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What's the Job Description for Marriage and Family Counselors?

Do you want to have a positive impact on people's lives? Would you like to help people improve their relationships with others? Read on to learn how you can utilize your skills and talents to become a marriage and family counselor.

Career Overview

As a marriage and family counselor, you will counsel individuals, couples, and families who experience problems and conflict in their interpersonal relationships. You will apply your knowledge of the family systems theory, psychotherapy, and other therapeutic techniques to diagnose and treat your clients' emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. These disorders can have a negative impact on the individual and their family and social relationships.

Although you may advise individuals independent of the larger group or family dynamic, you will place more emphasis on exploring how each individual's attitudes, behaviors, and actions impact the interactions with other family or group members. You will help your clients develop more effective listening, conflict resolution, and communication skills, which can lead to mutual respect and healthier relationships. You will work with a variety of clients, such as families dealing with a loved one's terminal illness, married couples transitioning from separation to divorce or reconciliation, or families facing any type of crisis situation.

Important Facts About Marriage and Family Counselors

Required Education Master's degree
On-the-job Training Residency/internship
Work Environment Mental health and substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, doctor's office, colleges
Similar Occupations Psychologist, rehabilitation counselor, community service manager

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Tasks and Responsibilities

Your location, agency, or practice specializations will determine your specific job duties. However, all marriage and family therapists provide counseling services. In many cases, the objective is to provide short-term, solution-focused therapy to help your clients identify and modify problematic behaviors, hopefully leading to more positive interpersonal relationships with others. You will also create treatment plans after reviewing the group's personal history. This may include analyzing data gathered from psychosocial, behavioral, and other appropriate assessments in order to develop a personalized treatment plan. You may maintain accurate progress notes according to guidelines and standards established by your agency and professional accreditation since this documentation tracks your treatment and is part of your clients' health records.

Some marriage and family counselors work collaboratively. Maintaining an open dialogue between yourself and other professionals who also work with your clients allows you to provide better treatment to your patients. Your position may also require you to teach courses in human development, research, and interpersonal relationships within an academic setting.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Marriage and family counselors have several employment options. You might find work in a university or college as an educator, or you may choose to open a private practice. In private practice, you might affiliate with an employee assistance program, court system, or prison as a source of clients. Mental health centers, inpatient treatment facilities, and family service organizations may also hire marriage and family counselors.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) projects that the employment of marriage and family therapists is expected to see the growth by 23% between 2016 and 2026. These professionals earned an annual median salary of $50,090 as of May 2018.