18 Types of Therapists To Explore as a Career

Updated June 30, 2023

With the ability to improve or transform people's lives, many people find a career as a therapist highly rewarding. Because there is a wide variety of different types of therapists, you can focus on an area of mental health that best appeals to your specific interests. Reviewing a list of some of the most common types of therapists can help you decide which one you might be interested in exploring further.

In this article, we discuss 18 of the most common types of therapists.

Related: Psychiatrist vs. Therapist: Differences and FAQ

Types of therapists

Here is a look at the most common types of therapists:

1. Marriage and family counselor

This type of counselor is focused on addressing the behaviors of people in a marriage or the individual behaviors of family members. They also examine the relationships between members of a family. In marriage or family counseling, treatment is often divided between time focused on individual counseling and time spent as a couple or family. This type of counselor is also often referred to as a family counselor, marriage counselor or couple's counselor.

Related: Guide for How To Become a Mental Health Counselor

2. Addiction therapist

An addiction therapist is a counselor who has specialized training to help their clients overcome substance abuse problems. They may help their clients process issues from their past that may have led to their addiction. Some addiction therapists work individually with clients, while others may work in a group setting with several people who are struggling with addiction and who can share their individual experiences and support one another.

3. Behavioral therapist

This type of counselor works with clients who are experiencing challenges because of a mental disorder. For example, a behavioral therapist may work with clients who are struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, helping them develop coping strategies so they can improve their everyday life.

Related: 6 Mental Health Jobs and Ways To Succeed in the Field

4. Divorce therapist

A divorce therapist is a counselor who specializes in helping couples who are struggling in their marriage and feel that they are approaching divorce. The therapist often works individually with each of the partners as well as with the couple together. Some of the common topics that divorce therapists discuss in this type of counseling include communication, infidelity, inequality and abuse.

5. Child therapist

This type of therapist has specialized training that qualifies them to treat children ages 17 and younger for emotional, behavioral and mental disorders. They may work in private practices, in schools or as part of a medical team.

6. Clinical therapist

Clinical therapists are similar to behavioral therapists in that they help their clients overcome challenges they're having related to mental health issues. However, instead of just helping their clients cope with their issues, clinical therapists also focus on treating the underlying issues that are causing their clients to experience problems in other areas of their lives.

7. Cognitive therapist

A cognitive therapist is someone who offers short-term therapy to help their clients find new ways to behave by changing their thought patterns. Cognitive therapists help their patients identify the thought patterns that are causing problems and then create healthier thought patterns to improve their quality of life.

Related: 11 High-Paying Jobs in Psychology

8. Cognitive-behavioral therapist

A cognitive-behavioral therapist (CBT) is a counselor who uses behavioral and psychotherapeutic techniques to help their clients address a variety of different psychological problems, including substance abuse, depression and eating disorders.

9. Eating disorder therapist

An eating disorder therapist is a counselor who specializes in helping patients with eating disorders. The treatment that eating disorder therapists provide depends on the eating disorder the patient has as well as their symptoms, but is often a combination of nutrition education, psychotherapy and possibly medication.

10. Exercise therapist

Exercise therapists help their clients regain normal functionality after experiencing an injury or recovering from an illness or disease. They develop an exercise routine to help their clients manage the physiological pain they may be experiencing. Ultimately, their goal is to help patients become more physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, with better mobility, less pain, greater independence and improved quality of life.

11. Youth therapists

A youth therapist is someone who specializes in counseling youth, typically those between the ages of 10 and 21. They may work for social services, in youth justice facilities or healthcare facilities. They may help children, teens and young adults manage depression and anxiety, mental health or substance abuse. They may also offer guidance to youth who have committed crimes or who are at risk of committing crimes.

12. Social work therapist

This type of therapist is focused on advocacy for marginalized groups of individuals. As an example, they may help someone who is developmentally disabled find the services that they need so they're able to live independently. Ultimately, their goal is to help their clients obtain the resources they need to live productive, healthy lives.

13. School therapist

A school therapist is a counselor who works within schools, helping the students to develop skills and goals for social, academic and career purposes. School therapists support the emotional and social needs of students, as well as help them explore different interests and career options.

14. Trauma therapist

A trauma therapist, or trauma counselor, is a mental health professional who has specialized training and clinical experience to work with people who have experienced a traumatic event. Trauma counselors help their patients process the events that are causing them pain and develop ways to cope with their emotions stemming from that event. Trauma therapists may work with patients over the course of several months or even longer and they may use a variety of different techniques, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

15. Nutritional therapist

Also referred to as a nutritional counselor, this type of therapist offers their clients dietary recommendations to help them improve their overall health and well-being. Nutritional therapists often work with people who are chronically ill or suffering from a disease.

16. Social therapist

Social therapists are mental health professionals who specialize in helping patients cope with issues like depression and anxiety, relationships, stress, grief, marital discord and trauma. They focus on how their patients are impacted by those around them and then help them develop strategies to cope more effectively.

17. Dialectical behavior therapist

A dialectical behavior therapist (DBT) is a therapist who treats patients who have borderline personality disorder (BPD) or other types of severe mental health conditions. This type of specialization is less common than the other types of therapists listed above since BPD is extremely uncommon.

18. Psychodynamic therapist

A psychodynamic therapist otherwise referred to as a "psychoanalyst," is a mental health professional who focused on the unconscious content of a patient's psyche. Mental health professionals use this in-depth form of talk therapy to focus on identifying the root cause of a patient's emotional pain. The therapist helps patients spend time in self-examination and self-reflection, identifying their problem relationship patterns to help them lead healthier lives.

Frequently asked questions

What are the most in-demand types of therapy?

Therapy is undergoing a surge in popularity right now, and many types of therapists are in demand. The most common types of therapy are cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT and psychodynamic therapy. In CBT sessions, therapists speak with their patients and identify unhealthy thought patterns and learned behaviors. They then help their patients identify these patterns and develop healthier habits to improve their lives. Psychodynamic therapy is similar and helps psychologists identify mental blocks that patients have due to past trauma.

CBT and psychodynamic therapy are in demand all over the U.S. Marriage and family counselors, behavioral therapists, addiction specialists, social workers and cognitive therapists all use these methodologies. If you are looking to become a therapist with in-demand skills, studying CBT or psychodynamic therapy is a great option.

How can I decide on a therapy specialization?

There's a wide variety of factors that you can consider when choosing a therapeutic specialization, including:

  • Personal interests: Some individuals are interested in working with specific populations or using certain methodologies. If you have a special interest, find out which specialization fits it best.

  • Compensation: Not all therapists make the same amount of money, so it's important to do some salary research before you choose a path. Make sure that you take location into account, as you may be able to make more money in another city or state.

  • Impact: Many people become therapists because they want to help others and make a positive impact. Before you choose a specialization, make sure that it allows you to make the type of impact that you want.

  • Training and certification: Different types of therapists have distinct training, education and certification requirements. If you're interested in a specialization, make sure that you have the time, money and drive to complete the requirements.

What are the requirements for becoming a therapist?

Your training and education requirements may vary widely based on the type of therapist you want to become. In some cases, therapists complete a bachelor's degree and an extensive training course before earning their licenses. Many also complete a master's degree followed by clinical training and licensing. This means that in most cases, you can expect to complete around six years of school before working one-on-one with patients.

Many therapists are psychologists, meaning that they have a doctorate in psychology. These individuals undergo a rigorous educational process that includes earning a four-year bachelor's degree, a two-year master's degree and a Psy.D. doctoral degree, which can take more than five years to complete. After they complete their education, psychologists often complete an internship to gain practical experience. Once that's complete, they are free to earn their licensure in their state and begin offering therapy and counseling.

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