Marriage and Family Counseling Jobs

Marriage and family therapists diagnose and treat mental and/or emotional disorders within marriages or family groups, helping patients to pinpoint and overcome problems within the marital or familial unit.

Job Description: A Day in the Life of a Marriage and Family Therapist

Most marriage and family therapists work in private practices, treating patients on an appointment basis. Marriage and family therapists make use of nonmedical psychotherapeutic techniques and family systems theories while working with individuals, couples and families in attempts to resolve emotional conflicts. The job involves improving communication and understanding among family members, as well as helping to modify individuals’ behaviors.

Another part of a marriage and family therapist’s job may involve referring patients to other mental health professionals, such as a licensed psychiatrist, if this is deemed necessary. Some marriage and family therapists specialize in a specific area, such as genetic counseling, in which counselors work with families who include a member with a genetic disorder or birth defect.

General Requirements and Training

In most States, a bachelor’s degree combined with counseling courses is the minimum requirement to become a marriage and family counselor. Many employers may also require a master’s degree in counselling, a certain amount of post-graduate clinical experience, and a passing grade on State-recognized exam. Many colleges and universities offer counseling programs in their education or psychology departments, a number of them offering specialization in marriage and family therapy.

Some marriage and family therapists go on to earn a doctorate degree in family therapy; while not necessarily required, this opens up the door for professional advancement as these individuals may go on to become researchers, teachers or supervisors in their field.

Marriage and family counselors need to be able to communicate with a great variety of people and need to be good at negotiating discussions between others, as much marriage and family counseling involves overseeing group discussions. A desire to help people and excellent interpersonal skills are essential to the job.

Salary, Benefits, and Opportunities for Advancement

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for marriage and family therapists is $44,590 as of May 2008. reports that a marriage/family therapist with one to four years of experience earns an average salary of $32,463 to $45,830 annually, while a marriage/family therapist with twenty or more years of experience earns an average annual salary of $44,558 to $59,656.

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