How Do You Become a Marriage and Family Counselor?

Marriage Family TherapyFamily and couple relationships that are under pressure from various factors can benefit from consulting with marriage and family counselors. Hectic schedules and social pressures characterize the modern lifestyle. In some cases, the stress is compounded by pre-existing issues such as familial predisposition to certain mental and behavioral conditions. Counseling by experts in these matters can do a lot to improve family relationships, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Functions of Marriage and Family Counselors

The modern family comes in different compositions. Traditional family units, blended families, single-parent households and same-sex parent family units all face pressures that are unique to their circumstances. Working mainly with these family units, marriage and family counselors are categorized under mental health professionals with specialized training in psychotherapy, family dynamics and family systems. They are trained and qualified to diagnose mental and emotional issues as they relate to familial circumstances. They are tasked with evaluating and treating emotional and behavioral disorders especially as they relate to family or relationship issues.

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Marriage and family therapists may deal with individual members of the family, but the emphasis is always on ensuring the well-being of family members. These counselors may diagnose and treat conditions such as depression, mood disorders, substance abuse and adult alcoholism. They are instrumental in creating treatment plans for patients diagnosed with autism, adolescent challenges and marital conflict. These counselors may work in mental health facilities, community centers, office of social services or in private practice.

How to Become a Marriage and Family Counselor

To get a sense of what marriage and family counselors do, experts in the field recommend hands-on involvement in this sector as a volunteer in private or government agencies providing these services. As part of the core group of mental health professionals, marriage and family counselors must earn their stripes, starting with a four-year degree in psychology, sociology, social work or counseling. Graduate coursework through a master’s and a doctorate degree in counseling or related field will help establish your credentials.

Marriage and family counselors are licensed professionals in all states. Two years of clinical experience is part of the credentialing requirement, but the minimum number of hours may vary from one state to the next. For instance, applicants for a marriage and family counselor license in New York must show at least 1,500 hours of supervised clinical work while California requires 3,000 hours.

Outlook for Marriage and Family Counselors

The practice of marriage and family counseling is delicate business in the sense that these professionals have to deal with inter-family conflicts among other issues. Aside from excellent listening and communication skills, these counselors should be steadfast in their resolve to remain neutral amid very emotional and high-stakes discussions.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics expect the field to grow by 22 percent in the 10-year period ending in 2029, which is much faster than average. The median salary was placed at $49,610 with counselors employed by state government agencies (excluding schools and hospitals) pulling in top pay.

Related Resource: Top 15 Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

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It takes quite a bit of time and resources to become a marriage and family counselor. The academic and credentialing requirements are stringent and necessarily so because this job involves dealing with confidential and life-changing issues that could affect the health and well-being of family members. If you are compassionate and you like listening to people, strive to become a marriage and family counselor where you find fulfillment in a family-focused career.