What is a Therapist?
This page is structured a bit differently from the other career info pages on this site, because there really are no simple answers to what a therapist is, who they are, where they work, how they built their career, and why they pursued it, because this is not actually a specialty of any kind. The term “therapist” is too vague and broad to describe any one thing.

“Therapy” just means “Treatment”
“Therapist” just means “Treatment-Provider.”
These terms are too loose to mean anything specific.

What isn’t a Therapist?
Technically speaking, “therapy” and “therapist” are not official terms. They are not protected under state or federal law, there is no such educational degree, there is no board-certification, and there is no licensure. Because these terms (when used alone) do not mean anything in particular, anyone is free to apply them however they wish without violating any rules or laws. Other terms such as “Counselor,” “Social Worker,” or “Physical Therapist,” are legally protected and cannot be used to describe someone’s work without the appropriate training and licensure–not so with the word “therapist” when used alone. The word “therapy” itself simply means “treatment,” so in order to describe a career more specifically, we need to narrow in:
who is providing treatment of what?

Types of Therapists
Because the word is so broad, many career titles and activities include reference to therapy, many of which are actually outside the world of mental health. For instance, a Physical Therapist is a health specialist who evaluates and treats issues related to the body including movement and pain management. Chemotherapy is simply short for ‘chemical treatment’ and is often a component of how an Oncologist would treat a patient with cancer. And a Respiratory Therapist is another healthcare specialist with focus in cardio-pulmonary medicine. Even within mental health treatment in particular, there are still many, many, many types of therapy. Some estimate there are 400, 500, or even more distinct styles.

Therapy Labels
Therapy for mental health purposes is called many things. You might see terms such as psychotherapy, talk therapy, psychological intervention, counseling, and others. Regardless, the professional activity has some core components (detailed here), as well as some variables which depend upon context, modality, theoretical orientation, and other factors. There is no use here in trying to list and describe all 500+ styles of therapy (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy (PDT)), as that would go well beyond the scope of a web-guide to mental health careers. Similarly, there is no reason to identify and describe in detail every single modality of therapy (e.g., individual, couples, families, groups). Two mental health professionals with the exact same training background and working in the exact same setting may provide entirely different styles of therapy through different modalities. And the exact labels of such therapies would also depend upon the unique concerns or symptoms of the clients. It is simply too much to describe all of it–therapy occurs in an enormous diversity of ways.

Specialty Therapies
What is perhaps most pertinent here is to identify mental health therapies which have their own special tools, settings, licenses, certifications, or other truly unique considerations. The pages listed beneath this option on the menu are an attempt at highlighting such careers. Importantly, the specific degree paths may vary within each option, but there will be unifying factors about the unique type of therapy work conducted. Read on within this portion of the website for information about Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Marriage & Family Therapy, and several others!