How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist

So long as there are marriages and families, there will always be marital problems and dysfunctional families. But with the help of trained therapists and counselors, couples and their children can find ways to overcome their difficulties. Becoming a marriage therapist or family counselor is a great career option for anyone interested in psychology, sociology, and helping others.

Making a Career in Marriage and Family Therapy

The primary requirements for being a marriage and family therapist are good listening skills, a degree in psychology, sociology, or counseling, and most importantly, excellent problem-solving skills. If you think you have what it take to be a good marriage counselor, this guide will explain the process of earning a marriage and family therapy license.

The first step is to review your state's licensing requirements for therapists and counselors. Check with your state's Dept. of Public Health, or similar agency. Note that the terms "marriage therapist" and "marriage counselor" are more or less interchangeable. The precise definition varies by state.

The requirements for becoming a marriage counselor vary by state, but most states require the following:

  • Master's degree or higher in some field (preferably in a cognitive science, social science, or health field)
  • completion of graduate level classes in psychology and family counseling
  • pre-licensure field experience (usually arranged through your school)
  • passing your state's licensing exam
  • background check and drug test
  • completion of continuing education credits to maintain or renew your marriage counselor's license

After you earn Bachelor's degree, you should enroll in a Master's program in psychology, social work, or counseling. If you already have an advanced degree in another field, there is no need to earn another. You can simply take graduate level courses in psychology and counseling at an accredited university. There are also many accredited online universities that offer classes in marriage and family therapy.

When you have completed the necessary coursework, the next step is to gain field experience in family counseling. There are many community outreach programs that hire trainees, and in some states you can shadow a licensed marriage counselor. If you are enrolled in a marriage therapy education program, your school will help you arrange an internship.

The last step is to take the licensing exam. Study by reviewing your academic and field training notes. If you don't pass the first time, you can always retake the exam. Once the licensing board has approved your application to be a marriage and family counselor, you can add the qualification to your resume, and begin your new career.

As a marriage therapist, you will encounter the same problems over and over again, as well as some truly bizarre situations. You must lend fresh ears to each story, and reserve judgment to focus on finding solutions. Learn to de-stress in your private life to avoid burnout in your professional life. Marriage counselors meet many couples for whom they think divorce is best solution, or couples who never should have married in the first place. Don't be afraid to discuss divorce, even if the couple says they want to be married. Think of tough cases as puzzles or brain teasers.

© Had2Know 2010