18 Behavior Therapy Degrees, Certifications, & Training Courses

Behavior TherapyChanging our behavior is hard, even if that behavior hurts us.

Maybe we drink too much alcohol when we’re stressed, shout at our kids when we’re mad, or simply withdraw from loved ones when we’re feeling low.

These are all unhelpful behaviors we probably know don’t get us anywhere good.

But if we’re able to replace behaviors that are damaging with more adaptive ones, this can be a powerful experience that offers us the opportunity to experience a different outcome.

At the heart of behavior therapies is the belief that taking action can create change, improve clients’ wellbeing, and alleviate or resolve symptoms associated with mental health issues.

If behavior therapy piques your interest, read on. In this article we’ll cover a variety of degrees, certifications, and training courses to consider.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive CBT Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will provide you with detailed insight into positive Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and give you the tools to apply it in your therapy or coaching.

6 Behavior Therapy Degrees & Certifications

How to become a licensed behavior therapist

Different kinds of mental health professionals may provide behavior therapy, such as behavior analysts, social workers, and psychologists. Your path to becoming a behavior therapist may look a little different depending on the qualifications and experience you have.

To get yourself on track to becoming a licensed behavior therapist, it’s worth checking what’s required in the region you want to work in before applying for any program. It’s safe to say you’ll need a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in a relevant field, several years of supervised practice under your belt, and a passing score on a state-mandated exam (Study.com, 2020).

Getting certified as a behavior therapist is optional and depends on the body you want to be certified by. For example, to become a certified Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist with the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (NACBT; 2021), you’ll need:

  • A master’s or doctoral degree within a specific field of psychology, counseling, social work, psychiatry, occupational therapy, or a similar field from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Six years of graduate experience delivering Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
  • Three letters of recommendation from mental health professionals.
  • Completion of an NACBT-recognized primary or introductory certification program in CBT.

Below is a mix of degree options in the United States that offer specific training in behavior therapies, including CBT and behavioral analysis.

 

Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis – Drexel University

Drexel University

This program is accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI).

Throughout the program, you’ll get the chance to focus on one of two pathways: autism spectrum disorders or social, emotional, and behavioral wellness. It is a part-time program, with completely online and hybrid learning options.

You can also choose between a ‘Thesis’ or ‘Practitioner’ capstone course, and you’ll be supported to complete fieldwork in a mental or behavioral healthcare facility. To be eligible, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above.

Find out more on their website.

 

Master of Arts in Applied Child and Adolescent Psychology: Prevention & Treatment – University of Washington

Particularly suitable for those passionate about using behavior therapy with children or young people, this program is a great introduction to principles of developmental psychology and treatment protocols with younger client groups.

There are lots of modules linked to behavior therapy, such as ‘Principles of Assessment & Behavior Change,’ ‘CBT for Anxiety and Mood Disorders,’ ‘Trauma-Focused CBT,’ and ‘Parenting Interventions.’

You can complete the program part time or full time. This is a hands-on degree, and students complete a supervised clinical practicum in a community or mental health facility for 9–12 months for roughly 2 days per week.

The degree aims to provide graduates with the basic competencies for licensure as a licensed mental health counselor. Minimum admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree, experience working with children, and a criminal background check.

Find out more on their website.

 

CBT Certification – The Beck Institute of CBT

Beck Institute

The Beck Institute was cofounded by the father of CBT, Aaron Beck, and offers a certification program for people wanting to become a Beck Institute-certified clinician.

These routes are designed for people who already have clinical experience and an educational background in this field.

To apply, you’ll need a terminal education degree with a behavioral or mental health specialization, continuing education or graduate training in a few specified areas, and 2,000 hours of supervised clinical work, among several other requirements.

Once accepted, you’ll complete a series of courses, such as ‘CBT for Depression,’ ‘CBT for Personality Disorders,’ and ‘Essentials of CBT.’ You will also complete a term of supervision, complete a therapy session work sample, and treat 10 cases using CBT.

Find out more on their website.

 

Master of Science in Behavior Analysis – Simmons University

This is the only master’s degree program accredited by the Behavior Analysis Accreditation Board of the ABAI in New England.

The program prepares you for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam. Their on-campus students achieved a first-time pass rate of 83% in 2020. The program is designed for working professionals, with evening classes available, and students complete 2,000 hours of supervised fieldwork.

Find out more on their website.

 

Master of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science – University of Kansas

University of Kansas

The University of Kansas has a few behavioral psychology programs on offer, including this master’s degree, which you can complete online or on campus.

This program provides the educational requirements to get licensed in Kansas as a board-certified behavior analyst.

The ABAI-accredited program focuses on the scientific and theoretical basis of behavioral science and research, but supervised experience in behavioral assessment, analysis, intervention, and evaluation is a significant part of the program. There is no minimum GPA requirement, but the program is competitive.

Find out more on their website.

 

PhD Counseling Psychology – Andrews University

Andrews University

The American Psychological Association accredited this doctoral counseling psychology program, which equips graduates with the skills to work in a range of settings. It will set you up for licensure as a professional psychologist.

You can expect to learn about a comprehensive range of theories and psychological perspectives, including biological, cognitive, social, developmental, and affective aspects of behavior.

A clinical practicum is, of course, a big part of the training, where you’ll learn about the importance of careful diagnosis, assessment, and evidence-based interventions. Among several requirements, you need a master’s degree in a counseling-related field to apply directly and a minimum GPA of 3.3.

Find out more on their website.

 

8 Best Courses and Programs to Consider

If you’re not looking to commit to a full degree program or you’re already a qualified mental health professional, there are lots of shorter and more flexible courses available that can contribute toward certification or continuing professional development hours.

 

Beck Institute of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Beck Institute

Are you a licensed mental health practitioner looking to expand your therapeutic repertoire? The Beck Institute provides a huge range of one-off, on-demand courses in CBT.

Below, we’ve listed a few of its offerings.

  • CBT for Depression
    An eight-module course that includes the foundations of CBT for depression, case conceptualization, beginning treatment, specific CBT techniques, and working with core beliefs and coping strategies. This course counts for 9.75 continuing education credits.

  • Integrating CBT and Mindfulness
    This two-day virtual workshop covers the basics of mindfulness and how to use mindfulness in CBT to treat disorders such as depression and anxiety. You’ll need a master’s or doctoral degree in a relevant field to apply.

  • CBT for Anger Management
    A two-day virtual workshop explores the cognitive-behavioral understanding and treatment of anger. The course covers areas such as core beliefs and hot thoughts, behavioral strategies, and role-play. You’ll need a master’s or doctoral degree in a relevant field to apply.

  • CBT for Anxiety
    This 12-module course covers topics including cognitive interventions, behavioral interventions, and specific anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety and panic disorder. You’ll learn from Beck Institute expert clinician Dr. Robert Hindman. This counts as 20 continuing education credits and is suitable for people with a background in a mental health or medical field.

Find out more on their website.

 

Behavior Therapy Training Institute, International OCD Foundation

International OCD Foundation

The Behavior Therapy Training Institute, sponsored by the International OCD Foundation, is a three-day intensive CBT course for mental health professionals working with people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The training is offered in various states and counts toward continuing education hours for psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors.

Find out more on their website.

 

The Association for Psychological Therapies (APT)

Association for Psychological Therapy

The APT has delivered CBT training for over 30 years, and courses are available in the United Kingdom and United States.

Here are some of their options:

  • CBT Essentials
    A three-day course (available online) covers the history of CBT, case conceptualization, theory, and techniques. This course is suitable for clinically skilled professionals who treat patients one-on-one or whole teams in inpatient or community settings.

  • CBT Masterclass
    This three-day course is designed for people with more than six months of practice following level-3 APT accreditation. It goes into more depth on many topics from the ‘Essentials’ course, but with a greater emphasis on skill development, demonstrations, and role-play.

  • 10-minute CBT, The BITS Course
    This two-day course (can be face-to-face or online) teaches you a six-step CBT approach that can be completed in 10 minutes. Many interactions between therapists and clients are short and informal, and therapists often need to capitalize on the brief time they have together.

Find out more on their website.

 

Online Behavior Therapy Training: 4 Options

Many of the courses and programs covered so far have online or virtual options, and it’s always worth checking what distance-learning options are available. If self-paced learning and shorter courses are a better fit for you, here are a couple more online options to consider.

 

Introduction to CBT: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – Udemy

udemy

Totally new to CBT? This course could help you get a good understanding of the ins and outs of the approach. If you’re a psychotherapist or coach, you might also find this course useful to inform your current practice.

Some of the areas covered include ‘Understanding the CBT triangle,’ ‘Identifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors,’ and ‘Finding alternatives.’ The 38 lectures amount to just under 2 hours in total. The instructor, Libby Seery, is an experienced psychotherapist, counselor, and award-winning training provider.

Find out more on their website.

 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Practitioner Certificate – Udemy

udemy

If you’re a practitioner wanting to learn more about CBT, this course could help you get a foundational understanding of the approach.

You don’t need any prior experience or knowledge of CBT to start, but this course is aimed at practitioners looking to gain skills in this area. The 32-hour course consists of 128 lectures.

You’ll cover a range of topics, such as ‘The Central Ideas of Cognitive Behavior Therapy’ and ‘Values as a Foundation for Wise Decision Making.’ The course trainer, Kain Ramsey, has a strong background in applied psychology and is a renowned instructor in his field in the Udemy community.

Find out more on their website.

 

CBT for Psychosis – Udemy

udemy

This highly popular six-hour course is designed for professionals offering treatment to people diagnosed with psychotic disorders.

The curriculum begins with the basics of how CBT can be helpful for psychosis and moves on to techniques of the approach and applications for specific issues, such as paranoia and delusional beliefs. The instructor is Ron Unger, a licensed clinical social worker with 17 years of experience in the field.

Find out more on their website.

 

Behavior Modification & Therapy – University of North Dakota

In this self-paced online course, you’ll discover how to apply the principles of learning to facilitate positive behavior modification in a range of settings. This course has broad appeal and may have applications in clinical psychology, parenting practices, school psychology, health psychology, and physical therapy.

There are 28 lessons and 4 proctored exams, which students complete within 3–9 months. You should have a foundational understanding of abnormal psychology, have completed their Introduction to Psychology course, and ideally be knowledgeable of the key symptoms of mental health disorders and illnesses.

Find out more on their website.

 

PositivePsychology.com’s Helpful Resources

We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg with behavior therapies, and there’s lots more to read about if you’re weighing up whether this is the right career pathway for you.

If you already deliver behavior therapy, here are a few resources from our Positive Psychology Toolkit© that could come in handy for your sessions with clients:

  • Habit Tracker
    This simple but effective tool can help clients track their habits, build or practice good habits, and break old unhelpful ones.

  • Costs and Benefits of Unhelpful Behavior
    Sometimes clients need support to tap into their motivation for change. This quick exercise can help clients reflect on the pros and cons of unhelpful behaviors from their perspective.

  • Realizing Long-Lasting Change by Setting Process Goals
    This is another brilliant action-oriented tool that helps clients align their behaviors with their goals for long-lasting change. Clients can explore how they’re going to incorporate new behaviors and habits into their life using a drastic, incremental, or chunking approach to change.

  • 17 Positive CBT Exercises
    If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others through CBT, check out this collection of 17 validated positive CBT tools for practitioners. Use them to help others overcome unhelpful thoughts and feelings, and develop more positive behaviors.

 

A Take-Home Message

Behavior therapy is an incredibly powerful and evidence-based treatment for a range of mental health issues.

Different types of licensed mental health professionals may practice behavior therapies in their role, and the route you take to licensure will likely depend on what aligns best with your background, skill set, and interest in the field.

As with many therapy training pathways, becoming a licensed behavior therapist takes many years, but it can be an incredibly interesting and fulfilling career path. Before making any decisions, be sure to check what’s required to get licensed where you live and reach out to the program providers to ask how their curriculum meets any requirements you’re working toward.

Whether you’re just starting out in behavior therapy training or adding more skills to your therapeutic toolbox, we wish you all the best for your next chapter of training.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. For more information, don’t forget to download our three Positive CBT Exercises for free.

  • National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists. (n.d.). Certifications. Retrieved from https://www.nacbt.org/certifications-htm/#CCBT
  • Study.com. (2020). How to become a licensed behavioral therapist. Retrieved from https://study.com/articles/How_to_Become_a_Licensed_Behavioral_Therapist.html

About the Author

Dr. Helen Brown is a freelance writer with a Ph.D. in Psychology and MSc in Organizational Psychology. She has a varied background working in mental health and wellbeing research and is passionate about all things psychological. As well as writing about many psychology and health topics, Helen loves to scribble away at fictional stories and screenplays too. You can usually find her in the countryside just south of Bristol, UK.

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