Therapy and Counseling Courses

Counseling and therapy are two related professions with deep links to psychology, education, and behavioral science.

There are hundreds of courses available on that relate to these fields; their instruction will help students reach their goal of becoming a therapist or counselor. These classes cover the many types of mental health counseling and therapy, including cognitive behavioral, ABA, and DBT along with varying formats such as clinical, couples, group, and family, and topics like relationships, marriage, and grief.

Create an account to begin studying Counseling & Therapy
Used by over 30 million students worldwide

What are Therapy and Counseling?

Counseling and therapy are best defined as talk- and listening-based methods of addressing psychological and related behavioral issues, including chronic mental illness, crisis management, behavior modification, and developmental needs. Counseling tends to focus on resolving a patient's presenting symptoms, getting them through a crisis situation, and rebuilding or supplementing their personal growth, self-understanding, decision-making and critical thinking skills. Psychotherapy attends to the patient's chronic, subconscious (or unconscious) behavior and personality issues, and affects deep change by addressing their distress patterns and personal psychopathology. Because of these differences, therapy tends to be a more intensive endeavor, with visits multiple times a week for a period of months, while counseling sessions tend to happen once a week or as needed.

In many cases both therapy and counseling proceed without the involvement of medicine or physical techniques, and may be concerned with the effects of the patient's social life and circumstances, spirituality, and personal philosophy on their mental health. Professional psychotherapists and counselors undergo a training process that involves several years of education regarding psychological research methods, theory, and clinical experience, followed by supervised practice, and in many cases personal experience in therapy or counseling as a patient. Depending on the issue or circumstances involved, therapy and counseling may take place on an individual basis, with a group (in the cases of family or forms of mandated therapy), or with a partner (in the case of relationship therapy).

What follows is a list of the different types of therapy and counseling, along with the broader psychological approaches to which they belong:

Psychoanalytic Approaches

  • Freudian psychoanalysis
  • Jungian Analytical psychology
  • Adlerian therapy
  • Kleinian therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Approaches

  • Behavior therapy
  • Rational Emotive Behavior therapy (REBT)
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Cognitive-Behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Reality therapy
  • Personal Construct therapy
  • Multimodal therapy
  • Lifeskills counseling

Humanistic Approaches

  • Person-Centered counseling
  • Gestalt therapy
  • Existential counseling
  • Transactional Analysis
  • Psychosynthesis counseling
  • Primal integration

Integrative Approaches

  • Cognitive Analytic therapy (CAT)
  • Dialectical Behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Transpersonal therapy

Other Approaches

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
  • Hypnosis
  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
  • Solution Focused therapy
  • Problem Focused counseling

Learn from Counseling & Therapy experts

Meet our experts

  • What are some of the most essential qualities and skills needed to be successful in this field?
  • In what ways can psychology be used in personal and professional areas outside of the classroom or counseling office?
  • What is the most important tip you have for students to maintain good mental health through their education?
  • How can students healthily work through moments of heightened academic or personal stress?
  • What are important factors students should consider before choosing a career in psychology?
  • In what ways can students show support of peers who are struggling with mental health issues?
  • What are common misconceptions people have about psychology?
  • What are some physical and nutritional habits that students should adopt to maintain good mental health?

David Swickline is a Pittsburgh native who has lived in New Bern for nine years. He received his undergraduate degree from Mercyhurst University and his masters degrees from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. David is a North Carolina certified School Psychologist with special training for Traumatic Brain Injury evaluations. As a school psychologist, he values relationships with students, parents, and school staff. At home, David spends time with his wife, twin boys, and his dog, as well as walking the neighborhood or getting ice cream! He also enjoys watching hockey (Lets Go Pens), fishing, and DIY projects.

What are some of the most essential qualities and skills needed to be successful in this field?

You need to be inquisitive and question information. You need to be compassionate and empathetic.

What are common misconceptions people have about psychology?

That is just figures out how the brain works.

In what ways can psychology be used in personal and professional areas outside of the classroom or counseling office?

Just by understanding individuals and how to form and maintain relationships with different individuals.

What are important factors students should consider before choosing a career in psychology?

That you need to get schooling beyond undergraduate degrees.

I was born, raised and educated on the East Coast before making the move to the Gulf Coast and South Texas where I am now an Associate Professional Professor of Psychology at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. I have been teaching since 1996 and full time since 2001. I have been teaching General Psychology since I started teaching and have taught several other courses regularly including Research Methods, Cross Cultural, Abnormal, and Psychology and Popular Culture. I have received numerous awards for teaching, service, and assessment and have presented at conferences both domestically and internationally. Additionally I have worked in the private sector doing consulting work for non-profits as well as evaluative and assessment work for industry.

What are some of the most essential qualities and skills needed to be successful in this field?

The two most important qualities necessary for success in psychology is communication and intercultural competence. Communicating is so much of what we do in psychology, and it crosses through every sub-field. The ability to speak and write clearly, distinctly, and in a bias free manner is crucial. Regardless of one's training or chosen field, we are all ambassadors of psychology (and science in general) and it is of utmost importance that we are good communicators. Likewise, understanding the important role that culture plays in our thoughts, emotions and behaviors is vital to our growth as a discipline. While having a familiarity with other cultures is a start, it goes beyond that. One must have a firm grasp on the ways in which all areas of culture can impact ourselves and others and this comes from much self reflection in order not just to know about culture, but to appreciate it as well.

In what ways can psychology be used in personal and professional areas outside of the classroom or counseling office?

As I tell my students, there is not a single area of life where psychology cannot be applied. Just having a basic understanding of the principles of research can help the average person be more informed about science and be able to detect disinformation. Understanding our own behaviors and applying basic principles to help change those things about ourselves (or others) is one of the most commonly used ways psychology appears outside of the classroom. Understanding how our memory works can have us remediate potential cognitive deficits as well as help us empathize with others that have memory problems. Understanding cognitive shortcuts are essential in helping us identify bias which can lead to prejudice. Psychology gives us a lens to view art which can expand not just our enjoyment, but our views about the art and artist.

What are common misconceptions people have about psychology?

General psychology in 2023 has become as much about myth-busting as it has about laying the framework for the bedrock of general education. Psychology is not about Sigmund Freud or Dr. Phil and not every psychologist is a counselor/clinician. It is not about how do we learn to use more than 10% of our brain. Psychology is a science and not just people's observations and opinions about the world. Telling students that dreams are not predictive of future successes/failures and providing evidence for that is one of my favorite things about General Psychology.

What are important factors students should consider before choosing a career in psychology?

Psychology generally requires graduate school to enter into the profession in the way most people think about psychology. A psychology education requires a great deal of critical reading, writing, and thinking. A deep understanding of science and how to read, analyze, and synthesize the primary research is essential both as a student and a professional. Most careers in psychology are not financially lucrative, it truly is a field that one must enter being satisfied without the draw of a potential windfall of a salary.

I am an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Tennessee State University in Nashville Tennessee. I teach in our counseling psychology masters and doctoral programs. We are one of two APA-Accredited counseling psychology doctoral programs at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). I am also a licensed Psychologist in Ohio and Tennessee. In my spare time, I provide clinical services via a telemedicine platform for diverse clients with a range of needs. I earned a Ph.D. in Urban Education with a specialization in Counseling Psychology, an M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and a BA in Psychology and Sociology from Cleveland State University in Cleveland Ohio.

What are some physical and nutritional habits that students should adopt to maintain good mental health?

First, make sure you eat! Failing to eat can contribute to fatigue, exhaustion, depressed mood, and a host of other issues. Second, eat well-balanced meals (e.g., veggies, fruits, protein, etc.) to encourage a healthy gut! There is a direct link between nutrition and mental health! Third, self-assess and self-reflect from time to time by becoming curious about your relationship with food. Too often we pressure ourselves to eat or look a certain way because of societal or media pressures. Fourth, MOVEMENT IS KEY!! Take a walk after lunch. Do some jumping jacks or wall push-ups while you're studying for that exam. Swim, yoga, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), or whatever you like to do to get your body moving, do it, and do it often! In other words, move all day and every day! And finally, SLEEP! Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep restores the body and the mind - both of which will help you operate at your optimal level and be successful!

What is the most important tip you have for students to maintain good mental health through their education?

Listen to your body! Stomachache, headache, irritable bowel, etc. could mean stress is on the horizon. Eat! Your brain needs fuel too. Say no to chronic stress! Think about how much energy you exert across dimensions (e.g., cognitive/brain power, social/emotional, etc.) and ways to replenish the energy for each dimension. As Dr. Judith Jordan, a relational cultural scholar, says 'Humans are hardwired to connect!' Get support! Chat with family, friends, and even a counselor if you need it! Use your resources on campus, such as academic coaching, student health services, career centers, etc. to maintain a healthy, informed, and balanced experience and life.

In what ways can students show support of peers who are struggling with mental health issues?

Be present! Actively listen. So, put the cell phone and all other devices away for now! Make eye contact when listening. Authenticity and empathy can go a long way when trying to support a friend. In other words, show your true self! And do what Professor Brené Brown says to do, 'feel WITH them instead of FOR them.' Ask your friend what their needs are or how you can help them. Let's not assume you know what it is they are feeling or needing. And get some help! Your friend may need support from a professional too! You are only one person!

How can students healthily work through moments of heightened academic or personal stress?

Stress is a natural phenomenon that humans experience. It is typical to have peaks (periods of high stress) and valleys (periods of low stress) throughout our days. One of the things that can make the experience of stress difficult to overcome is the presence of intense emotions. However, fret not because no stress or emotion lasts forever! Give yourself space to identify the stressor, recognize its trigger, feel the feelings, engage in a self-soothing activity, find a friend, be aware of your limits, and assure yourself that this too shall pass! Beware: Ignoring, minimizing, or denying your stress and feelings is a short-term solution to a potentially long-time problem!

Dr. Ivory A. Toldson is the national director of Education Innovation and Research for the NAACP, professor of counseling psychology at Howard University and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Negro Education. Previously, Dr. Toldson was appointed by President Barack Obama to devise national strategies to sustain and expand federal support to HBCUs as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCUs). He also served as president and CEO of the QEM Network and contributing education editor for The Root, where he debunked some of the most pervasive myths about African-Americans in his Show Me the Numbers column. Dr. Toldson is the executive editor of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Research, published by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. He is also the author of Brill Bestseller, No BS (Bad Stats): Black People Need People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear about Black People. Dr. Toldson is ranked among the nations top education professors as a member of Education Weeks Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, an annual list recognizes university-based scholars across the nation who are champions in shaping educational practice and policy.

In what ways can psychology be used in personal and professional areas outside of the classroom or counseling office?

Psychology is an incredibly powerful tool for understanding ourselves and the world around us. It goes way beyond the classroom or counseling office and can be used in a myriad of ways to improve our lives both personally and professionally. On a personal level, psychology can help us better understand who we are, why we react to certain people or situations in certain ways, and how to take better care of ourselves through self-care practices like meditation, healthy eating habits, exercise, etc. On top of this, psychologists have spent years studying reasoning processes that can help us make sound decisions when faced with challenging circumstances at work or home. Additionally, learning how to analyze situations from multiple angles allows us to develop strategies for dealing with complex problems long after they arise. When it comes to professional areas outside of the counseling office or classroom setting, psychology becomes increasingly important as well--namely due to its ability to bridge communication gaps between disparate businesses/organizations via interpersonal relationships (especially in times of crisis). Moreover, psychological principles such as empathy and compassion allow individuals-- particularly those working within larger organizations--to recognize social issues on a deeper level before taking action towards resolving them. In short: there's no reason why psychology has to be limited solely within academics; instead it should always encompass your entire life journey as you explore yourself further each day.

What are important factors students should consider before choosing a career in psychology?

Choosing a career in psychology can be an incredibly rewarding decision, but it's important for students to consider all the factors that come with making such an important choice. For starters, doing research is vital. It's essential to understand what type of job opportunities are available in the field and what skills and qualifications you will need to obtain them. Consider prominent universities like Howard University that offer excellent programs in psychology. Take the time to explore their curriculum and offerings so you have a better understanding of how they work within this field. Additionally, if you're looking for something more entrepreneurial or independent-minded, there are plenty of options out there too. Technology has opened up many doors within psychology, providing professionals with new ways to practice their craft and help others outside of traditional models previously implemented by psychologists around the world. What's more, AI-driven analytical tools have made data collection much easier over the years - allowing psychologists to make better informed decisions when it comes to helping their clients succeed both mentally and professionally as well as on a personal level - something we couldn't do even ten years ago. All things considered, taking your time when deciding whether or not a career in psychology is right for you is key - familiarize yourself with all of its capabilities so that you can make an educated decision about where best your talents lie across different domains within this fascinating industry.

What are common misconceptions people have about psychology?

One of the most common misconceptions I hear about psychology is that it's only a field focused on therapy and helping people with problems. While this is certainly an important role of psychology, there are many more applications to studying the mind and behavior. Psychology research has had a tremendous impact in areas like organizational leadership, education reform, business practices, healthcare outcomes, social justice activism, public policy development and much more. Beyond simply being a form of treatment for individuals who experience mental health issues or distress in life, psychology is a powerful tool to finding creative solutions for the world's biggest problems. One way I defy this misconception is by working with both students and professionals from vastly different backgrounds--from those who are historically underserved or disadvantaged (e.g., incarcerated populations) to those who have achieved remarkable success at corporations such as school administrators--to help them take personal responsibility for their learning trajectories so they can become leaders in their respective industries/fields. By challenging outdated stereotypes while offering real-world tools rooted in psychological theories and approaches that these individuals can use to think critically about their lives--both academically and professionally--it helps demonstrate how powerful psychological science can be when applied beyond just individual therapy sessions (although I do believe this type of work remains incredibly important).

What are some of the most essential qualities and skills needed to be successful in this field?

I often think about the qualities that make great counselors, especially in the field of psychology. While no single list can capture all of them, here are some key skills and attributes I believe have been critical to my success: 1. Active Listening: At its most basic level, counseling is all about communication. Active listening is essential as it involves taking in what someone else has to say while expressing empathy and understanding both verbally and nonverbally. With active listening, you create a safe space for your patients by making them feel heard and understood - something that could be the foundation for successful therapy sessions. 2. Asking Good Questions: After actively listening to your patient's story or situation, asking good questions can help direct their thoughts towards solutions instead of simply analyzing problems without direction or purpose which may become draining for both parties involved. Those in counseling need to ask questions that probe deeper into issues so as not to stay at surface level with conversations but also pay attention to your patient's comfort levels at any given moment -a delicate balance between respect and progressiveness is key. 3. Being Socially Responsible: In addition to being knowledgeable on various topics such as mental health conditions (e.g., depression), cultural backgrounds (e.g., racial trauma) etc., having sensitivity towards certain issues like privilege & oppression should also be taken into account within a professional setting when necessary so as not perpetuate perpetuating stereotypes or making insensitive comments which could lead patients feeling unheard despite all efforts made towards helping them heal through therapy sessions.. This means having an awareness of social issues outside one's own experience while respecting differences between clients regardless if they appear intuitively obvious or hidden deep beneath layers of conversation points throughout session times - staying open minded here could go along way during those more difficult moments. 4. Analytical Thinking Skills : Counseling psychology relies heavily on analytical thinking skills -- from reading people's body language accurately to deducing patterns from their stories over time -- counselors must stay vigilant for complex cues throughout session times in order better understand where clients might potentially be stuck emotionally speaking even when verbal communication seems limited due either fear/shame /or other less-than-savory feelings...By doing this correctly & carefully , you're more likely able come up with practical measures clients can take back home further improve upon their psychological wellbeing within such uncertain times nowadays.

Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Therapist: The Essentials

People have become more aware of the importance of maintaining good mental health in recent years. Those experiencing emotional, mental, behavioral, and relational difficulties are more frequently turning to psychological professionals, and the demand for counselors and therapists in all fields, including clinical therapists, substance abuse counselors, marriage and family counselors, and occupational therapists, is increasing across the board. Though the terms 'counselor' and 'therapist' are casually interchangeable, there are some distinct differences between the two. To become a therapist, a graduate degree, supervised practice, and licensure are mandatory, though specifics in these areas differ based on your career goals.

Different Types of Counselors and Therapists

Studies have shown the most common reason people become a counselor or therapist is the desire to help people. While it can be very rewarding to support people as they overcome trauma, alter negative behavior patterns, and work through difficulties, there are also some factors those interested the profession need to consider. Successful therapy can take a lot of time, sometimes years, to build trust and allow a patient to do the work their situation takes. This can also be an emotionally and mentally taxing profession that can feel hopeless at times for both the therapist and the patient. If becoming a counselor or therapist is your passion, it's important to understand the spectrum of skills and responsibilities that come with the work.

The main difference between counselors and therapists is that counselors approach a mental health concern holistically, typically helping to develop healthy behaviors and coping strategies in response to the issue, often with an end goal for treatment. Therapy, while also considering overall wellness, may examine root causes and personal perceptions behind an issue to reestablish neurological patterns.

Counselors and therapists can work with and specialize in a wide range of issues, including:

  • Trauma
  • Marriage and family issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Behavioral issues
  • Occupational concerns
  • Mental health disorders
  • Child & youth behaviors

How to Become a Therapist or Counselor

There are differences in the requirements for counselors and therapists. The following step-by-step guide discusses the education, experience, certification, and other essentials necessary. Each state is different, so it's important to ensure you comply with all mandated requirements.

Step 1 - Earn a Degree

Both counselors and therapists require a minimum of a master's degree with a focus on counseling psychology. Though you need an undergraduate degree first, any major will do and can add a different perspective to your graduate psychology studies. Some schools may recommend a bachelor's degree in psychology for prospective counselors and therapists, though other helpful majors include sociology, behavioral sciences, social work, or communications.

Many master's programs offer specialization tracks that allow you to focus your courses on your area of interest, such as child therapy, marriage and family therapy, or substance abuse counseling. An accredited degree program can take 2-4 years to complete and consists of coursework, labs, and supervised practice or internships. Online therapist degrees are available, though there is still a significant amount of in-person work required.

Additional education is needed to become a psychologist or psychiatrist. Both need doctoral degrees - a psychologist requires a PhD or a PsyD, and a psychiatrist needs a medical degree. Like counselors and therapists, psychologists can offer clinical counseling to individuals, families, and groups, but they can also supervise and educate new counselors and therapists as well as perform research. Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication.

Step 2 - Participate in Supervised Counseling

The supervised therapy sessions you complete as part of your degree program aren't enough to qualify you to practice on your own. You will need to engage in a residency period with a Licensed Professional Counselor, and the duration varies by state and specialty.

Step 3 - Pass Exams & Get a Counselor License

Mental health counseling is a state-mandated profession that requires you to pass one or more skills and competency exams. Most states accept one or both exams provided by the National Board for Certified Counselors. The National Counselor Examination (NCE) is a 200-question written exam, while the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination presents 10 simulations to test your proficiency in a variety of scenarios. Some states, such as Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin, have additional exam requirements, including state ethics exams, jurisprudence exams, written essays, or video submissions.

While it may not be required by law for counselors and therapists to carry malpractice insurance, lawsuits are on the rise, and around 2% of psychology practitioners (approximately 6,000) are sued, according to the American Psychological Association. Many agencies and private practices do require counselors and therapists to have personal insurance coverage to protect themselves from issues such as privacy, consent, defamation, or self-harm.

Step 4 - Pursue Professional Development

Counseling therapeutic approaches are continually changing, as are societal norms and expectations. Staying on top of new counseling techniques and therapies not only expands a counselor's ability to meet patient needs, but also work toward meeting requirements for state license renewal. Some common continuing education activities include extension courses, seminars, workshops, and conferences, but other acceptable options also include community service and volunteering, research publication, additional certifications or degrees, peer consultations, or online learning experiences. The amount of continued education needed depends on the type of license and state regulations.

Essential Skills for Counselors & Therapists

Communication and listening skills are obvious essentials for a counselor or therapist. However, there are several types of listening skills that can prove beneficial in this profession, including active listening, empathetic listening, critical listening, informational listening, and discriminative listening. Counselors should also be able to ask questions effectively to elicit information from patients. This skill is also presented in different ways, since not all people will respond to probing questions the same way.

Other skills established counselors, therapists, and psychologists endorse include the following:

  • Facilitation
  • Self-appraisal
  • Trust building
  • Empathy
  • Authenticity
  • Setting boundaries
  • Leveraging other care systems
  • Emotional response or regulation
  • Cultural awareness

Demand in Counseling & Therapy Careers

The number of qualified counselors and therapists in the U.S. hasn't met the demand, and the most recent surge of people looking for mental health therapy has stretched current professionals even thinner, though it has also brought about new methods for getting help. Virtual counseling sessions, telehealth, and other online self-help resources have cropped up in an effort to close the gap. However, the rush to meet the need has occasionally resulted in lower quality of care for patients and drastically reduced compensation for therapists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, expected job growth for professionals in the field should be much faster than average. The following table shows the anticipated increase in new jobs for several types of therapists.

Counseling Specialty Current Professionals Job Growth % (2021-2031)
Marriage & family therapists 65,300 14%
Occupational therapists 133,900 14%
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder & mental health counselors 351,000 22%
Rehabilitation counselors 93,200 11%
Industrial-organizational psychologists 2,900 4%
Clinical & counseling psychologists 65,400 10%
School psychologists 57,900 6%