What Does a Family Therapist Do?

Family therapists resolve conflicts between family members. They meet with the family as a whole and discuss the issues that the family is having. Many family therapists are self-employed and work non-standard hours during the week. Schools offering Marriage & Family Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

A family therapist applies family systems theory along with other techniques and principles to help families that are suffering because of emotional conflicts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). In some instances, a family therapist can help family members identify behavioral patterns detrimental to the family's functioning. A family therapist may consult with professionals in the area of psychotherapy and may also make psychiatric referrals.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key SkillsAnalytical skills, observational skills, people skills, trustworthiness
Similar Occupations School and career counselors, social workers, psychologists
Entry-Level Education Master's Degree
Licensing 2,000-4,000 post-degree clinical experience hours, state-recognized exam, annual continuing education

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work Environment

Many family therapists are self-employed and set their own work schedules. This is beneficial to families that may experience a crisis at night or on the weekend. Other family therapists work for social service organizations and work typical 9-to-5 hours during the week.


Family therapists who hold an advanced degree may teach at a university or college. Typically, family therapists who teach full-time have a Ph.D. degree. Their work is divided between research, teaching, and advising students.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The BLS anticipates a 23% increase in jobs for family therapists between the years of 2016 and 2026, much faster than the national average for all jobs in the United States. As of 2016, there were 41,500 marriage and family therapists employed in the U.S., and employment projections predict an additional 9,700 jobs to be created between 2016 and 2026. The increase is mostly due to the use of integrated care, the treatment of multiple problems at one time by a group of specialists. The BLS additionally reported in May 2018 that the median salary earned by marriage and family therapists was $50,090 a year.

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