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And please, be kind to one another.
Well, I tend to be a rather obsessive and wide-ranging reader, and as a result my initial impulse is to recommend thousands of books to you, which I know is now what you’re looking for. I think learning goes on forever, and many different kinds of books can offer many different kinds of things to a therapist, aspring or established. Most days I think there’s probably a good deal more to be learned about human nature by reading Tolstoy or Virginia Woolf or David Foster Wallace than there is from a psychology text book of any kind.
But since your question was specifically regarding important and/or seminal psychological literature, I will try to keep myself to that. :)
So, for starters, read anything you can get your hands on from Irvin Yalom (especially Love’s Executioner and The Gift of Therapy), Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, Karen Horney (especially Neurosis and Human Growth), Erich Fromm, and William James. If you need more specific suggestions than that, feel free to let me know…
Well, I guess the first thing I should tell you is that you absolutely don’t need to go to school forever to be a therapist or a counselor. There are many different paths to the career, most of which require an undergraduate degree of some kind (not even necessarily in psychology) and then a graduate degree (typically a 2 year program). You can always go to school longer to obtain a Ph’D or PsyD or become a full-on psychiatrist, but none of these are necessary paths to becoming a licensed therapist.
I’m not sure where you’re currently at in your schooling, so I’m not sure how many years that will mean you have to do, but assuming you’d at least planned to get an undergraduate degree in something already, then you’d only need to consider going to school an additonal two years to get yours Masters in a related-field (an MA in Counseling, an MSW, an MFT, etc). Once you have your graduate degree, you typically have to do a few years of post-graduate work in order to acquire the necessary client and supervision hours required to take the licensure exam for your particular state. And, once you’ve done all that, you will be a licensed therapist.
As far as non-schooling or training-related advice, in general I’d say it’s quite helpful to have a huge and deep curiosity about people if you want to do this work for many years, to view psychotherapy as far more an art than a science in general, and to make sure you can take good care of yourself on a personal level while doing the work (including good self-care habits, building and maintaining a fulfilling life outside of your work, and having your own therapist so that you can be aware of your own issues, struggles and blind spots).
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking