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What does it take to become a therapist or psychiatrist? How many years of school? What is the difference between the two fields of study? What classes should I take?

I’m wanting to go into the field of psychology, but I’m not sure which career would fit me best. Being a therapist or a psychiatrist peaked my interest the most.

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Katherine’s Answer

To find out something more about what it would take and what it would be like to be a therapist, you might like to poke around on a site like for The Townsend Institute (https://www.cui.edu/townsend) and see what you can learn about their application requirements and what their programs are like...you might decide you really want to do something like what they offer and get more of an idea for how you could ever get into a program there, or you might decide you want a bit different route.
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anahi’s Answer

Becoming a therapist or psychiatrist involves distinct educational paths, and there are differences between these professions.

### Therapist:

**Education:**
- A therapist typically needs a master's degree in counseling, psychology, social work, or a related field.
- The master's program usually takes about 2 to 3 years to complete.

**Licensing:**
- Many therapists pursue licensure, which often requires post-graduate supervised clinical experience and passing a licensing exam.

**Classes:**
- Classes might include counseling theories, psychotherapy techniques, human development, ethics, and research methods.

### Psychiatrist:

**Education:**
- A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) who specializes in mental health.
- The educational path involves completing medical school, which usually takes about 4 years.

**Residency:**
- After medical school, psychiatrists undertake a residency in psychiatry, which typically lasts 4 years.

**Licensing:**
- Psychiatrists must be licensed physicians and usually need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

**Classes:**
- In addition to general medical education, classes in psychiatry cover topics like psychopharmacology, neuroscience, and psychiatric assessment.

### Differences:

- **Approach:** Therapists provide counseling and psychotherapy, often using talk therapy techniques. Psychiatrists, being medical doctors, can prescribe medication and may focus on the biological aspects of mental health.

- **Education:** Therapists generally have master's degrees, while psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialized training in psychiatry.

- **Treatment Modalities:** Therapists use various counseling approaches, while psychiatrists may integrate medication into treatment plans.

To prepare for either field, focus on classes in psychology, human behavior, and social sciences during your undergraduate studies. If interested in becoming a therapist, plan for a master's program in counseling or a related field. For psychiatry, aim for medical school after completing your bachelor's degree, ensuring you meet medical school prerequisites, including biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology coursework. Remember, specific requirements can vary by institution and region.
Thank you comment icon I agree with Anahi's answer ! Judith-Ann Anderson
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