How to Become a Therapist Without a Degree

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To become a psychologist, you’ll need some qualifications. To work towards those qualifications, you’ll need to study psychology in your undergraduate programme and then continue your further study on an appropriate postgraduate programme. But, what if you realise that you wish to work as a psychologist after you’ve completed your degree in another academic discipline, can you then become a therapist without a degree?

Yes, you can. Or, you may wonder, how to become a therapist without a degree at all?

That’s what we’re going to discuss here today.

So, without further delay, let’s get started as we have a lot on our hands to discuss.

Table of Contents

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How to Become a Therapist Without a Degree

Degrees are costly and time-consuming. Seeing that many universities are forced to operate through online platforms or not at all, it is understandable why many people would wonder how to land their dream jobs without going through the hassles of a degree.

Unfortunately, you can not become a therapist without a relevant degree.

Why?

Because a professional therapist is just like a doctor, dentist, or a nurse. They have the potential to influence lives. Would you want just any amateur to diagnose your issues and lay down a solution for you without having to know what they are even talking about?

 There’s a reason why people aren’t trusted with such a responsibility without any formal training. There is always that potential to do harm.

Therapist roles such as educational therapists, marriage and family therapists, and organisational therapists may only require us to hold a master’s degree. But, other positions, such as clinical psychologists and counselling psychologists, require a PhD or PsyD.

But the fact is that just about anyone can call themselves a “psychologist” and work under the label. Even some psychological approaches like simpler forms of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy involve people working under the broad area of mental health. For example, counsellors, nurses, psychotherapists etc. In some cases, you’ll find that there is no advantage to taking formal qualifications or studying for a degree in psychology, or there will be no need for it.

Become a Therapist

Chartered Psychologist

But this is where the discussion about chartered psychologists comes in. An online search for psychologists working in private practice will show you how often they describe themselves as a Chartered Psychologists. This status also helps them to obtain Professional Indemnity Insurance.

 If you wish to do private practice or work for organisations such as the NHS, you have to be a chartered psychologist. Therefore, your qualification has to meet the standards set by the British Psychology Society or BPS.

BPS approved qualifications usually follow this route: an undergraduate degree that leads to the Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR) and a suitable postgraduate qualification.

Alternatives

Let’s discuss a range of alternative scenarios that can lead to you becoming a therapist.

1.  No undergrad degree or your degree has no relevance to social science

If you-

then your only option is to continue your studies at that level.

2.  The degree is from a non-UK university

However, if you do have an undergraduate degree in psychology, but it’s from a university that’s not in the UK, then you’ll have to meet the BPS requirements. If your degree is equivalent in content and standard to a UK psychology degree, then you don’t have to worry.

3.  Psychology degree not accredited by BPS or degree in another subject

What if you do have a psychology degree, but the BPS does not accredit it? Or, you have a degree in another subject in which you studied some psychology?

In these scenarios, you have two options.

First,

You can convert your existing qualification to the equivalence of an honours degree in psychology by taking a conversion course. Many universities offer these courses. At the time of this writing, we identified at least 30 universities where these courses are offered. Most lead to some form of post-graduate award. The most common of which are Master of Education- MEd or a Postgraduate Diploma. It will take about a year for you to complete these, but this may vary from institution to institution.

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Second,

You can also take the Qualifying Exam offered by the BPS. But in this case, you’ll need to have a portfolio of four or more articles that are empirical in approach. They have to cover the range of issues in psychology and a variety of analytic methods. But remember that the exam will cover the full range of the discipline.

Let’s introduce you to a brief list of all the topics covered in their testing and the fees associated with them. This will give you an idea of how prepared you are to take a BPS qualification exam.

However, remember, they also have a student rate of their fees. But, to quote their own website,

“To be eligible for a student rate of membership, you must be a student undertaking a full or part-time undergraduate or postgraduate programme of study, and not in receipt of a taxable income.”

You’ll also need to renew your entry on the Register of Qualifications in Test Use (RQTU) annually. The fee for both regular and student members is £41.00.

Also, note that the BPS qualifications are divided into three levels. These are-

1.   Assistant Test User

2.  Test User

3.  Specialist in Test Use (Occupational only)

I’m going to assume that you’re already familiar with these. However, if you’re not familiar with these terms, please refer to the BPS website. You’ll find the definition and details of what these qualifications entail.

So, these are the qualification modules and fees (as of at the time of this writing) according to the BPS website.

4.  PhD in Psychology but no first degree in the same

So, what if you have a doctoral degree in psychology, but your first degree is not in the same subject? Even in this case, you’ll have to take the conversion route.

Become a Therapist

Summary of our discussion

Let’s summarise everything that we’ve discussed under the “How to Become a Therapist Without a Degree” heading so far. To become a Chartered Psychologist, you have two main options available to you.

1.  Enrol on a formal programme of study offered by various UK universities 

2.  Sign up for the BPS’ qualifying examination

Remember, you have to factor in the considerable amount of additional study and cost that you’ll incur on either of these options.

If you’re up for it and you decide to proceed on either of these routes, you’ll eventually have to pass the qualification exams. 

After that, you’ll take further study and training to gain the final qualifications needed to work as a Chartered Psychologist.

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Therapist Without an Official Title

Remember the fact that the British Psychology Society (BPS) doesn’t accredit every psychology degree. So other routes can get you in the industry with an undergraduate degree. You can help those with mental health issues as such too.

Listed below are some of those routes. These professions don’t require the additional training with an undergraduate degree that the route to therapist tend to have. You can be a therapist to some extent, but just without the official title of a therapist.

Life Coach

Life coaches deal with people struggling with everyday life. Life coaching is not about mental health disorders but rather a comprehensive look at understanding and exploring our emotions and thoughts.

Emotional struggles affect almost everyone- whether they are suffering from mental health illnesses or not. This is where the counsel of a life coach can help a ton. It’s not just the negative experiences such as the death of a close person or a breakup. Life coaches also help us with guidance to big decisions such as undertaking the prospect of a job change, career change, moving to a new city or a country etc. They provide the proper guidance to help clients make the decision that’s best suited to their circumstances and help them understand why they need to make these decisions and how to make them. In short, they help us have a comprehensive understanding of our decisions.

The mode of their practice helps us understand our thoughts better, identify any drawbacks in our thoughts that may be holding us back and also help us figure out a way to eliminate them.

Many institutions offer life coaching courses and certification, but make sure you choose a quality one as your training will determine your skills. When it comes to these sorts of courses, prices aren’t a very good indication of the quality. So do your research and then select one that you think will help you adequately.

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Mental Health Counsellor

Mental Health counsellors tend to focus on typical life issues, like relationship problems. But specialising in more in-depth issues such as eating disorders is also an option for mental health counsellors.

The main goal of these professionals is to help us go through a crisis and get back on our feet as soon as possible. But if the issue is so severe that ordinary counselling may not be able to solve the issue, then your mental health counsellor will refer you to a qualified therapist.

You can practice at a basic level as a mental health counsellor with a certificate for the introduction of counselling. The course takes roughly a year to complete.

But, if you want to specialise in a particular area, that is also a viable option. Practice for a bit at a basic level, and you’ll figure out which area interests you the most, and you can specialise in that area.

Become a Therapist

Marriage and Family Therapy

A marriage and family therapist provides therapy services to individuals in the context of their relationships.

If you choose this course of study, you will focus on systems theory. It is basically a branch of therapy that attempts to understand how an individual functions in their natural system, like their birth family or within their marriage. A marriage and family therapist views this system from a broader perspective. This can include the immediate family, extended family, and even social or community groups.

Alcohol and Drug Counsellor

Alcohol and drug counsellors work with people dealing with substance abuse problems. Their clients may come voluntarily, or they can even be court-ordered.

Become a Therapist

Career Counsellor

Career counsellors help outline and discuss career options with people. They can do this at any stage of life. Whether that be choosing, changing or leaving a career, career counsellors provide guidance in all of these scenarios.

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Difference Between a Psychologist, a Therapist & a Counsellor

All these roles and responsibilities can overlap, so it can often be confusing. The field or industry that each position is being performed in is one of the significant distinctions between them.

Psychologists

Therapists

Counsellors

Conclusion

Therapists are an essential resource for many individuals, couples, and families. They help them navigate stressful, emotional, or traumatic life events and circumstances. There’s a reason why people are searching “How to become a therapist without a degree?” online. Careers in therapy tend to offer higher than average salaries, and the job growth is very favourable compared to many other occupations. You can also call these professions “future proof”, which means they are very unlikely to be irrelevant or unimportant anytime soon. You can indeed become a therapist without a degree, but as we’ve discussed, this depends mainly on the kind of therapist that you want to be.

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