Do I Need a Master’s in Psychology to Be a Family Therapist?

If you enjoy helping others and acting as a mediator, you might be interested in learning the requirements to be a family therapist. Since family therapists come from a wide range of academic backgrounds, there are several different ways to enter this field. To become a marriage and family therapist (MFT), you will need at least a master’s degree, and many MFTs go on to complete doctoral and post-doctoral work.

Undergraduate Requirements

To become a family therapist, you first need a bachelor’s degree. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can usually get into a master’s program without having a degree in one of the social sciences. However, if you are planning on becoming an MFT when you begin your college education, it will be helpful to major in a field such as psychology, counseling, sociology, social work or nursing.

Master’s Programs

While getting your education to become a marriage and family therapist, you can choose from several different master’s programs. Some master’s programs in marriage and family therapy are terminal programs, a term loosely meaning that upon completion of the program you will not need any further education in order to practice in your chosen career field. Other master’s programs are a stepping stone on the route to further education. If you wish to choose a terminal master’s degree, make sure that the program you choose complies with the requirements necessary to practice family therapy in the state where you intend to live.

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Doctoral Studies

Many marriage and family counselors eventually get their doctoral degree in psychology or a related field. If you choose to study marriage and family therapy through the field of psychology rather than with a social work degree, a doctorate may be required in order for you to bill certain clients, such as those on Medicaid and Medicare. Additionally, having a doctorate in marriage and family therapy will best qualify you to work in a government position, and such positions have a considerably higher pay scale, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Licensure and Certifications

Licensing requirements to be a family therapist vary from state to state. After earning your degree, you will need to take a state licensure exam to become a Licensed Practical Counselor or Licensed Clinical Social Worker. To learn about other licensure requirements, you should check with the state where you live and plan to practice.

Marriage and family therapists can also seek certification from professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association. While not required to practice as an MFT, these certifications provide professional benefits that are often worth the time, money and effort required to earn them.

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Marriage and family therapy is a multi-disciplinary field that is growing quickly. Many families have benefitted from the help provided by a therapist who acts as a mediator. Like any fulfilling career, becoming an MFT takes a lot of work, but meeting the requirements to be a family therapist can lead to a wonderful career in helping others.