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.