13 Therapy Courses, Programs, and Training Opportunities

Therapist CoursesSo you have decided to become a therapist.

Like any good career choice, having a plan of action on how to achieve that career is vital.

A first step in your plan of action is deciding which education program would be best for you to attend.

To decide which qualification and university is right for you, consider what type of therapist you want to be. Some potential options include cognitive-behavioral therapists, mindfulness-based therapists, occupational therapists, marriage and family therapists, and child therapists.

In this article, we make a few recommendations for training programs, including some online options. We also take a quick look at two popular options: family therapy and art therapy.

Before you continue, you might want to check out our digital guidebook, ‘On Becoming a Therapist’ (Fully updated in 2021). This in-depth, step-by-step guide contains all the information you need to make informed decisions about your future while turning your interest in becoming a therapist into meaningful action. Click here to check it out.

5 Best Therapy Courses and Programs

After graduating high school, your journey to become a therapist can take anywhere from 7 to 15 years and usually requires at least a bachelor’s degree.

Some therapist certifications require further education after obtaining your undergraduate degree.

For example, becoming a clinical or counseling psychologist typically takes at least three to four years of postgraduate training and real-world clinical experience in the form of training placements.

Do you want to become a therapist without going through advanced doctoral training? For some types of therapy training, it’s possible after completing a master’s program (typically one to two years of full-time study). This can be followed by a doctoral degree and depends on where you are located.

For example, the UK Council for Psychotherapy (n.d.) requires 450 hours of supervised clinical experience in order to practice therapy. In the United States, you are required to have 2,000 to 4,000 hours of clinical experience (Hodges, 2021).

All this information can dictate the type of therapy program you need to become a licensed therapist. Here are five therapy training options to consider:

 

1. Columbia University – New York, NY, USA

Columbia

As an Ivy League institution in the United States, Columbia has several advanced and extensive training programs for different types of therapists.

The Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research offers a two-year adult psychodynamic psychotherapy program complemented with weekly individual supervisory sessions.

What is unique about the university’s programs?

It has a child and adolescent program, and a parent–infant program specializing in treatment between mothers and infants that is also open to clinical social workers, nurses, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

It also offers a year-long transference-focused psychotherapy program to train therapists to work with those with personality disorders.

Find out more about the psychotherapy programs on their website.

 

2. UCLA – Los Angeles, CA, USA

UCLA

If you know you want to become a clinical psychologist, the University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA) has been ranked number one in clinical psychology by the US News and World Report (n.d.).

This may be a good option for prospective students who want a comfortable, warm-weather climate to train in as well.

At UCLA, students are involved in research, coursework, clinical training, and teaching throughout the program.

The clinical psychology program has a stellar reputation, offers a PhD track, and is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).

What is unique about the university’s programs?

UCLA has a staff psychiatrist available for consultation on medication at the on-site Psychology Clinic. Also, if students have an interest in neuroscience, training is conducted at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

Find out more about the clinical psychology program on their website.

 

3. University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA, USA

PennLaw

The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is another Ivy league school.

What is unique about the university’s programs?

Like both Columbia and UCLA, Penn’s therapy programs are APA accredited. However, a key difference is that students can gain even greater levels of expertise across subjects.

For example, students interested in studying psychology and law can go for a joint JD (Juris Doctorate) and PhD program.

Find out more about the psychology–law program on their website.

 

4. University of Warwick – Coventry, UK

Warwick

Located in Coventry, United Kingdom, about 80 miles outside of London, the University of Warwick offers students a holistic approach to studying therapy through their Master of Science in Psychotherapy and Counseling.

Accredited through the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), they expect that at the end of the program, students will work in a variety of settings, including the public and private sectors.

This master’s program covers a range of therapeutic approaches and focuses heavily on the core element of teaching students the values of the therapeutic relationship from the first year of study.

What is unique about this program?

Warwick’s Master of Science in Psychotherapy and Counseling program is only offered on a part-time basis and typically takes about three years to complete.

The advantage of part-time programs is that they allow students to work and seek employment while they study.

Because of the range of therapeutic approaches, students are equipped with a variety of psychological skills.

Further to the point of employment, if 100 hours of supervised clinical hours are achieved during the course, students have the option to register as a qualified Psychotherapeutic Counselor.

This means that while still studying, students can earn an income while still working on their degree, a potentially good reason to attend this master’s program.

If you are interested in pursuing this program, it will be important to find ways to manage your time and make sure work schedules can fit around classes. Also keep in mind that as the program progresses, more time must be allocated to research.

Find out more about the program on their website and about the UKCP’s guidance on training as a psychotherapist.

 

5. London South Bank University – London, UK

LSBU

If London is where you want to live and work, this part-time program should interest you.

London South Bank University offers students with an interest or experience working in the addiction field an opportunity to study for a Master of Science in Addiction Psychology and Counseling.

This program is also offered on a part-time basis only.

Accredited by the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals, this program immediately emphasizes the theories associated with working with clients who have become addicted to substances. Early in the program, they place students in training in addiction-specific sites inside and outside of London.

What is unique about this program?

Students need to have a keen interest in working with addiction. This program encourages students to learn from each other, sharing experiences in experiential groups while practicing what is being learned. Students gain professional skills through practice in the addiction counseling module.

Keep in mind that students are encouraged to learn how to run therapy in groups as required with addiction work.

Also, being placed in the heart of London, this program offers close access to – and potential training placements in – various addiction and treatment centers, which puts students studying at this university at an advantage.

Find out more about the program on their website.

 

3 Online Options

At the time of writing, most therapist training programs are being taught fully online or have this option, in line with COVID-19 regulations.

The following programs offer options for students to learn online as a standard, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

1. Pepperdine University – Malibu, CA, USA

Pepper

This southern California university offers multiple online programs in psychology and related fields, including a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis and Clinical Psychology.

The Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology is a general program helping students gain a greater understanding of psychological diagnosis, as well as prevention and treatment of mental and emotional disorders.

It is a program that can prepare students wishing to pursue a further doctorate in psychology or those wanting to pursue a career in the human services field.

What is unique about the program?

Unlike previously mentioned master’s programs that can take three years to complete or four years for doctorate degrees, the MA in Psychology at Pepperdine can be completed in 18 months.

If standardized testing is a concern to students, Pepperdine says that a Graduate Record Examination score is not required in order to be admitted.

However, you must have a recognized bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution.

Find out more about the online MA in Psychology on their website.

 

2. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology – Chicago, IL, USA

Chicago

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology has an online Master of Arts degree in Psychology, Applied Behavior Analysis.

Like the Pepperdine program, this degree declares that after completion, students will be prepared for careers in education and social work, in addition to mental health.

What is unique about this program?

Students can complete this program in one year.

The specific concentration in applied behavior analysis focuses on how to apply behavioral interventions to different populations, including those with developmental disabilities, geriatric conditions, and behavioral/learning difficulties.

Find out more about the program on their website.

 

3. Bradley University – Peoria, IL, USA

Bradley

Bradley University in Illinois offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling.

The program may take between one to two years to complete, depending on which track you complete and how long you prepare for the National Counselor Exam, which the program provides additional training for.

Accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Courses, this program prepares students to practice in certain states, depending on state requirements.

What is unique about this program?

Students can choose from two different tracks in this online program: Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Professional School Counseling.

The track you choose depends on if you would rather work in mental health or school settings. For those looking to work in educational settings, this program may be a great option.

Be sure to conduct thorough research before making the final decision on which track to choose.

Find out more about the program on their website.

 

Family Therapy Training Opportunities

From online general psychotherapy training to training for work in schools, below are some opportunities for education in family therapy.

 

1. King’s College London – London, UK

Kings

Located in London, this Master of Science in Family Therapy takes one year to complete full time, or two years, part time.

This program offers students the ability to apply as a systemic family therapist with the UK Council for Psychotherapy once the course is completed.

Find out more about the program on their website.

 

2. Syracuse University – Syracuse, NY, USA

Syracuse

With both in-person and online programs, Syracuse University has a Department of Marriage and Family Therapy that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education.

The online Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program can take between one to four years, depending on whether you’re completing it full or part time.

The university offers students the chance to obtain a dual master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and social work (MA-MSW) and an accredited PhD in marriage and family therapy should students choose to pursue it.

Find out more about the department on their website.

 

A Look at 3 Online Art Therapy Programs

Art therapy does not just encompass the art of drawing, but can be conducted through music, movement, and dance as well.

With that in mind, let’s look at three online art therapy programs for prospective students to consider.

 

1. Edinboro University – Edinboro, PA, USA

Edinboro

This small but impactful university in Pennsylvania was granted the United States’ first standard-compliant accreditation for their Master of Arts in Counseling–Art Therapy in 2018.

While the program is offered online, students also have the option to complete the degree in person.

The university offers an MA in Counseling with a concentration in art therapy, an MA in Counseling with a concentration in clinical mental health and art therapy, and an art therapy postgraduate certificate, all online or on campus.

Find out more about the program on their website.

 

2. International University of Professional Studies – Makawao, HI, USA

IUPS

This educational institution has been delivering online-only courses since 1988. The university offers master’s, doctorate, and combined master’s/doctorate programs in expressive arts therapy.

The school says that expressive arts therapy involves systematic use of art, dance, music, poetry, and movement (International University of Professional Studies, n.d.). The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and The Higher Learning Commission have accredited the program.

Find out more about the program on their website.

 

3. University of Mississippi – Oxford, MS, USA

Mississippi

The University of Mississippi’s Child Advocacy and Play Therapy Institute offers a post-master’s specialist degree for therapists and counselors interested in play therapy or wishing to become a play therapist.

Approved by the Association for Play Therapy, this program requires previous education and for applicants to be licensed already.

This includes being a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Social Worker, Licensed Family and Marriage Therapist, or psychiatrist, or having received a relevant master’s or higher from an accredited institution.

Find out more about the program on their website.

 

A Take-Home Message

We have seen that therapy programs can be general or specific, online and offline.

What seems most important before enrolling is to have an established idea of what kind of therapist you want to be. Consider the following:

  • Does online or offline learning suit you better?
  • Do you need to work while you study?
  • Can you afford to study full time?
  • Do you wish to be in a big city or prefer to be outside of one?
  • Do you have any specific areas of interest, such as addicts, groups, families, or art?

Once you understand these points, you can make an educated decision on which therapy program is right for you.

Not all therapy programs are the same. Some well-known universities have been named in this article, and some not so well-known universities have also been recommended.

There are many more therapy programs out there; forget the idea that the name of the university equals success in the field of therapy. It is only your initial drive and desire to become the type of therapist you want to be that will determine success.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to check out The PositivePsychology.com Essential Guide, ‘On Becoming a Therapist’.

 

  • Hodges, S. (2021). The counseling practicum and internship manual (3rd ed.) Springer.
  • International University of Professional Studies. (n.d.). Expressive arts therapy. Retrieved March 4, 2021, from https://www.iups.edu/expressive-arts-therapy
  • UK Council for Psychotherapy. (n.d.). Train as a psychotherapist. Retrieved March 4, 2021, from https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/psychotherapy-training/train-as-a-psychotherapist/
  • U.S. News & World Report (n.d.) University of California–Los Angeles. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/university-of-california-los-angeles-110662/overall-rankings

About the Author

Dr. Joshua Bourne, PsychD, works as a Counselling Psychologist, Life Coach, and consultant. He loves to help individuals and businesses thrive and understand themselves better to create everlasting positive change. Joshua is also an avid fan of everything space-related and loves sports. A world traveler based in London, UK, although originally from San Francisco, USA, Joshua help others adjust to life in different countries.

Comments

  1. Gabriela

    Hi, thank you for your interesting and helpful article. nevertheless, I am from Poland and I was interested in how it is organised (becoming a psychotherapist) in the Netherlands. What are the leading psychotherapy schools / centers? What is the education of future psychotherapists?

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Gabriela,

      Glad you enjoyed the post! You can learn more about the accreditation standards and opportunities for psychotherapists as they pertain to the Netherlands on the European Association for Psychotherapy’s website. For more information, see also Raboud University’s website. This university is an example of one university in the Netherlands that appears to meet several of the national criteria to be a psychotherapist, so I’d suggest reaching out to them for more information.

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
  2. Nasra Al Adawi

    Dear Dr Joshua,
    Thank you for this information, very insightful. I was trying to search for something as Im pursuing poetry therapy practitioner and Im having Psychology as many requirement that I need to fulfil

    Reply

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