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How do I Become a Cognitive Behavioral Psychologist?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The road to become a cognitive behavioral psychologist varies depending upon the type of agencies from which a person will seek this title. Typically, psychologists who are licensed to practice and have studied and practiced in this area to some depth will go to a region’s accrediting agency for behavioral or professional psychologies so they can be formally recognized by that agency as having a specialty in cognitive behavioral work. The shorter path is to simply get some training in this area and use it to provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Formal recognition may be of use if people want to specialize in CBT, and be known as experts in this field.

A student who would like to become a cognitive behavioral psychologist starts by either completing a Ph.D or a Psy.D in psychology. The degree must be earned from an institution that is formally recognized by boards of behavioral science or agencies that offer the means to earn the cognitive behavioral psychology designation. While attending a doctoral program, it is strongly advised that people take many classes in the practice of CBT and participate in research programs or practicum that emphasize it. Boards that give this title look for strong skills in this area that are either acquired while in school or that are earned afterwards through recognized continuing education units (CEUs) and practice.

Depending on the certifying board used to become a cognitive behavioral psychologist, people may also need to have a certain amount of experience after a doctorate has been earned. Experiences that focus especially on the practice of CBT help make people experts. In the U.S., for example, The American Board of Professional Psychology application to become a cognitive behavioral psychologist requires significant reflection on how CBT has been implemented in practice, examples of interviews, and an oral examination before certification is given. It’s important to pay attention to the requirements of the local licensing board, since requirements from various boards differ.

There are other ways to “become a cognitive behavioral psychologist” that don’t always carry a formal recognition. Some classes or exams can confer entry into a professional organization of CBT therapists that may include licensed professional therapists, marriage and family therapists, psychiatrists, and licensed clinical social workers. Alternately, with training, psychologists can simply practice CBT. A number of professionals may prefer not to become a cognitive behavioral psychologist because they feel this designation may tie them too closely to a single type of practice.

Those who are interested in being specifically a cognitive behavioral psychologist usually have extremely strong opinions on the benefits of this psychological treatment as compared to others. Still, many practitioners don’t want this designation and would rather attain competency through CEUs and other training modalities so they can offer CBT and other treatments. From a professional standpoint, certification may be beneficial when it comes to competing for clients; it confers a level of expertise in CBT that the merely trained and not certified psychologist cannot offer.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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