How to become a CDA-licensed therapist
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How to Become CDA-Licensed as a Therapist in Dubai

    On 11 May, 2023

Becoming a licensed therapist in Dubai can be a complicated process. There are various licensing authorities, such as Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Community Development Authority (CDA). DHA is the licensing body for health and medical professionals while CDA is the licensing body for social and community welfare professionals. With regards to psychology professions, the CDA is the licensing body for counseling psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and typically anyone with a non-clinical degree gearing toward psychotherapy and counseling. 

For those who are interested in becoming CDA licensed, there are several steps that need to be followed. For this blog, we interviewed Shivanee Singhvi, a Dubai-based therapist who recently completed the process.

Shivanee’s journey towards becoming a licensed therapist began in 2019 when she transitioned from working in marketing in the aviation industry. She completed a postgraduate certificate in counseling and later a one-year online Master’s degree that involved 200 hours of internship. She was able to complete her internship with various organizations in Delhi and Mumbai. This enabled her to gain experience in online therapy. From the time of graduation to becoming licensed, it took about a year. Here are the steps she shared with us for her CDA license:

Step 1: Attestation of Degree

The first step towards obtaining a license as a therapist in Dubai is to get your degree attested. Degree attestation in the UAE refers to the process of verifying the authenticity of an educational degree earned outside of the country. It is a requirement for candidates seeking to work in professional jobs. 

The process typically involves submitting the original degree certificate along with supporting documents to the relevant authorities for review and authentication. Shivanee recommends using agencies that support this process and ensure that your degree has been attested properly.

Step 2: Submit attested documents to DataFlow

Once the degree has been attested, the next step is to submit the attested documents to DataFlow. This process takes approximately two months. DataFlow is a screening process that enables the CDA to confirm your authenticity and evaluate a candidate’s degree qualifications in rigorous detail. Dr. Sarah Bougary, Psychiatrist and owner of Monarch Center, recommends using It stores your DataFlow verifications, then sends them to different entities immediately instead of the professional having to manually upload and send different verifications to various entities.

Step 3: Submit Documents to the Ministry of Education (MoE)

The next step is to submit your transcripts, degree, and DataFlow results (addressed to the MoE) to the Ministry of Education (MoE). To apply for equalization the applicant has to first create a user ID and password. Once that is done the applicant will get the option of selecting ‘equalization services.’

The MoE evaluates educational degrees and certificates earned outside of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to ensure that they match the quality of similar degrees earned in the UAE. If they find equivalency, the MoE issues a certificate, which confirms the educational degree’s validity in the UAE. This process takes minimum two months and often longer if additional documents need to be submitted.

Step 4: Receive Equivalency

Once your documents have been evaluated by the MoE, and equivalency granted, you should receive a SMS notification. This notification will confirm your eligibility to apply for a license. Ms. Grainne Parish, Educational Psychologist in Dubai and owner of Insights Psychology, added that a second Dataflow report addressed to the CDA will be required after this step. That is why, using a service such as could save you time and energy.

Step 5: Apply Via Email to the CDA

The last step is to apply via email to the CDA. In Shivanee’s case, she applied for the “social counselor” category, which was relevant to her qualifications. The application process includes submitting several documents such as a completed application, passport-size photo, passport copy, CV, attested educational certificates, equivalency certificates, an attested intern program completion certificate, and professional liability insurance.

Step 6: Licensing Exam

Around two weeks later, Shivanee received a notification to take the licensing examination, which was scheduled for one month later. She began studying for the exam by utilizing various resources such as the BPS Ethics in Counseling Handbook and the American Counseling Association Counseling Skills Book. Mr. Mina Shafik, Dubai based Clinical Psychologist, recommends using U.S. based EPPP study books to prepare for the CDA licensing exam.

After about two weeks, Shivanee received the results that she had passed the exam. She obtained an initial approval, and a six-month grace period to find work and secure a work contract. 

The licensing process in Dubai can feel at first daunting. However, many aspects of this process just require a fair bit of waiting and patience. Other parts of the process require following up with authorities periodically to ensure you have submitted the correct documentation. It’s also important to note, that the licensing process has changed a few times over the past 10 years. We advise against using only the information here as a roadmap. For more information regarding CDA licensing in Dubai visit the CDA website. We would like to express our gratitude to all therapists who have paved the way and shared their experience with us. If you are a Clinical Psychologist, Neuropsychologist, Health Psychologist, or Rehabilitation Psychologist you will need to contact the Dubai Health Authority for licensing.

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