Marriage and family counselors help couples and families through emotionally difficult times. Continue reading to learn about education requirements and the career opportunities in this field.
Master's and doctoral degree programs in marriage and family therapy, clinical psychology or counseling psychology can lead to career opportunities in marriage and family psychology. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), marriage and family therapists are professionals who treat emotional and mental disorders in families and couples. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that positions are also available in counseling and clinical psychology, which involves working with individuals and families to treat mental health issues, address everyday problems and improve a client's overall quality of life (www.bls.gov).
According to the BLS, to work as a counselor or a psychologist, you must be able to gain your clients' trust and respect, be compassionate and mature enough to handle problems and deal effectively with people. While you might often work on your own with clients, you should also be able to work with other professionals, such as school counselors, social workers, psychiatrists and medical doctors, to help your clients achieve their desired results. The AAMFT states that marriage and family therapists help their clients set specific, attainable goals and might treat clinical problems, such as anxiety and depression.
According to the BLS, more than 34,000 professionals worked in marriage and family therapy in 2012. The BLS projects that between 2012 and 2022, the employment of marriage and family therapists should increase by 31%, and it should increase by 11% for counseling and clinical psychologists. The BLS adds that part of the expected increase in demand is due to population growth.
As of May 2012, the median annual salary for clinical and counseling psychologists was $67,650, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for marriage and family therapists was $46,670 that year. Working in this field, you might find employment in hospitals, outpatient care centers, family service facilities, social service agencies and community mental health agencies. You can also go into private practice.
Earning a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Psychology prepares you to practice as a counseling psychologist who specializes in working with couples and families. A Master of Science in Clinical Psychology (MSCP) with a marriage and family psychology sub-specialty also allows you to treat patients. This training can also prepare you for a doctorate in counseling psychology, marriage and family counseling or marriage and family therapy. The AAMFT states that marriage and family therapists have a variety of backgrounds in psychology, social work, nursing and counseling.
Marriage and family therapy degree programs are available at many institutions and include courses in counseling theories, treatment issues and methods for treating addictions in familial and marital situations. Other classes address sexual health and therapies, behavioral and emotional problems that can affect familial health and ways to promote changes that will improve your clients' lives.
These programs also have clinical practicum requirements, which allow you to work with individuals and groups under the supervision of licensed practitioners. You'll receive training in issues particular to adults, adolescents and children, as well as the psychotherapeutic modalities applicable to each stage of development.
Before you can become a practicing marriage and family therapist or a marriage counselor, you must earn your license in marriage and family counseling. Typically, this includes 3,000 hours or two years of clinical experience that must be completed after you earn your master's degree. You can also pursue certification as a counselor from the National Board for Certified Counselors.