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What are the Qualifications for Becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Individuals who would like careers where they can help keep couples and families happy and together often wonder what the qualifications are for becoming a marriage and family therapist. Becoming a therapist qualified to counsel families requires a graduate degree, clinical education and a desire to help others. While this career seems to take a long time to complete and may seem challenging at times, the ending result can be extremely rewarding.

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What do Family and Marriage Therapists Do?

Family and marriage therapists help clients discuss issues that are causing problems in the marriage and family. They encourage clients to discuss their experiences and feelings while also helping them learn to process their reactions. In some cases, certain circumstances, such as death, unemployment or divorce, may be causing difficulties. The therapists help the clients learn how to adjust and deal with these changes.

Marriage and family therapists may also refer their clients to other services or resources in their area. The therapists use various techniques to help their clients to make decisions that are in the best interests of themselves and their families. Marriage and family therapists work at mental health centers, government departments, treatment centers, hospitals, postsecondary institutions and in private practice.

How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Marriage and family therapists must have a master's degree in psychology, marriage and family therapy, or a similar mental health field from an accredited program. Prior to entering the graduate program, the applicant must already have a bachelor's degree. The bachelor's degree can be in almost any major, but the applicant must have a bachelor's degree and have completed certain prerequisite courses like research methods, human development, and counseling fundamentals.

The graduate student will complete various courses related to marriage and family therapy. In addition to completing the coursework, students complete a supervised internship to obtain hands-on training working in this field. The internships are a vital part of the program. Once the student has completed all the requirements to earn the degree, he or she must complete two years of clinical education. This can be done by completing volunteer work or working for non-profit organizations as long as it has to do with mental health services.

Marriage and family therapists are required to be licensed in all the states. To be eligible to take the licensing exam, the candidate must have the graduate degree and must have completed from 2,000 to 4,000 hours of clinical education. Licensure requirements vary by state. Information on state requirements can be found at the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards website. Therapists must complete continuing education to maintain licensure, which requires renewal every two years.

Career Outlook for Therapists

Marriage and family therapists are expected to see an employment growth of 23% between 2016 and 2026 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This faster-than-average growth is attributed to the fact that family therapists are now using integrated care, which treats similar problems by using more than one specialists. For instance, a marriage having difficulties due to substance abuse may require a marriage counselor and a substance and abuse counselor. As of May 2017, marriage/family therapists earned average annual wages of $53,860.

With the rate of divorce higher than it's ever been, the need for good therapists has never been greater. Few things can be more rewarding than a therapist knowing he or she played a role in helping a broken family become whole again. Knowing the qualifications for becoming a marriage and family therapist is the first step towards reaching that goal.