Is Obtaining a Psychology Degree Necessary?
By Drew Dennett
With the growing demand for mental health services in America, having licensed therapists on the frontlines is paramount. Pursuing a career as a therapist is often an individual’s second career choice. Because of this, many therapists do not have psychology degrees and in fact, have bachelor’s degrees in other fields. However, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology is often someone’s first choice when they are considering the mental health field for a career. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 117,000 people received a bachelor’s degree in psychology in the United States between 2016 and 2017.
Some master’s programs won’t accept a student if they do not have a degree in psychology. For those wanting to enter the mental health field, this can be quite disheartening. I think Sigmund Freud, who believed that every individual is a psychologist in their own right, would have a few choice words with the institutions that do not accept students for this reason. Erik Erikson, one of the original psychoanalysts and a pioneer in child development, whose first career choice was art, had no more than a high school education. Carl Jung believed that the best clinicians are often those without a psychology background because they are able to view things from a different perspective and, therefore, come up with creative interpretations.
We often talk about taking a holistic approach and understanding individuals on a biopsychosocial and even spiritual level. Understanding the realms of life that do not pertain to psychology will only create more effective practitioners. Understanding how to build a therapeutic relationship with someone is more important than being able to identify their attachment style. Therapy is about exploring the hidden aspects of ourselves with non-judgment, curiosity, and unconditional positive regard. Therapy serves as a safe space to learn how to navigate life. Having a therapist that understands the challenges and experiences of life seems much more useful than a therapist that can recite Piaget’s stages of development. While it is important to understand the theories and the language of our profession, I argue that it is more important to understand human experience and the ways in which the world around is affects those experiences.