If there is one thing the world needs, it is more adults that can compassionately relate to neglected, abused, or troubled young people. There are at least four ways to become a psychotherapist or counselor without psychiatry: licensed clinical social worker, licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and licensed psychologist. The first three require a master’s degree and the latter, a doctoral degree. You can major in anything as an undergraduate, but psychology courses and child development would help make your case for graduate school.
I chose the professional counselor route and worked with troubled youth for 6 years. This profession is more understanding of the range of mental health needs of people in general, to my mind, compared to other careers. There are, unfortunately, some bigots to be found everywhere.
It may be helpful to have therapy yourself as a therapist so that personal issues do not get in the way of the therapeutic process with clients. A therapist must be fairly mentally healthy in order to do no harm to others. She does not have to have reached Maslow’s peak of self-actualization!
There are kids that need you out there! This field is stressful, so you will need skills at self-care to prevent burnout. Best of luck!
This professional recommends the following next steps:
- Explore the differences between helping professions and degrees.