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If your passion is to help treat those with mental health issues and help them better interact with the world and their families, consider becoming a marriage and family therapist. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy research indicates that marriage and family therapy is in some cases more effective than individual treatments for conditions like anorexia, addiction, autism and adult schizophrenia.
As a therapist for couples, or parents and their children, you can help people who care for each other better communicate and solve problems in more constructive ways. To many professionals in this industry, helping families stay together is what they find most rewarding.
THE CAREER PATH
Graduates of marriage and family therapist programs are often seen working in the community at rehabilitation facilities, non-profit organizations, or even private practice either individually or in a mental health clinic. MFT professionals help their clients by:
- Asking questions to help them better identify their feelings. With young children, this is often done through some sort of activity such as role-playing.
- Offering parenting classes and teaching participants how to better talk to and positively influence their children.
- Teach communication skills and positive ways to handle confrontation and disagreements.
Therapists who focus on couples or family therapy earn a median salary of $48,600 annually according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It is also considered a field that has a “bright outlook” since it is projected to grow by at least 14% over the next decade.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Many people have either been in dysfunctional home environments or know someone who has. Because of this, there is a need for marriage and family therapists. This may attract many to this field, but to truly thrive in this role it is important to have a desire to help people and make a difference in their lives. These professionals (and most therapists and counselors) also believe in the power of communication and can teach others to communicate better.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
It may be obvious that MFT therapists begin their degrees with education; however, many do not realize just how many different degree programs can help you pursue this career. Social work, human services, counseling, psychology, and other majors are all found on the resume of marriage and family therapists. To practice, you must have at least a master’s degree.
Once you have graduated, most states require that you be licensed to perform this type of counseling. Each state has its own set of requirements which normally include both education and supervised training. They may also have more specific mandates on education – both on degree type and major.
For instance, New Mexico requires at least a master’s in family and marriage therapy, whereas Kentucky will also accept a graduate degree in counseling, community mental health, social work, or psychology as long as you have nine semester hours in marriage and family studies.
To find more specifics on the requirements of each state contact the schools you are considering or visit the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards website.
ONLINE MARRIAGE & FAMILY THERAPY PROGRAMS
There are MFT programs that focus on this type of therapy at most levels of education from certificates to doctorates. This education tract can be found as a specialization in other related degree programs like psychology or counseling. Marriage and family therapy programs can also be completed 100% online.
Regardless of which online marriage and family program you pursue, there are common elements to the curriculum that you will see. These include:
- Family Systems Therapy
- Crisis Intervention
- Addictions Counseling
- Child and Parent Therapy
- Life Transitions and Human Development
Although many states require a master’s or doctorate to be a certified marriage and family therapist, many social workers and other human services professionals also focus on helping families. So, if you are committed to pursuing this career but are not ready to or cannot afford to earn a graduate degree, start small with a bachelor’s or certificate.
Our rankings show the average online master’s in psychology costs $26,393. Keep this figure in mind as you look at the tuition at different colleges and remember to also consider the cost per credit hour and how many credit hours are required to graduate.