The family is the basic social unit, and provide a setting for most of the things we learn and experience in life. But families, whether single-parent, nuclear or extended, are not immune to problems. Members can disagree over money, property and other issues. This can lead to emotional and mental disorders, and undesirable outcomes such as divorce. Marriage and family therapists are the professionals trained to address such problems.
1. What Do Marriage and Family Therapists Do?
Their duties include:
- Interviewing individuals, couples and other family members to gather information about the problems they’re facing – This involves assessing the body language of the interviewees
- Diagnosing and treating emotional and mental disorders such as anxiety and depression
- Helping clients to make sound decisions about their problems, or adjust effectively to loss of employment or a divorce
- Referring clients with specific problems to other specialists – For example, they can send couples with sexual dysfunction to a sex therapists
- Teaching couples and families how to communicate more effectively
- Collaborating with other professional, such as child and family social workers
2. Work Environment
Marriage and family therapists work fulltime, 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. They could spend time in their offices with clients, or travel to clients’ homes.
Although therapists are trained to be emotionally resilient, some problems can have an emotional toll on you. For example, when helping couples who are separating, you may be worried about the welfare of their kids, some who may be young and unaware of what awaits them.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, marriage and family therapists earn an average annual salary of $51,730.
4. Entry Requirements
To become a marriage and family therapist, you must complete the following steps:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work or counseling
- Earn a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or counseling – The program is offered in several graduate schools across the country
- Complete two years of supervised work experience – This typically involves working under a licensed marriage and family therapist for the said period
- Earn a marriage and family therapist license from your state’s licensing board – Your state may also have additional licensing requirements, such as completing a criminal background check
5. Important Qualities
To succeed in helping your client overcome their problems, you need:
- Excellent active-listening and speaking skills
- Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
- Excellent decision-making skills
- Emotional stability, compassion and empathy
- Good interpersonal skills
- Good teamwork skills
- Good organizational skills
- A non-judgmental attitude
- The ability to maintain your clients’ confidentiality
- Good skills in relationship building
- Patience and tolerance
6. Career Advancement
As a newly-hired marriage and family therapist, you can undertake the following professional development routes:
- Join the American Association for Marriage and Therapists –The association offers training events, networking opportunities and webinars
- Pursue a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy.
7. Job Opportunities
Qualified and licensed marriage and family therapists can work in:
- Family centers
- Mental health clinics
- Outpatient care centers
- Residential care facilities
- Social services agencies
With vast experience and strong business skills, you can venture into private practice by establishing your own marriage and family therapy center. With a Ph.D., you can move into academia and become a higher education lecturer.
See Also: How to Become an Art Therapist
Marriage and family issues are quite common in the US. As a result, the Bureau of Labor Statics projects a faster-than-average (31 percent) job growth for marriage and family therapists between 2012 and 2022. Evidently, finding a job should be least of your worries.
So if you want to help couples building lasting marriages, and families become stronger social units, this could be the right career for you.