How do I become a marriage and family counselor?

How do I become a marriage and family counselor?

How do I become a marriage and family counselor?

marriage-counselor-salary

There may be some confusion between the terms “marriage counselor” and “marriage therapist”. One can use the terms interchangeably; however, states that regulate the profession use the term “marriage and family therapist” exclusively. The growth in the various kinds of families today including blended families, extended families, single parent families, and same-sex families has led to a multiplicity of problems. The marriage and family counselor or therapist is available to help in working out issues that are causing problems within the home. Working with the family, the therapist or counselor can pinpoint the issues affecting the members in order to restore a more harmonious atmosphere and reduce the stress on those involved. In many cases, family members cannot work out these issues themselves and need outside intervention. The marriage therapist employs different methods to dissect the relational issues that may be causing the tension. In a day when nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, the need for some kind of outside intervention is crucial to prevent a devastating separation. Even if the couples remain together, the volatile situation can have disastrous results. Some common disagreements center on infidelity, jealousy, financial problems, child rearing, substance abuse, mental illness, teenage rebellion, and many others.


From the outset, the person seeking to become a marriage therapist must have certain characteristics. In addition to a desire to help families, the therapist or counselor must be an excellent listener and communicator with the ability to facilitate interaction between the members so that the problems can come to the surface. After discovering the cause of the problem, the counselor or therapist can help the family deal with their issues. In many cases, the therapist can help by teaching them to communicate more effectively.

The training necessary for becoming a licensed counselor or therapist is demanding. The requirements include a master’s degree (2-3 years), a doctoral program (3 to 5 ) years, and clinical training (3-4years). To complete the process, the therapist must take a state licensing exam or one conducted by the AAMFT Regulatory Boards. In pursuing advanced training, it is good to consult the American Association For Marriage and Family Therapy for accredited programs. It is now possible to obtain an advanced degree in Marriage and Family Therapy online, with clinical practice in one’s own locality. Capella and North Central Universities are two of the schools that offer such programs.

Despite the demanding requirements, the outlook for marriage counseling therapists is good. The number of opportunities will probably increase in the coming years because of the expected coverage of therapy by the insurance companies.

Marriage and Family Counselor Educational Requirements and Processes

Marriage and Family Counselor Educational Requirements and Processes

The educational path begins with a bachelor’s degree in counseling, followed by a master’s and doctoral degrees in counseling. For certification by most states, the applicant must take three courses in family studies, three courses in family therapy methodology, three courses in human development, psychopathology, or personality theory, and two semester hours in law and ethics, and standards of professional practice. The state may also require 2 semester hours of research and 300 hours of direct client contact, 150 of these involving couples or families. In addition to these requirements, a therapist candidate must complete sixty hours of supervised clinical experience during at least eight consecutive months either during graduate education or by working at an approved marriage and family setting after graduation. The approved supervisors must be one of the following:

• A licensed master’s social worker
• A licensed marriage and family therapist
• A physician practicing in the mental health field
• A licensed professional counselor
• A licensed psychologist
• A supervisor approved by the AAMFT

An applicant should consult his or her own state for requirements for that particular state.

Processes in Marriage and Family Counseling and Therapy

Processes in Marriage and Family Counseling and Therapy

The average marriage therapist has had an average of 13 years of clinical practice in the marriage therapist field. The skilled therapist extends the usual individual aspect of therapy and counseling to include the people in a broad network of relationships as found in a typical family. They are able to diagnose and treat emotional disorders that may occur in a marriage and family setting.

The therapy issues may involve a holistic view of the relationships surrounding the entire marriage system, including the family background of the primary individuals. Our family history eventually affects the situation in marriage and family relationships. A counselor or therapist may search the patterns of behavior that may be the source of the presenting problem. The treatment plan will involve the whole set of relationships surrounding the situation. The goal of marriage and family counseling and therapy is to be as brief as feasible, without dragging it out too long. There are various methods of therapy. Some therapeutic theories may dig deeper into the family histories of the participants to determine if that background may be causing the problem. Other therapies are more solution-focused, going directly to the remedy with specific and attainable goals. The design of all therapy is to have the end in mind. Marriage therapists engage in short-term therapy. 12 Sessions are usually adequate. 66 percent of the cases are completed in 20 sessions. Marriage counselors and therapists typically divide their time equally between one-on-one cases and marital/couple and family therapy. A licensed counselor or therapist can address a broad range of issues including depression, marital problems, anxiety, child-parent problems, and psychological disorders.

Research seems to indicate that marriage and family therapy is as effective as or more effective than other types of therapeutic treatments.

Career Opportunities in Marriage and Family Counseling

Career Opportunities in Marriage and Family Counseling

The average salary for marriage counselors and therapists vary by state. Marriage and family therapists have an average salary of $49,270 as of 2012. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of jobs will grow by 4.1%, creating l4,800 jobs. One advantage of marriage counseling and therapy is the cost effectiveness. The fees of marriage counselors and therapists are 60% of psychiatrists and 80% of psychologists. Since the services of marriage therapists involve fewer visits than other therapy, the costs are lower. Marriage and family therapy reduces health care use by 21.5%. Users of marriage and family therapy appreciate the service they received. Some typical surveys showed that 98.1% rated the service as good or excellent. 73.7% indicated improvement in children’s behavior, and 58.7% showed improvement in children’s school performance.

Marriage counselors and therapists work in a variety of situations. Half of all marriage therapists work in private practice. One quarter work in institutional or organizational settings. Marriage therapists labor among special groups of people. 25% work among minority populations, and 25% work in faith-based settings. 17% serve in rural areas, and 9% work in schools. Marriage and family counselors and therapists serve in the following settings:

• Private practice
• Community mental health centers
• Inpatient facilities
• Employee assistance programs
• Health maintenance organizations
• Schools and head start centers
• Social service agencies

Marriage and family counselors and therapists have shown their ability to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. More than 50,000 marriage and family counselors and therapists treat individuals and families in many diverse settings, and 46 states grant licenses for the profession. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has grown from 237 members in 1966 to its present number today. This phenomenal growth is due to increased awareness of the value of family life and the struggles families face in a rapidly changing world.

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy provides guidelines for members to assure the ethical treatment of clients. The AAMFT stresses ongoing professional development of the members and distributes important updates on clinical and research developments. Members are also invited to attend events during the year for continuing education and development.