The people with whom we live—our spouses, significant others, children and parents—all have an impact on our mental well-being. A marriage and family therapist understands this, and it is from this perspective that he or she approaches therapy whether his or her clients are couples, families or individuals. That is why, in addition to treating clients, he or she attends to their relationships as well.
Like other mental health professionals, marriage and family therapists help their clients overcome or manage their disorders or illnesses which can include anxiety, low self-esteem, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and substance abuse. They take into account the effect a client's family has on his or her mental health by evaluating family roles. They also help clients resolve interpersonal problems within relationships.
- Marriage and family therapists earned a median annual salary of $48,040 in 2014. Hourly earnings were $23.10.
- In 2014, slightly fewer than 34,000 people worked in this field.
- Jobs were in mental health centers, hospitals, colleges and private therapy practices.
- Most marriage and family therapists work full time and their hours include weekends and evenings.
- The outlook for this occupation is excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies this as a "Bright Outlook" occupation because they predict employment will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.
A Day in a Marriage and Family Therapist's Life:
If you are considering this career, you should know about some typical job duties. We took a look at some listings on Indeed.com to see what employers had to say:
- "Provide strength-based, intensive (depending on client program) mental health services to families, couples, individuals, and children utilizing the principles of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy complemented with Solution Focused Therapy"
- "Independently conduct intake and needs assessment of Veterans and their significant others and establish helping relationships with their clients"
- "Maintain accurate, thoroughly documented client records with a quality of documentation that meets facility and licensing standards"
- "Engage in planning, implementation and evaluation of therapeutic treatment programs for each client"
- "Provide in-service training as needed"
- "Cooperate with staff and other community agencies in carrying out treatment plans"
- "Attend and participate in weekly scheduled Clinical Team meetings and Reflective Supervision"
How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist
You must earn a master's degree in marriage and family therapy before you can practice in this field. If you enroll in a graduate program, you will learn about marriage, families, and relationships and how they function and affect mental and emotional disorders. You will have to participate in a supervised practical learning experience, such as an internship, to complete your degree. To be admitted to a program, you need a bachelor's degree, but it does not have to be in any particular area of study.
In addition to a degree, you will also need a license to practice marriage and family therapy.
It requires getting two years of clinical experience under a licensed therapist's supervision and passing a state-recognized exam. To maintain licensure, you will need to complete continuing education courses annually. State regulatory boards issue licenses. See the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards website for a list of state-recognized boards
What Soft Skills Do You Need?
You will learn about conducting therapy through your formal training, but you won't acquire all the soft skills, or personal qualities, you need to succeed in this field. They are:
- Communication Skills: You need excellent verbal communication skills to clearly convey information to clients. You also need strong listening skills so you can understand the information they are sharing with you.
- Social Perceptiveness: As a therapist, you must be aware of the sentiments behind your clients' actions.
- Service Orientation: The desire to help others is essential for anyone who wants to work in this field.
- Problem Solving and Critical Thinking: You must be able to recognize problems and identify possible strategies to solve them.
What Will Employers Expect From You?
To find out what requirements employers have, we looked at some actual job announcements on Indeed.com:
- "Remain current with best practice standards and related research"
- "Enjoys collaborating with a team"
- "Keeps appropriate professional boundaries"
- "Must demonstrate a commitment and ability to serve a diverse community"
- "Skill in the use of computer software applications for drafting documents, data management, maintaining accurate, timely and thorough clinical documentation, and tracking quality improvements"
Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?
Occupations With Similar Tasks
|Description||Median Annual Wage (2014)||Minimum Required Education/Training|
|Mental Health Counselor||Helps people who have mental or emotional disorders||$40,850||Master's Degree in a Mental Health Field|
|Clinical Social Worker|
Diagnoses and treats people for emotional, behavioral or mental conditions
|$42,120||Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW)|
|School Counselor||Helps students overcome academic and social problems||$53,370||Master's Degree in School Counseling|
|Substance Abuse Counselor||Treats clients who have problems with drug and alcohol addiction||$39,270||Bachelor's Degree|
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited April 11, 2016).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited April 11, 2016).