Behavioral Therapist Job Description
Behavioral therapists work with people with a wide variety of disorders, such as depression or anorexia, to help them modify behaviors impacting or resulting from these issues. They work with adults or children in group or one-on-one counseling settings. Behavioral therapists might be self-employed or work in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, or community health centers. These professionals employ strong listening skills and a sense of empathy, evaluate patients, and provide treatment through in-office and at-home exercises, role-playing, writing assignments, and other forms of therapy. Behavioral therapists can be employed on a full- or part-time basis.
Behavioral Therapist Duties and Responsibilities
In all clinical settings, behavioral therapists generally complete the same or similar core tasks. We studied several job listings for this profession and found the following to be those most often mentioned:
Analyze and Diagnose Behavioral Disorders
Through observation, interviews, and counseling sessions, behavioral therapists collect data about clients, diagnosing specific disorders, such as anger issues or depression. They keep notes, record client behavior, and assess how these behaviors are affecting their clients’ professional and personal lives.
Implement Treatment Programs
Once a diagnosis has been made, behavioral therapists implement treatment interventions. These treatments are tailored to individual clients and typically involve motivating clients to modify and change behaviors. To this end, behavioral therapists might assign specific tasks or exercises that clients can use to record their daily behaviors and how to react to given situations in order to change these behaviors.
Assist Clients in Developing Necessary Skills
Behavioral therapists often devise activities and exercises that help clients build social, transitional, language, communication, self-help, cognitive, and other skills needed to manage their disorder. For example, they might assign specific extracurricular activities to children with autism to improve their play skills, which can help with concentration and learning.
Maintain Documentation of Client Progress
From behavioral observation to counseling notes, behavioral therapists keep detailed files about each client. These reports are typically submitted to superiors and reviewed to ensure that treatments are addressing the issues, goals are being met, and to decide if alternate treatments would benefit a client.
Communicate with Families
Keeping families informed and getting input and feedback from family members is an important aspect of being a behavioral therapist. Collaborating with families can accelerate treatments, helping clients better overcome behavioral issues.
Behavioral Therapist Skills and Qualifications
Patient, detail-oriented listeners with the desire to help people often make effective behavioral therapists. The following list highlights those skills and abilities commonly sought by employers seeking the services of a behavioral therapist:
- Counseling skills – from listening to interpretative skills, behavioral therapists must display all of the important aspects of counseling in order to succeed in this profession and positively impact their clients’ lives
- Clinical skills – the ability to make proper diagnoses, identify behaviors, and use effective treatment plans is crucial for behavioral therapists
- Communication skills – behavioral therapists must demonstrate strong verbal and written communication skills, from speaking with clients, their families, and other mental health professionals to keep meticulous notes and creating detailed reports
- Problem-solving – correctly assessing a client and prescribing the right activities and tasks to help them modify behaviors is one of the most important abilities of behavioral therapists
- Work independently – once a behavioral therapist is assigned a case, they analyze a client and implement treatment programs with little to no supervision
- Interpersonal skills – it takes strong interpersonal skills to help clients open up about their experiences, feelings, and behaviors and to accept the advice and support of their behavioral therapist
- Collaboration – success in this field often depends on a behavioral therapist’s ability to work with families, other counselors, social workers, healthcare professionals, and others
Behavioral Therapist Education and Training
Many employers seek candidates for behavior therapist positions who hold at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology or counseling, though in some cases a master’s degree in these subjects or social work is required. One might receive hands-on training through internships associated with postsecondary programs. Though licensing requirements vary from state to state for those not in private practice, all behavioral therapists who operate a private practice must by law be licensed and complete necessary continuing education requirements to maintain this licensure. Some employers might require one to hold a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential.
Behavioral Therapist Salary
The latest information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that behavioral therapists earn a median annual salary of $41,070. The 10th percentile earn a median yearly salary of $26,210, and top earners make just over $65,000 annually.
Behavioral therapists employed in hospitals tend to realize the highest annual mean wages in this profession at $52,640, while those in outpatient clinics ($42,930) and facilities focusing on mental health and substance abuse ($39,690) tend to be paid less comparably. Geographically, those working in New Mexico are the highest paid in this profession ($59,090), followed by Alaska and North Dakota ($54,280 and $53,680, respectively).
The BLS predicts a growth rate of 23 percent for behavioral therapists through 2026. An increase of the use of counseling in the criminal justice system and an expected rise in veterans seeking behavioral therapy are cited as the main reasons for this expected job growth rate.
Gain more insight into this profession by reviewing the resources contained below. Click on the links to review details about books, professional associations and more:
National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (NACBT) – Want to get professionally certified? Attend professional development workshops? Get onsite training on counseling methods and treatment options? NACBT, founded in 1995, provides a great support and learning network for aspiring and working behavioral therapists.
Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) – Network with behavioral therapists, review the latest trends and research in behavioral science, attend conferences, or access podcasts, publications, and other tools to help you build your professional knowledge and support others in the field.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Theories of Psychotherapy) – From the history of behavioral therapy to the therapy process, this book covers everything a prospective or current behavioral therapist needs to know about this field.
Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy – From the latest therapy applications to disorder overviews, this blog gives an inside look at behavioral therapy and what behavioral therapists need to know to excel at their profession.
Behavior Therapy – Get the latest research news in the field of behavior therapy by accessing this online international journal, which is published six times a year.
Making Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Work, 2nd edition: Clinical Process for New Practitioners – Real-life examples and overviews of the therapy process help to illustrate how behavioral therapists apply assessment and treatment planning techniques and form effective client relationships.
Cognitive Therapy Techniques: A Practitioner’s Guide – Theories, contemporary research, best practices, and more are covered in this comprehensive book. Aspiring behavioral therapists can review therapy models, create dialogues with clients, and employ techniques for helping clients overcome specific emotions and alter specific behaviors. Includes chapters devoted to certain issues, such as anger management and difficulties in making decisions.
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