How to Become a Social Therapist

Overview

Social therapists are responsible for exploring how individuals and groups interact, influence, and perceive one another. A social therapist’s primary job responsibility is to examine social behavior in an attempt to offer solutions to problems that arise in real-world settings. Social therapists often work in business or educational settings, offering consulting services and mediating conflict.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Handbook, social therapist’s may assist with marketing research, consultation, and the design of systems that enable better organizational and people interactions, team or group behaviors, or facilitate better leadership within organizations.

Work Environment

Very often social therapists work in educational institutions as researchers, or as teachers. A social therapist may also work for government agencies, for a non-profit institution, or for hospitals and public service agencies. Social services therapists also work for private corporations. The hours a social therapist may work will depend on the type of work a therapist is engaged in, including whether a social therapist is conducting research or laboratory work, and whether a social therapist is working for a non-profit agency or for-profit corporation.

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Requirements

Education

While it is possible to work as a social therapist with a masters in psychology, most social therapists go on to earn a doctorate in their field. This often allows a social therapist to work independently of supervision. This can also allow a social therapist to diagnose and treat complex conditions. Many begin their education with a bachelor in psychology. A Ph.D. in social psychology is the standard, or a master in social work (MSW). Anyone that wishes to practice as a clinical social worker must have a MSW. A Doctorate in psychology or social psychology generally requires a dissertation that is based on original research conducted by the Ph.D. candidate. A Psy.D. Degree or Doctor of Psychology degree is a clinical degree that is available based on practical work and examinations that is also available.

Training

Training that is necessary to practice social therapy includes previous or related work experience. This usually involves supervised work experience, experience in the way of an internship, and sometimes a residency program that will provide valuable work experience for the social therapist.

Licensing and/or Certification

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that an MSW requires a minimum of 2 years of study or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work following graduation. Licensing to practice as a therapist is necessary in most states. Typically 1 to 2 years of professional experience is necessary to pass the state boards for licensing; you can find more information about stat licensing via the Association of State and Provincial Licensing Boards. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers specialty certification in areas including social therapy.

Necessary Skills and Qualities

To be successful as a social therapist, it is important to demonstrate various skills in the field of social therapy.  Some of these skills include:

  • Strong communication ability. To succeed as a social therapist, good communication skills are necessary to understand and communicate information to clients and their families.
  • Excellent observational and documentation skills. Social therapists must be able to observe patterns in clients, including facial expressions, client body language, observe interactions among clients and others, and document interactions during sessions.
  • Analytical ability. Strong analytical skills help social therapists collect the information gathered during sessions and determine what conclusions can be drawn from the research conducted and client feedback that has been taken.
  • Relationship skills. Relationship and people skills allow social therapists to work with different types of people including clients, patients, family members and other healthcare professionals.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median wage for social workers as of May 2013 was $56,060. The top 10 percent earned $81,770 or more. Private practicing social therapists may earn more, as may independent consultants. Those working long hours may earn more; social therapists working in hospital or clinical settings and nursing facilities may earn less, and work longer hours.

Job Outlook

Social worker occupations are expected to grow a minimum of 19 percent through 2012 (source), which is faster than average for occupations. More demand is expected in some work environments including social services agencies, mental health facilities and hospitals. Additionally, educational institutions including schools may have a higher demand for social therapist providers. This increased demand may be the result of increasing stress and burdens in society, and the need for therapeutic services, as well as mental health challenges arising from an aging population.

Related Reading

Further Reading

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