Studying Psychology 2.0 Series: Making Right Decisions
Are you still weighing in the pro and cons of embarking on the journey of distance learning? Or are you currently pinning down your preferred online universities? Maybe you have started your first module already.
In either of these cases, it is never too late or too early to think about your future, where you are heading, and who you want to become. Answers to those questions guide your career path and will help you make the right decisions because when it comes to practicing counseling psychology many roads lead to Rome. But, let me add, not all roads lead you to the very center of Rome.
Is your professional dream to assess and help clients struggling with psychological difficulties using evidence-based therapeutic methods? Do you envision providing counseling services at your own private clinic?
If so, you need to be aware of the legal and professional requirements stipulated for working as a therapist. Wait therapist?
Aren’t there clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, licensed psychologists and other options?
Yes, in the United States and abroad there are different professions who are allowed to practice psychological counseling of some form. Nevertheless, not all professionals are allowed to treat the same range of problems or mental disorders. You should therefore have a sense of what kind of clients you prefer to work with in the future. Is your focus on counseling or would you like to assess and treat clients suffering from acute mental disorders such as schizophrenia? In the latter case you may want to see programs with an emphasis on clinical psychology. Despite the fact that the boundaries between clinical and counseling psychology are rather blurry, there is typically a major difference in the population each profession is most likely to encounter. Counseling psychologists tend to work more often with healthy individuals. Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, predominately work on cases of severe mental disorders.
Regardless of the direction you are taking, to independently practice in your own clinic you must be licensed. The APA lists the doctorial degree in psychology as the main education credential to rightfully practice the art of psychology as a clinical psychologist. You can visit the Master’s versus Ph.D. –Comparing Programs page to learn more about the counseling options available for MSc/MA and PhD graduates.
The bad news is that there is no body of administration providing recognition of equivalence for international or let alone national degrees. Hence, your curriculum might meet requirements in state but not in another. Information regarding the licensure process in each state of the U.S. can be found on the During School & Obtaining Licensure page.
Adding globalization makes it even more difficult, which is why you should take some time thinking about your career goals and your preferred location prior to enrolling in one of the available online programs.
In my experience, regardless of the professional title you are pursuing, all relevant counseling and clinical psychology licenses worldwide regard a certain amount of psychopathology and/or psychological appraisal and treatment within the framework of your studies as one of the basic prerequisites to apply for licensure. To be confident that your career goal and your selected online program are in sync, ask the service-provider of the post-Master’s training, PhD education, or the relevant licensor to review the modules of your online study. Check with them if the content meets their requirements. Their feedback will provide you with reliable information and direction that can help you with pinning down the right online program.
Hint: I made the experience that getting a written feedback is invaluable because you will have some evidence of the acceptance should the staff change at some point.
Are You Studying Counseling Psychology from Abroad?
Most online programs for counseling psychology are offered by American Universities. This is a slight disadvantage for students from Europe as accreditation is easier if you graduate from a European than a non-European university. That means European students will need to undergo more administrative processes to have their American degrees accepted.
Hint: Despite globalization and international agreements there still is no official conversion formula for translating American GPA to European grades. There are only estimates. That is why it is worth rejecting initial conversions if you feel that the rate used is to your disadvantage. Prepare yourself by conducting a short online survey. Most universities have an international grade conversion comparison featured on their page. Search for and compare different rates to identify the conversion rate that works best for you. You can then present your findings to the university or bureau that initially converted your grade.
Last but not least, as an international student you also need to think about the amount of ECTS points awarded by the online study of their choice. ECTS stands for European Credit Transfer System and is the common method used for conversion of foreign credit points. For example, British CAT points can be converted to ECTS points at the rate of 2-1. American credits, on the other hand, are converted to ECTS at the rate of 1-1.5. The amount of ECTS is important for international students because some post-Master’s programs, PhD programs, or licensing agencies (i.e. the EuroPsy) in Europe consider a certain amount of ECTS mandatory. The information how many credit points a certain BA, MSc, MA, or PhD will get you can, in most cases, be extracted from the overview section of university’s website.