What They Do
Couples therapists and marriage counselors treat some of the same issues as other psychologists, such as depression and anxiety, substance abuse, and PTSD. But their work focuses on issues that are specific to their target group, the family. Some common issues that family counselors encounter are marital conflicts, adolescent behavior problems, domestic violence and issues related to infertility.
Marriage and family therapists observe how people behave within the family, and identify relationship problems. They then come up with treatment plans so that each individual has his or her needs met and the family unit can work for the benefit and happiness of all.
Skills You Need
Learn which personality traits and professional skills you’ll need to be a successful couples therapist or marriage counselor.
You should have…
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Clear boundaries
- High ethical standards
- Desire to collaborate
- Goal-setting skills
How to Become a Couples Therapist or Marriage Counselor
Marriage and family therapists are required to be licensed in order to practice in their state. Licensure requirements usually include a master’s degree and two years of supervised clinical experience. You’ll also need to pass a state-recognized exam. The Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards provides information on the requirements for each state.
Taking classes online can help you earn a degree while you manage other obligations in your life. There are many accredited online schools that offer master’s degree programs in marriage and family therapy. If you plan to start your education with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you’ll also be able to find a wide range of schools offering online programs.
If you plan to enroll in a marriage and family therapy program, look for accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). This organization gives their seal of approval for master’s, doctorates, and postgraduate levels.
License renewal often hinges on continuing education. Many states require marriage and family therapists to complete a certain number of continuing education hours every few years. Since laws vary, check with the board of psychology in the state you practice in.
One thing to weigh is whether you want to open a private practice at some point. A number of factors influence whether a marriage and family therapist should work in private practice or for an institution. If you’re new to the field and lack a large patient base, you’ll have to work hard at marketing yourself and getting referrals—a process that will happen throughout your career. Working at an institution allows you to gain valuable knowledge from colleagues and likely receive employer-paid benefits. However, you may not have the schedule flexibility you’d have in private practice.
Marriage and family therapists can make a good living. But salaries vary greatly based on location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, marriage and family therapists make a median salary of $51,340.
School & Career Counselors
Marriage & Family Therapists
Mental Health Counselors
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2020
*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Employment of marriage and family therapists is expected to grow 22% through 2029. This is much higher than the job growth predicted for all professions combined. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.