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The 10 Best Online Marriage and Family Counseling Programs

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Counseling-Badge-MarraigeProgramsThe purpose of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) is to help couples and/or families overcome difficult hurdles and enable healthier family environments. If this type of work interests you, there’s never been a better time to pursue a career in Marriage and Family Counseling. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth for the field of Marriage and Family Counseling or Therapy is expected to increase by 41% between 2010 and 2020, much faster than average job growth expected for the economy as a whole.

Within the mental health field, the earnings potential for marriage and family therapists outpaces the other specializations like mental health counselors, and child, family and school social workers. The BLS found that the median salary for a marriage and family therapist was $46,670 as recently as May 2012.

Many of the programs available offer degrees in Psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy. These are primarily master’s degree programs, admission to which will require a bachelor’s degree, either in Psychology or at least a few undergraduate courses in Psychology.

These programs are designed to prepare students for licensure in the states where they plan to practice as therapists. Therefore, they will require fairly extensive research and clinical hours. License requirements may vary somewhat by state.

There are dozens of MFT programs on offer across the country, though most are only offered on-campus. Distance learning or online study programs have grown in number over the past several years, with varying degrees of success. It is important that you look closely at the curriculums of each program you are considering before you choose one.

What makes a good online MFT Program?

Coursework should include the following topics at a minimum:

  • Theories of psychotherapy
  • Family studies
  • Couples therapy
  • Ethics in a marriage and family therapy practice
  • Social and cultural diversity
  • Human sexuality
  • Play therapy theories
  • Study should also include a supervised clinical component.

Other factors to consider include program Accreditation. Accreditation is granted by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Firstly, accreditation by COAMFTE is strictly voluntary, and not all online programs have gone through this process. The purpose of the accreditation, as with accreditation in most industries, is to ensure the quality of the program offering. This serves a dual purpose: for the student, you can be assured that your program meets the highest standards set by your field; and for the program or University, it lends a higher status or credibility to the program. As a part of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, a professional association which represents more than 25,000 marriage and family therapists, the COAMFTE reviews and grants accreditation to Graduate, Doctoral and post-Doc programs that meet or exceed the standards set by the Commission. In order to check if the program you are considering is currently accredited, contact COA@aamtf.org