How Long Does it Take to Become a Therapist in Canada

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

In this article, I’m going to discuss how long it takes to become a therapist in Canada. I’ll also cover what you need to get certified. You’ll learn about the average length of time it takes to graduate with a degree, and how long it may take to obtain certification as a therapist or counselor.

If you’re looking to get into the field of therapy in Canada, you may be wondering how long it takes. You might also be wondering if there’s room for you as a therapist when others have been doing it for years. Here are some things to consider about getting into the career of your dreams.

A bachelor’s degree at an accredited college or university is the first step in becoming a therapist in Canada and taking 4 years to complete. To become a therapist in Canada you will need either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in psychology, education, counselling, or other relevant subject.So it takes roughly 8-10 years of post-secondary education to become a therapist in Canada.

Most therapists need a bachelor’s degree (which takes four years to earn on average), and then a master’s degree (which takes about two to three years on average to earn) or a doctoral degree (which takes about five to seven years on average to earn).

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Becoming a Psychologist

What Degrees Do I Need?

To become a psychologist, after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology, one must attend graduate school and obtaining a master’s degree and/or doctoral degree.

At the master’s degree level, one can obtain a master of arts (MA) or a master of science (MSc). Traditionally, in a master’s program, students are required to take courses (of which one must be in research methods and another in statistics), complete a major project (e.g. research thesis or a major literature review/critique) and write-up and defend the project either in a poster-setting or in front of a committee. Master’s degrees prepare individuals for entry into doctoral programs of study.

A master’s degree provides training for a variety of applied settings such as in schools, business and industry, mental health, and government. For example, such individuals may work as child welfare workers, school counsellors or administrators, testing and assessment psychologists, or therapists. Individuals with a M.Sc. may also serve as researchers or research associates working for the government, or in service agencies or universities as research consultants and research administrators.

At the PhD level, one can obtain a PhD in clinical or experimental psychology, or a PsyD. In a PhD program, students normally take courses, pass comprehensive examinations, conduct original research, and write and defend their dissertation. For those wishing to provide psychological services to clients, they also have to spend at least one additional year interning and receiving supervision. Thus, a PhD program in clinical psychology requires research and practitioner expertise. PhD programs in experimental psychology to do not require an additional internship year. In a PsyD program, often referred to as a “professional school” program, there is greater emphasis on training and professional practice.  

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How Long Does It Take To Become A Therapist In Canada

Overall, it takes approximately five to eight years after receiving a bachelor’s degree to obtain a Ph.D. in psychology. A master’s degree usually takes two to three years to complete, followed by an additional four to six years for a doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D.) degree. Some schools permit students to enter a doctoral program directly from receipt of a bachelor’s degree. If you complete your master’s and Ph.D. at the same university, universities will not generally require students to take additional research methods and statistics courses.

What Marks Do I Need to Get in to Graduate School?

The requirements for admission into graduate programs in psychology vary among institutions. The usual requirements are an undergraduate degree in psychology, a grade point average of at least 3.5 (on a 4-point scale), and strong letters of reference (usually from psychology professors). Many graduate programs also require students to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and receive high scores as an admission requirement.

How to Become a Counseling Psychologist

What Do I Need to Do to Become a Clinical Psychologist?

In Canada, a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) is considered the basic degree for a profession in psychology. The CPA endorses the doctoral degree as providing the best preparation for professional work and the maximization of employment opportunities. However, there are employment opportunities available at the master’s level of preparation (e.g., M.Sc., M.A., M.Ed). For example, in some provinces in Canada (e.g., Alberta, Saskatchewan), individuals can become chartered psychologists and college professors with a master’s degree.

The requirements for being registered, licensed, certified or chartered as a psychologist providing psychological services varies from province-to-province in Canada. Having a master’s or doctoral degree does not guarantee eligibility to practice. The normal requirements are (a) possessing the required graduate degree, (b) having received supervised experience, and (c) passing written and oral exams on practice and ethical issues. It is a student’s responsibility to learn about the licensing, certification, or chartering requirements of the jurisdictions in which they wish to practice and the quality of the graduate programs in which they are considering training.

Learn every aspect of the educational and career requirements to become a therapist in Canada. Explore the most common professional paths, required courses and potential salaries. What courses will I take during my studies to become a therapist?

how to become a therapist in canada

How to Become a Counselor in Canada

Counseling is one of the most promising professions in Canada and many nations worldwide. With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for counselors has risen in recent times.

Starting a Counseling Career in Canada

The ideal concept of having a career as a counselor is to get the right and the most updated version of the information that can help you find employment as a practicing counselor. You could choose a counseling career with a specialization in relationships, mental health, rehabilitation or behavioral health, amongst others. This occupation is an ideal one for those who find joy in solving people’s mental health issues.

What Does a Counselor Do?

Counseling is the process of talking about and working through your mental health problems with a mental health professional, such as a counselor or therapist.  Counseling, as the word denotes, is done by a trained counsellor who is an objective mental health professional. You must develop a healthy and trustworthy relationship with your counselor so as to help them effectively diagnose your mental health issues. A counsellor may choose a variety of counseling methodologies to approach your mental health problem, with talk therapy being the most popular approach.

How Much Do Counselors Make in Canada?

You might be wondering whether counselors make good money. The average salary for counselor in Canada is around $70,000 per year. Entry level counselors can be expected to make around $40,000 annually, while experienced counselors can make up to $90,000 per year.

Characteristics of a Good Mental Health Counselor

As a counselor, you’ll come across individuals with a wide array of difficult problems. All of these people hold different behavioral patterns and mannerisms. As a counselor, you should be able to successfully diagnose their issues. Some of these patients could be suffering from depression, stress, insomnia, or OCD. Here are the characteristics of good mental health counselor:

Communication Skills

As a professional counselor, you’ll be confronting people from all walks of life with different mentalities. Some may begin talking to you right away, while others would take time to open up about the problems they face. Your communication strategy with each patient would be customized, with the objective of making the patient comfortable enough so they can explain what is really bothering them and how it is affecting their everyday life. This also requires you to be a good listener and keen observer, as your aim should be to understand the mental health issues from the patient’s point of view.

Problem-Solving Skills

As a counselor, you have to be a problem solver. Therefore, as you talk with the patient, your objective should be to sort out their issues they are facing rather than complicate the situation. It would be best if you were able to help your patients in the most straightforward way possible. In addition to this, you should have expertise in diagnosing mental health issues and disorders.



One crucial aspect of being a counselor is to be empathetic. This means that you should not be stoic or cold towards the patient. Instead, you should be understanding and compassionate. The best way to be empathetic is to place yourself in the shoes of your patients and devise the right solution to their problems.


Another characteristic of being an effective counselor is to be accommodating and flexible. It is a career in which you might be presented with additional responsibilities in order to help the patient deal with their mental health problems. You might have to make impromptu changes to your daily schedule. Patients may cancel, reschedule or even cancel their mental health counseling session. In such cases, you should have patience and make the patient feel at ease at all times.

Multi-Cultural Sensitivity

Mental health counselors should also be culturally-sensitive, and have good knowledge about different cultures and the community they operate in. For example, a counseling psychologist offering counseling services in Canada will have a different mentality and approach to interacting with the local population as compared to a clinical psychologist in India. You must also not be biased towards a particular race or ethnicity.


Good counselors are self-aware and have up-to-date knowledge about their specialty, i.e. relationships, stress, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, etc. This involves taking part in conferences and seminars regularly, being well-read and staying up-to-date with the latest trends in the field of mental health.

Step-By-Step: How to Become a Mental Health Counselor

If you’re looking to become a mental health counselor and choose counseling as a career option, here’s the career path you should follow:

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

It would be advantageous to select clinical psychology as a major during grade 12, however you could theoretically be coming from any stream to choose a counseling career. Choose psychology during your undergraduate years in college/university. This could be a B.A. or a B.Sc in Psychology, which is a 3 year course. In addition to this, you should also get hands-on training by being a part of an internship program.

Obtain a Master’s Degree

After completing your bachelor’s degree, you should pursue a master’s degree. This could be M.A. or M.Sc. in Counseling, Psychology or Applied Psychology. This postgraduate course is for 2 years, and you’ll learn about counseling theory and techniques along with choosing an area of specialization. After your master’s degree, you could optionally pursue a one-year diploma course in guidance or counseling.

Obtain a CCPA certification

CCPA is the popular acronym for Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association. This is a national certification program for professional counselors to begin clinical practice. This program certifies a counselor to legally provide counseling services in Canada. This certificate should be posted at your clinic or workplace, where your clients can observe the accreditation.

Obtain State Licensing

You can obtain state licensing by,

  • Choosing a counseling specialization
  • Have a relevant degree and internship experience
  • Take the GRE and apply for graduate programs in Canada
  • Opt for an appropriate licensing certification program
  • Complete a specified amount of counseling practice hours
  • Submit an application for a state license

Finally, you should maintain the license by complying with state and local laws.

There are different factors that determine how many courses to take and how long it will take you to secure a certificate that can allow you to practice as a therapist.

Should I Become a Counselor or Therapist in Canada?

Both counselors and psychotherapists are respected mental health experts. A psychotherapist assists patients in dealing with complex mental health issues, whereas counselors are trained to assist patients with specific mental health issues faced in everyday life.

Counseling Job Options in Canada

There are various career options for counselors. Some of the most prominent counseling jobs are:

Mental Health Counselors

A mental health counselor primarily helps patients deal with mental health issues and disorders such as anxiety, depression, stress, substance abuse, trauma, grief, low self-esteem, suicidal tendencies, and many more.

Relationship Counselors

Relationship counselors helps patients with mending or strengthening relationships in their life. This could be friendships, marriages, divorce, family issues, or the struggles associated with coping with loss of a loved one. Relationship counselors help find the root cause of the problem and develop an effective plan for maintaining a healthy relationship.

School Guidance Counselors

A school guidance counselor or career counselor is an in-house counselor who help students deal with their academic and social life. They help and guide students so they can shape their future and career in the best way possible. They also help students manage stress or anxiety associated with school or college life.

Rehabilitation Counselors

A rehabilitation counselor helps clients or patients on various aspects such as personal, vocational or social disabilities. They also help patients with physical and emotional disabilities such as mental illness, addiction, congenital disabilities, accidents and other problems. They help rehabilitate and improve a patient’s quality of life.

Behavioral Counselors

A behavioral counselor helps patients with behavior-related issues and behavior disorders such as substance abuse, mental health problems, and other issues. They implement solutions to change the negative behavior into positive behavior, thereby bringing about a positive change in the patient’s life.

Clinical Psychologists

A psychologist helps patients understand and deal with their thoughts and emotions. They primarily deal with mental health issues and are also certified to prescribe medication as part of their treatment program to help the patient recover from any ailing mental health disorder.

Are Counselors in Demand in Canada?

Many surveys and studies have shown a rising trend for people choosing counseling as a careerThe rise in demand for clinical counselors is partly because of the decrease in personal support for the average person, an increased need for personal development, and rising levels of stress, anxiety & depression caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does this make mental health counseling a demanding profession, but an equally challenging one as well. Therefore, it is essential to be well-trained in order to give patients the help they need and set them on a path to better mental health and well-being.

how to become a therapist without a degree

There are many types of therapist roles available in the workplace, some requiring a degree and others not. Certain positions, including mental health counselors, psychologists, and marriage and family therapists, require at least some education in psychology or a related field.

Other positions can be entered into without holding a degree. These may include:

  • Peer support counselors
  • Career counselors
  • Substance abuse counselors
  • Life skills counselors
  • Youth workers
  • Community outreach workers

It’s worth noting that specific entry-level requirements can vary from one employer to the next.

how to become a mental health therapist

How to Become a Mental Health Counselor

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral, social science, or psychology field.
  2. Earn a master’s degree in mental health counseling.
  3. Complete graduate and postgraduate internship experience for certification/licensure requirements.
  4. Pass any required counseling exams for licensure.
  5. Apply for and earn additional mental health certifications.
  6. Continue your education and stay up to date on mental health counseling trends and changes.
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