Calculating the Number of Therapists in the United States
Whether you think you may need help with your mental health or you want to help others, it can be helpful to learn more about therapy. This is a type of counseling that allows clients to talk about what is on their minds. While some therapists have the legal right to prescribe medications, others focus exclusively on talk therapy.
The number of therapists you can identify depends on which professionals you include under the therapy umbrella. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the United States as of 2022 was 388,200, with a projected growth rate of 18% by 2032 — much faster than the average across all occupations.
Also in 2022, the nonprofit group Therapy 4 the People estimated a total of “530,000 therapists for a [US] population of 330,000,000.” Their estimates by occupation listed 106,000 clinical psychologists, 250,000 clinical social workers, 120,000 licensed counselors, and 50,000 marriage and family therapists.
Let’s take a close look at the different types of therapists and what they do as well as where they live and work.
Therapists for Guidance and Assessment
Many people go to therapy because they struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. Therapists provide the assessment they need to diagnose the condition and guidance on what to do next. Though they cannot supply medications, they can help in other ways. You can talk with your doctor and get a referral to a therapist or find one on your own. Such therapists include clinical social workers, nurse psychotherapists, and pastoral counselors as well as several other groups.
Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and family therapists help patients deal with issues that affect the entire family unit and/or their personal relationships. They must complete a graduate program to work in this field. Their studies also include an internship or a residency program in which they gain practical experience. The Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards awards licenses to therapists who pass certain requirements. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US had 71,200 marriage and family therapists as of 2022. The BLS predicts that approximately 10,600 new marriage and family therapists will join the field by 2032. This equates to a 15% growth, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Licensed Professional Counselors
Also known as an LPC, a licensed professional counselor has a master’s or doctoral degree. They must complete a minimum of 3,000 hours of clinical work above the graduate level before they take the national licensing exam. Only those who pass the exam and agree to follow a code of ethics can work as LPCs. The United States has more than 120,000 LPCs working today. They often work in hospitals and other medical settings, but some work for government agencies or the military. An LPC can diagnose many conditions and provide counseling to patients.
Where Do They Work?
More than 29% of America’s marriage and family therapists work in individual and family services. These are settings that provide patients with one or more health or wellness services. It includes counseling centers and mental health centers. Other positions are available in outpatient care facilities, government agencies, health care facilities, and hospitals.
State by State
Looking at how many therapists work in different states is a good way to see where you might find work or someone who can help you. Judging by BLS data, the states with the highest concentration of marriage and family therapists include California, New Jersey, Minnesota, Florida, and Pennsylvania. As of May 2022, California alone had nearly 29,000 therapists working in this field. California also had the highest quotient of therapists, followed by Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, and Oklahoma. The BLS also listed these among the metro areas with the highest concentration of therapists:
• Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Anaheim, CA
• San Diego and Carlsbad, CA
• New York, NY as well as Newark and Jersey City, NJ
• Philadelphia, PA; Camden, NJ; and Wilmington DE
• Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN and Bloomington, WI
Mental health therapists focus primarily on mental health disorders that affect an individual’s well-being. Once they diagnose the condition, they help the patient cope. Mental health therapists mainly deal with the psychological effects of the disorder. They may specialize in a specific type of therapy, such as art therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, positive psychology, or animal therapy. Some offer multiple options to help a range of patients.
Behavioral therapists are so similar that some confuse the two. While a mental health therapist focuses on a patient’s mental health, a behavioral therapist assists with their behavior and actions. Individuals might seek help because they have a gambling addiction that led to them losing their life savings. Anyone who makes bad decisions and choices would benefit from therapy. Their sessions teach them how to make good decisions, learn how their actions hurt others, and the way their actions affect others. Behavioral therapists assist patients with mental health problems that affect their physical health, too.
Substance abuse and addiction therapists work with people who experience issues as a result of their addictions. They assist with both physical and mental addictions. Physical addictions include substances the person uses, such as drugs or alcohol. Mental addictions concern actions like risky sexual behaviors and gambling. Many patients struggle with addictions that affect them in both ways. The BLS combines substance abuse, behavioral, and mental health therapists into one big group. Based on BLS research, this group included 388,200 professionals as of 2022, with an estimated 71,500 people entering the field by 2032.
Where Do They Work?
Approximately 18% of these therapists work in outpatient mental health facilities and substance abuse treatment centers. Another 15% work in individual and family services, followed by 12% who work for offices of other health practitioners. Smaller numbers work in hospitals and residential facilities. Hospitals include those owned by the state or a county as well as private hospitals. Residency centers provide inpatient treatment for patients addicted to certain substances and/or behaviors. Therapists who work in these centers also help patients struggling with a dual diagnosis, which is when they suffer from both a mental health disorder and some type of addiction.
State by State
Substance abuse, behavioral, and mental health therapists work in every state in the US. The BLS lists the five states with the highest concentration of these therapists as California, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Texas. While more than 36,000 work in California, both Pennsylvania and New York are home to more than 20,000 therapy professionals. Texas and Massachusetts each have at least 16,800 therapists.
The cities or metro areas with the largest number of substance abuse and similar therapists include:
• New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
• Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
• Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH
• Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
• Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
Psychologists can also work directly with patients as therapists. To work in counseling psychology, they must have a doctorate and a license. Doctoral programs typically ask students to do clinical work instead of a dissertation. They can do this work in counseling centers to gain more practical experience. Every state has specific steps that graduates must complete before they can work as psychologists. They’ll also need to pass a licensing exam. The BLS estimated that there were 181,600 practicing psychologists in the US as of 2021, with another 11,300 anticipated by 2031.
Cities and States With the Most Psychologists
Due to its large population, it’s not surprising that California has more psychologists than any other state. About 8,780 psychologists were working in California as of May 2022, compared to the 5,170 working in Illinois. Other states with high numbers of psychologists include New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania. The Chicago area also has a high population of counseling psychologists at 4,650. Major cities with a large number include New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
In addition to therapists, the United States has many related professions. They often require the same amount of education and clinical work. The jobs involve a lot of counseling and working with patients.
No matter how old you are, you probably remember your school counselor. These professionals assist students both inside and outside of school. Some of the things they do include:
• Identify the signs of abuse and other problems facing students
• Provide resources for students who want to apply to college or attend a trade school
• Find the reasons behind the poor performance of specific students
• Counsel students who are in need
School counselors work with students in elementary, middle/junior high, and high school. The BLS combines school and career counselors and notes that 342,400 of these advisers were working in the US as of 2022. More than 18,000 new counselors are expected to join the profession by 2032.
Seeing a career counselor is a good choice for anyone who needs help deciding what to do in the future. They assess the needs of each individual and can provide them with tests to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Other tests show them some of the careers that are best suited for them. While school counselors need a graduate degree, career counselors may only have an undergrad degree. Both jobs are only open to those who can pass a background check.
Clinical Social Workers
Not all social workers provide therapy, but clinical social workers do. Primarily employed by government agencies that offer child and adult welfare services, they help others find solutions to their daily problems. Clinical social workers need a license or certificate from the state where they live and work. They use therapy along with other resources. For example, a social worker might offer therapy for someone recently released from the hospital, sign them up for Meals on Wheels, and help them get medical equipment to use at home. Though the United States had 728,600 licensed social workers as of 2022, not all were doing clinical work.
Therapists Who Can Prescribe Medications
In addition to people in the roles described above, there are professionals who can prescribe medications to people with mental health concerns. One example is a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a physician who must complete college, medical school, and a residency. Many become board-certified and specialize in a particular area, such as child and adolescent psychiatrists who work with children and geriatric psychiatrists who work with the elderly. The data for May 2022 shows that the US had more than 26,500 practicing psychiatrists. California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Massachusetts have the highest number of psychiatrists, while Idaho and several other states have none.
Mental health and psychiatric nurse practitioners can also prescribe medications and offer therapy. A nurse practitioner can handle many of the same tasks as a doctor. They can diagnose conditions, recommend treatment options, run tests, and educate patients. Those who work in mental health can perform other tasks, too. They can:
• Coordinate with a full medical team to ensure the patient receives care for all of their needs
• Talk with patients about the activities they can do at home to manage their disorders
• Screen and assess new patients to decide on the next steps needed
• Hold interventions when a patient’s family or peer group reaches out
• Stabilize patients and provide other services during a crisis
Pastoral counselors can also offer therapy when needed. One of the main differences between a therapist and a pastoral counselor is that a pastoral counselor relies on their faith. They traditionally work for a church and counsel parishioners. The National Board for Certified Pastoral Counselors offers certificates for counselors that allow them to work their way to help patients without any supervision. While the first step is open to counselors with a bachelor’s degree, the upper levels require more experience and education. One study found over 428 pastoral counselors in the United States, 45% of whom are women.
Therapists and Related Jobs in the US
Therapists are licensed professionals who support their clients or patients with their specific needs. They can specialize in one area or offer a variety of options. At AutoNotes, we offer solutions for therapists who need help with clinical documentation. Our software comes with templates you fill in and edit as needed. Use them daily or after each patient meeting. Contact us to get a free trial and see how AutoNotes helps you stay HIPAA compliant.