Outburst of anger or anxiety, long depression or constant fear, anorexia or binge eating disorder–it seems that the world has become crazy. The number of people in the Western world suffering from mental and behavioral problems grows every year.

You do not need to be afraid about your future as a Behavior Therapist, but I am not sure if we can call it good news, or success of your profession. Or if we should celebrate :).

Anyway, you have an important role in our society, and I am glad that you chose this particular career path. Living in fear or depression is terrible, and with the right therapy you can definitely help people to overcome their problems, or at least to diminish them, so they can function normally in their everyday lives–families, jobs, hobbies.

Let’s have a look at some questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting position.


Can you please walk us through your resume?

You should tell them a story. It starts during your high school years, or even earlier. You had a great experience with a therapist, counselor, or psychologist who helped you, or someone close to you, to overcome some mental block, or to get out of depression, or basically to deal with some tough situation you experienced in your young life (death in the family, problems with studies, lack of self worth, etc).

This experience had a profound impact on you, and motivated you to pursue the career in the field. You felt a calling to help people in the same way someone helped you (or someone you loved). Bachelor’s degree in Social Work or Psychology was a next logical step, optionally followed by master’s degree in the field.

You did a little work here and there, internship and stuff. Perhaps you already had some jobs in the field, and if you did not, you attended seminars, read books on human psychology and behavioral disorders, and basically did whatever you could do get ready for a job of a therapist, and to keep your knowledge up to date.

The story culminates at his point–when you finally try to get the job, and start practicing. And that should also be the end of your answer, unless you decide to include some details from your personal life, such as one or two hobbies.


Why do you want to work as a behavior therapist in our mental health/substance abuse facility (or hospital, clinic)?

You have several options for a great answer. First one is referring to their target group. Be it drug addicts, children, people suffering from depression, corporate employees, or any other demographic group or diagnosis they work with, you simply feel close to their target group.

Perhaps you overcame the same problem in your childhood (and can offer first hand experience to your clients). Or you simply feel close to the target group, or have experience with working with the group, or believe that you can utilize your strengths in a best way in their clinical setting.

Second option is praising their place for something, simply explaining why they stand out in your eyes. They may have modern equipment in their place, perhaps a great and renowned psychiatrist or psychologist presides the clinic, or they promote some innovative therapy methods you’d love to apply in your work.

As long as you find something that resonates with your values and goals, you can emphasize it as a reason why you decided to apply with their institution, and not with any other one.

Third option is referring to more practical reasons. For example, you live close to the place, so it will be easy for you to commute to work. Or you like the shift patterns, or anything else that makes the job more convenient to you, in your present situation.

What are your favorite therapy methods?

First of all, you should emphasize individual approach to each client. You won’t apply a certain therapy with everyone just because you find it convenient, or achieved good results with it in the past. Spending enough time listening to the patient and analyzing their problem, you will always try to decide about the most appropriate therapy.

You can mention different therapy methods, so they see that you have extensive knowledge of your field. Respondent conditioning and operant conditioning should form the basis of your work in behavior therapy. You can talk about cognitive-behavioral therapy, and about other things.

I know something about the subject, but since I am primarily a recruiter and interview coach, I won’t go into details here. You certainly have your experience. Try to talk about therapy methods that should be effective with their target group, and do not forget to emphasize individual approach to each client. If you do so, they will be happy with your answer.

* May also interest you: Mental Health Counselor interview questions.


What do you do to gain trust of your clients?

Trust is essential in a work of a therapist, and you won’t get far with your clients unless they trust you. You can talk about different ways of gaining their trust, for example:

  • Repeatedly ensuring them that your meetings are confidential, and everything they say will remain in your office.
  • Being a good listener before anything else, and constantly showing an honest interest in their problems.
  • Patience. Maybe they won’t say anything in the first and second meeting. But you won’t give up. You will continue meeting them, trying to build trust, hoping that they eventually open up.
  • Sharing something from your life with them. This technique is a bit controversial, and some therapists do not like it. In my experience, however, it can do wonders with patients who struggle to trust you and to open up. When they see that you trust them–sharing something from your personal life with them, perhaps opening about problems you experienced in the past, it is easier for them to trust you and open up about their problems. Law of action and reaction rules the universe, and therapy or human relations are no exception to the rule.

In any case, ensure the interviewers that you will do whatever you can to gain trust of your clients, and that you won’t give up easily.


In your opinion, how important is the right setting in this work, and what does it mean to you?

Several studies proved the importance of right setting in psychotherapy. You should say the same thing. Maybe you will work in an old hospital or in a packed clinic, a place where it is tough to create a right setting, a place where the client feels safe, where they can relax. But you should try your best with the options you have at your disposal.

At least a nice couch or armchair, soundproof room, maybe some meditation music in the background. The right intensity of light, fresh air, perhaps a picture, mandala, candle, whatever.

Ensure the interviewers that you understand the importance of details, and will try to create the best possible therapy setting for your clients–within the options available at their place.

Special Tip: Download all questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

You won’t succeed with every client with your therapy. How do you plan to deal with setbacks and disappointment?

You should see the job, and what you can achieve in it, realistically. Of course it would be great if we managed to help everyone to get rid of their depression, or to dash anxiety for good. But it’s not how it works in this job…

Some of your patients will battle their demons until they die, and some may even commit suicide, or suffer some serious medical problems as an indirect result of their behavioral problems. Unless you can deal with that, you won’t remain long in this profession.

Ensure the interviewers that you are aware of the reality of this work. Your goal is to try your best with every client, but you know that the outcome is not entirely in your hands. And you keep reminding this to yourself, and you also maintain professional distance from your clients, to avoid getting attached to them emotionally.

Of course you are human being, you have your feelings and emotions, and sometimes you may struggle when something bad happens to one of your patients. But as long as you manage to keep the distance and to humbly admit the limitations of your work, you will get over it.


Other questions you may face in your interview for a Behavior Therapist job

  • What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job?
  • How will you treat a young student who experiences severe anxiety every day before going to school?
  • Imagine that one of your patients became emotionally attached to you, or even fell in love with you. What would you do in this situation?
  • What motivates you the most in this job?
  • How will you help someone to overcome their smoking addiction?
  • Describe your best and worst experience with providing therapy to someone.
  • How do you imagine your cooperation with psychiatrists, counselors, and other staff members working here?


Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a job of a behavior therapist belongs to interviews with average difficulty. This is a specialty field, and you typically won’t compete with many other people for the job.

On the other hand, you will face some tricky scenario-based questions, and you will have to convince the hiring managers that you have both theoretical knowledge of therapy and right attitude to your work and clients. 

Try to write a short answer to each question from my list, read it a couple of times, and do some research about your future place of work. Luck favors the prepared mind. If you do not underestimate your interview preparation, you should succeed. I wish you good luck!

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Matthew Chulaw
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