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What Does it Take to Be an Effective Marriage and Family Counselor?

Marriage-and-Family-CounselorWorking as a marriage and family counselor can offer a fulfilling career. However, those interested in working in this area need acquire a combination of skills and training to function effectively in their professional roles.

Over the last few decades, there has been a significant increase in demand for marriage and family counselors. Counselors working specifically in marriage and family situations must be able to confront a wide variety of mental health issues, including alcoholism and substance abuse, childhood autism, depression, schizophrenia, mood disorders, and more.

Necessary Skills

Among the most important skills for marriage and family counselors are the ability to communicate well with clients and the ability to solve problems. Marriage and family therapists work together with spouses and family members to resolve conflicts that are causing dysfunction in the home. The tasks of this type of counselor are not always easy, and patience and perseverance are important in sticking with clients to find a solution to their mental and emotional problems.

Because marriage and family counselors need to gain the trust of their clients, they should be personable and likable. Additionally, organization skills and persuasive abilities are important for those who provide therapy services to clients. Marriage and family counselors need to be empathetic and highly curious about the lives of their patients.


Counselors working specifically with married couples and families are usually highly specialized practitioners. Usually, they must have a Master's degree, and in many cases a Doctoral degree is necessary for those wishing to reach the peak of their profession as marriage and family counselors. Coursework in a Master's degree program appropriate to an aspiring marriage and family counselor should teach students to evaluate mental and emotional disorders and find the right treatment. Course subjects might include abnormal psychology, cognitive psychology, family counseling, and behavioral science. A variety of different types of Bachelor's degree programs can prepare candidates for Master's degree study in marriage and family counseling. Master's degree program students come from backgrounds such as education, psychology, psychiatry, and social work.

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Every state requires that those wishing to work as therapists be licensed. Clinical experience is necessary for those looking to achieve a license as a therapist, so a counselor's training must also include supervised experience working under another therapist. Clinical experience can be acquired by working in hospitals, nursing homes, mental health centers, and a variety of other types of institution.

Job Tasks

A significant portion of a marriage and family counselor's time at work will consist of interviewing patients and providing therapy. However, they also will find themselves putting some time into researching and devising treatment options. Counselors need to have a great deal of stamina, and they also need to be creative at coming up with treatment for their patients. Counselors working for larger institutions such as hospitals and mental health centers may have to carry out administrative tasks and attend meetings.

An individual wishing to work as a marriage and family counselor will- above all- need to be devoted to their career and to their patients to function effectively in the profession.

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