Social psychology is an exciting field that explores how individuals interact with each other and the impact of social contexts on behavior, thoughts, and emotions. Many students who major in social psychology aspire to become therapists to help individuals overcome their mental and emotional struggles. If you are one of them, you may wonder whether you can become a therapist with a social psychology PhD.

The short answer is yes – you can become a therapist with a social psychology PhD. However, there are some caveats and additional requirements that you need to fulfill. In this article, we will explore what it takes to become a therapist with a social psychology PhD.

What is Social Psychology?

Before we dive into the details of becoming a therapist with a social psychology PhD, let us first understand what social psychology entails. Social psychology is the scientific study of human behavior in social contexts. It examines how people perceive and influence each other, how groups form and function, how stereotypes and prejudices develop, and how attitudes are formed and changed.

Can You Practice Therapy With a Social Psychology PhD?

Yes, you can practice therapy with a social psychology PhD. However, it depends on the type of therapy that you want to offer. If you want to provide psychotherapy or counseling services to clients in private practice or clinical settings, you will need additional training in clinical psychology or counseling.

A social psychology PhD program typically focuses on research methods and theory development rather than clinical skills training. Therefore, it may not prepare you adequately for direct client care. To qualify for licensure as a therapist or counselor in most states in the US, you will need to complete an accredited graduate program in clinical or counseling psychology that includes supervised clinical experience.

Different Types of Therapy

There are different types of therapy that require varying levels of education and training.

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists have doctoral degrees (PhD or PsyD) in clinical psychology and are trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders. They are licensed to provide psychotherapy and counseling services to individuals, couples, families, and groups. Clinical psychologists can work in private practice, hospitals, clinics, community mental health centers, schools, universities, and other settings.

Counseling Psychologist

Counseling psychologists also have doctoral degrees (PhD or PsyD) in counseling psychology but focus more on helping people with everyday problems such as career choices, relationship issues, stress management, and personal growth. They use various approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), humanistic therapy, and psychodynamic therapy to assist clients in achieving their goals. Counseling psychologists work in similar settings as clinical psychologists.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) have master’s or doctoral degrees in marriage and family therapy or a related field. They specialize in helping couples and families resolve conflicts, improve communication skills, cope with life transitions, and build stronger relationships. MFTs can work in private practice or agencies that offer family-centered services.

Social Worker

Social workers have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work (BSW or MSW). They provide a range of services such as case management, advocacy, counseling, crisis intervention, and community outreach to individuals and families who face social challenges such as poverty, homelessness, abuse/neglect, disability/illnesses. Clinical social workers (LCSWs) can also provide psychotherapy services under certain conditions.


In summary:

If you are interested in pursuing a career in therapy, it is essential to research the educational and licensure requirements in your state or country. You may also want to consider gaining experience in related fields such as research, teaching, or consulting to broaden your skills and knowledge.

Remember that becoming a therapist requires not only academic credentials but also personal qualities such as empathy, communication skills, self-awareness, and ethical integrity. It is a challenging but rewarding profession that can make a significant impact on people’s lives.