as journals, art therapy, or the sculpting of family members into a tableau to highlight familial hierarchies and alliances.

Social therapists can also recreate real-world environments in a controlled setting and observe the actions and behaviors of participants. Some other forms of research may involve interviewing specific individuals while monitoring brain activity with sophisticated equipment.

However, for the most part, social therapists typically do the majority of their work in the field – watching real people in the real world. Their findings can be used in many industries. For instance, the research of a social therapist can be used to help marketing agencies learn how to use group influence in order to get more people to buy a particular brand.

Social therapists are indispensable agents in affecting societal change. Understanding social issues and how a group can influence each of the individuals in that group is the first step in rectifying some of the problems we face in our society.

Why Do We Need Social Therapists?

We live in a societies that value work, industry and the external. We go to school for years to gain a valuable education that will lead us to a great paying job. We experience stress at work, stress in our relationships, and sometimes unfulfilling and disappointing relationships.

While we spend years learning how to negotiate in our external world, we get little training to learn about our inner worlds. We have little understanding of our emotional make-up, how we function in relationships, and how we cope with stress, depression and anxiety in positive ways.

Social therapists spend years of training and in clinically supervised settings learning how to help people understand and negotiate their inner worlds, have deeper and more satisfying relationships with others, and to cope with such issues as addiction, depression, anxiety, stress and the like.

In addition, many mental health disorders can be frightening and embarrassing for a client.  Mental health disorders come in varying degrees of debilitation, but all clients need help and support learning to cope with a mental health disorder that is causing distress.

Social therapists can help a client find new and positive ways to cope with any number of mental health disorders and to lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

What are the Requirements to Become a Social Therapist?

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 recommended. 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.

Social Therapist Training

Once undergraduate and graduate degree programs are fulfilled, candidates may need 2000 to 3000 hours of internship. During this supervised training social therapists learn skills from qualified professionals and treat patients only with the help of a fully licensed social therapist.

Most places of employment may 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.

Social Therapist 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).

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.

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 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 22%.

An employment change of 77,500 between 2020 and 2030 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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