Can I Start a Therapy Practice with Only a Master’s in Counseling?

Therapy is a complex subject and takes many different forms. Those who practice it professionally as counselors seek to understand and help people manage mental and emotional issues ranging from financial crises and relationship issues to more deep-rooted psychological issues. Some therapists work with other healthcare professionals or under supervision of a larger authority such a hospital or physician’s office, but some choose to establish their own private practice in order to work on a more independent basis. If you’re considering becoming a licensed therapist and entering into a private practice, then you should know the requirements for doing so. The following will discuss whether a master’s degree is sufficient for opening a private therapy practice.

Educational & Training Requirements

Educational and training requirements vary by occupation. Depending on the type of therapy you choose, you will need to meet different qualifications. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics recognizes four different categories of therapy: mental health or marriage and family, rehabilitation, school and career and substance abuse. Each of these counseling designations requires different educational requirements, but they all share one common feature: All four categories require a master’s degree in order to offer a full range of services. For example, rehabilitative counselors may find work with only a bachelor’s degree, but they cannot offer the same services as those with a master’s degree. The important thing to note is that a practicing therapist does not need an advanced degree such as a doctorate. Those who wish to pursue a doctorate might be more competitive in the job market, but you don’t need a doctorate in order to practice.

Licensure Qualifications

Of course, with every generalization there are exceptions, and in this case, holding a master’s degree alone does not necessarily qualify someone to open his or her own therapy practice. You will also need a valid license. The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) mandates that all counselors who wish to operate independently be granted a license, and licenses require a master’s degree plus two years of post-master’s work under the supervision of a licensed counselor. Additionally, they need to pass a licensure exam, which is administered on a state or national level.

Independent Practice

If you want to practice as an independent therapist, then you can do so with a master’s degree provided that you also complete the additional two years of supervised work and pass the licensure exam. The type of therapy you choose dictates the amount of work necessary to practice independently. School and career counselors, for example, must be credentialed according to their state standards, which might require additional work in the field of education. Mental health or family and marriage counselors must hold a master’s degree plus 2,000 to 4,000 hours of clinical experience supervised by a licensed counselor. Other requirements may apply, but the fact remains that as long as you hold a master’s degree and complete additional supervised work experience, then you may start a therapy practice and work independently.

Linked Sources:
How to Become a Mental Health Counselor or Marriage and Family Therapist

How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

How to Become a School or Career Counselor