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What does a Marriage and Family Therapist do?

If you're a good listener, skilled at mediation and able to identify underlying issues that affect relationships, becoming a marriage and family therapist may be for you. Intervening and counseling in marriages and familial relationships requires a real desire to resolve relational crises and bring about healing. A high degree of personal energy and willingness to be involved with others is required.

Marriage and family therapists diagnose and treat emotional and mental disorders within the context of family and psychotherapeutic systems techniques and theories. Therapists treat couples, individuals, or entire families, seeking to restore mental and relational health.

Educational requirements for becoming a marriage and family therapist

Training requirements vary by state but a master's degree is typically required. Coursework for secondary degrees may include such varied subjects as counseling techniques, human growth and development, assessment, and cultural diversity. The field of study for master's degree programs usually includes studies in a core group of courses in marriage and family therapy.

An accredited master's degree program typically consists of 48 to 60 semester hours of graduate study and a period of clinical counseling experience in a supervised setting. In most states, therapists are required to accumulate two years or 3,000 hours of supervised experience in clinical counseling beyond the master's degree level. Successful completion of a state examination, conformance to designated ethical codes, and earning annual continuing education credits are additional requirements.

Licensure for marriage and family therapists is required in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) accredits educational institutions through its Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). The COAMFTE accredits master's degree, doctoral degree, and post-graduate degree clinical training in marriage and family therapy throughout the United States and Canada.

Employment as a marriage and family therapist

The employers with the highest rate of employed therapists are individual and family services, state government, and the offices of other health practitioners. The following were top-paying employers:
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • State government
  • Employment services
Employment prospects are good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the field to grow by 14 percent.

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