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Marriage And Family Therapy Career

Career Description

A Marriage and Family Therapist diagnoses and treats mental and emotional disorders,  whether cognitive, affective, or behavioral, within the context of marriage and family systems. They apply psychotherapeutic and family systems theories and techniques in the delivery of professional services to individuals, couples,  and families for the purpose of treating such diagnosed nervous and mental disorders.

Common Work Tasks

  • Apply family systems theory, principals and techniques to individuals, families, and couples to resolve emotional conflicts
  • Modify people’s perceptions and behaviors,  enhance communication and understanding among family members, and help to prevent family and individual crises
  • Engage in psychotherapy of a non-medical nature,  make appropriate referrals to psychiatric resources, perform research, and teach courses about human development and interpersonal relationships
  • Ask questions that will help clients identify their feelings and behaviors
  • Counsel clients on concerns, such as unsatisfactory relationships, divorce and separation, child rearing, home management, and financial difficulties
  • Encourage individuals and family members to develop and use skills and strategies for confronting their problems in a constructive manner
  • Maintain case files that include activities,  progress notes, evaluations, and recommendations
  • Collect information about clients, using techniques such as testing, interviewing, discussion, and observation
  • Develop and implement individualized treatment plans addressing family relationship problems
  • Determine whether clients should be counseled or referred to other specialists in such fields as medicine, psychiatry, and legal aid

Other Job Titles

Marriage and Family Therapists are also known by other titles, including:

  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Career Planning Counselors
  • Rehabilitation Counselors
  • Psychologists

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Education requirements vary based on occupational specialty and State licensure and certification requirements. A master’s degree is usually required to be licensed as a counselor. Some States require counselors in public employment to have a master’s degree; others accept a bachelor’s degree with appropriate counseling courses.

Certification and Licensure
Licensure requirements differ greatly by State, occupational specialty, and work setting.  Many States require school counselors to hold a State school counseling certification and to have completed at least some graduate course work; most require the completion of a master’s degree. Some States require school counselors to be licensed, which generally requires continuing education credits. Some States require public school counselors to have both counseling and teaching certificates and to have had some teaching experience.

For counselors based outside of schools, 49 States and the District of Columbia have some form of counselor licensure that governs the practice of counseling. Requirements typically include the completion of a master’s degree in counseling, the accumulation of 2 years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience beyond the master’s degree level, the passage of a State-recognized exam, adherence to ethical codes and standards, and the completion of annual continuing education requirements. However, counselors working in certain settings or in a particular specialty may face different licensure requirements.

People interested in counseling should have a strong desire to help others and should be able to inspire respect, trust, and confidence. They should be able to work independently or as part of a team. Counselors must follow the code of ethics associated with their respective certifications and licenses. Counselors must possess high physical and emotional energy to handle the array of problems that they address. Dealing daily with these problems can cause stress.


The median annual salary for a Marriage and Family Therapist is $44,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $68,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $26,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of marriage and family therapists are:

  • Individual and Family Services - $39,410
  • Outpatient Care Centers - $47,850
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners - $47,050
  • Offices of Physicians - $47,120
  • Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services  - $40,480

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  30%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 7,400
  • Employment 2006 : 25,000
  • Employment 2016:  32,000
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