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How to Become a Therapist in Australia

Steps and qualifications to be a counsellor, psychologist or other therapy professional.

Female therapist in consultation with client

More than a dozen pathways are available to become a therapist in Australia. Counselling is the most accessible role since no degree is technically required. Becoming a psychologist, on the other hand, requires at least 6 years of dedicated education and training.

Let's examine the different types of therapists and mental health practices in Australia, identifying essential degrees and other requirements.

Steps to Become a Therapist

To become a therapist in Australia, you need to choose an occupational field such as psychology or counselling. The standard pathway is to complete a relevant bachelor degree, followed by postgraduate study, and then apply for professional registration.


  1. Gain work and life experience.
  2. Obtain a Diploma, Bachelor, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, or Master of Counselling.
  3. Complete supervised clinical practice.
  4. Register with the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) or PACFA.


  1. Earn a Bachelor’s degree in psychology.
  2. Complete an Honours year or a fourth-year accredited program.
  3. Do a postgraduate course (e.g., Master of Professional Psychology, Master of Psychology, Doctor of Psychology).
  4. Complete supervised practice for registration.

Mental health professional

  1. Complete a relevant bachelor’s degree (e.g., Nursing, Medicine).
  2. Earn postgraduate qualifications in mental health.
  3. Complete supervised clinical work in a mental health setting.
  4. Obtain registration with the appropriate board (e.g., NMBA for nurses, Medical Board for psychiatrists).

Alternative therapy

  1. Obtain a degree in a relevant field (e.g., fine arts, music, psychology).
  2. Complete specialised postgraduate training in art or music therapy.
  3. Register with relevant professional bodies (e.g., ANZACATA for art therapists, AMTA for music therapists).

Qualifications to Become a Therapist

A career as a therapist in Australia generally requires you to gain a university degree. Counsellors often have postgraduate qualifications while psychologists must have at least a master's degree. Lerna Courses offers insights into these educational pathways and requirements.

Let's explore what it takes to become a therapist or mental health professional by occupational field.

How Long Does it Take?

The time it takes to become a therapist varies by speciality. As a guideline, 4 to 6 years of education and training is the typical timeframe to become a therapist. Six years is just enough time to become a registered psychologist. Counsellors often complete a degree in another field before earning a qualification such as a Graduate Diploma in Counselling.

Table 1. Timeframe to become qualified

Title Qualifications Duration
Counsellor Diploma of Counselling, Bachelor of Counselling, or Master of Counselling 1-6 years
Protected title
Bachelor’s degree, Master of Professional Psychology, registration with PsyBA 5-6 years
Counselling Psychologist
Protected title
Master of Psychology (Counselling), registration with PsyBA 6-7 years
Clinical Psychologist
Protected title
Master of Psychology (Clinical), registration with PsyBA 6-7 years
Psychotherapist Degree (e.g., psychology, social work), psychotherapy training, optional registration with PACFA or ACA 4-6 years
Family Therapist Degree (e.g., psychology, social work), family therapy training, optional registration with AAFT 4-6 years
Psychoanalyst Degree (e.g., psychology, psychiatry), extensive psychoanalysis training, optional registration with psychoanalytic societies 8-10 years
Protected title
Medical degree, psychiatry residency, registration with the Medical Board of Australia 10-12 years
Occupational Therapist
Protected title
Bachelor or Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, registration with OTBA 4-5 years
Art Therapist Degree (e.g., psychology, social work, fine arts), postgraduate art therapy qualification, registration with ANZACATA 5-7 years
Music Therapist Degree in Music Therapy, registration with AMTA 4-6 years
Registered Nurse (Mental Health)
Protected title
Bachelor of Nursing, postgraduate mental health nursing qualification, registration with NMBA 4-5 years
Social Worker
Protected title
Bachelor of Social Work or Master of Social Work (Qualifying), registration with AASW 4-6 years
Social Worker (Mental Health)
Protected title
Bachelor or Master of Social Work, mental health training or certification, registration with AASW 4-6 years

Protected title: A professional designation legally restricted in Australia to individuals who meet specific educational and registration requirements set by a governing body. Others are legally barred from using the title.
Duration: Typical time required to complete minimum or expected educational and training activities. For university graduates looking to change careers, the duration may be shorter due to eligibility for postgraduate courses.