Marriage and Family Therapists

Statistics show that many families and marriages are facing many problems today and that more and more people are taking the proper steps to seek help for their troubles. With the pressures and demands of life today, many people see this strain reflected on their families. There are also other problems such as drugs and alcohol abuse, addictions and personal issues which can break down the family dynamic. We live in a busy and fast-paced era where many people do not take the time that they should to spend together and this can hurt the family relationship as well. A family or marriage therapist can provide the counseling needed to get through these difficult times.

Marriage and family therapy has come a long way since its early beginnings. It’s not about placing blame or pointing fingers but instead at helping the family or couple help themselves by identifying problems, triggers and forming actionable plans to treating these problems. A family therapist can work with family members together or on an individual basis to help them make positive choices and deal with issues or complications that exist in the relationships within the family.

A marriage and family therapist can perform many different jobs as there are many types of problems affecting couples and families today. Some of these problems may include child behavioral problems, emotional troubles and more. Additionally, some families have members with problems of acting out past family patterns and problems that are difficult to break and can cause problems within the family dynamic.

Family counseling today is more than just couples’ therapy; it is help to families for the many different challenges and difficulties they may face in today’s challenging world. As a therapist, you can help families discover the causes of these difficulties and find a way to properly work through them. Some types of issues that you may help people and families with are:

  • Marital difficulties
  • Infidelity
  • Depression
  • Adolescent behavior problems
  • Domestic violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Infertility
  • Mental health issues
  • And more

This is not a complete list of the problems and issues that a marriage and family therapist may help with but it is some of the most common. Would you like to know more about how to become a marriage or family therapist and what it will require to do so?

What Does This Job Require?

As you know, there are going to be things you need to do to achieve your goal of a career as a marriage and family therapist. Being a marriage and family therapist will of course, require some work aside from just deciding you want to help people. There are also certain tools that you may need aside from just your own listening skills and knowledge. What will be required of this type of job?

Certain tools and aids that you need in your job ware often provided to you by the organization that you work for or if you are self-employed and run your own practice, you may receive them from medical organizations which you are a part of. You may need to give tests or evaluations and you may need tools for doing this. The most important tools however, that you will need as a marriage and family counselor is your ability to communicate.

There are certain types of people who make better counselors and therapists. You will of course, need to care about people and have a general interest in helping people and families better themselves. You need to have compassion and a general interest in listening to people and their problems without being judgmental and bitter or harsh. You need to be able to seek information from someone without making them feel you are pushy or digging too hard. You will often need to talk with people about things that they do not want to talk about and this will require you to gain a considerable amount of their trust. You must be certain not to violate this trust.

You must take each situation delicately and with great care. You are in the unique position to help people in their most private and vulnerable moments and it is important not to exploit or take advantage of this in any way. The job may often be very emotionally draining for you and you will need to have outlets aside from work that allow you to release stress and pressure that a counseling job may create for you.

Many marriage and family therapists work for their own practices and others are employed by companies, businesses and health care facilities. Where you work and who you work for will determine the things you need as well as other factors such as the hours you work and the pay that you receive.

What Experience/ Education is Needed?

We’ve talked a bit already about the personal qualities that will be needed for this type of career but I’m sure you already know that there are educational requirements to hold such a position as well. There are also real life experiences that you may have which make it easier for you to perform a job like this. Here we want to talk those for a bit and give you a better idea of what may be required of you to be a marriage and family therapist.

In addition to personal qualities, there are also certain education and experience requirements that will be needed to be a marriage and family therapist. Typically a master’s degree will be required to work as a therapist and depending on where and who you work for, there may be higher or additional requirements as well. The Master’s is a 2-3 year program that specializes in certain courses such as:

  • Group therapy
  • Counseling therapies
  • Human sexuality
  • Adolescent psychology
  • Marriage and family systems
  • Theories of psychotherapy
  • Substance abuse
  • Techniques for counseling
  • And more

You will be taught how to deal with common problems that occur within the family unit and also learn the principles and techniques of properly counseling people. You will learn how to be a good listener and how to determine certain things from what the people say to you and even from what they sometimes don’t say.

In addition to the courses above and others that may be required for your state licensing, you may also be required to take some elective courses that relate to marriage and family counseling. When you have completed your courses, you will also need to participate in a practical internship to get hands-on experience that you cannot achieve in a classroom setting. There are many aspects of being a counselor that simply cannot be taught through a book and this is why you will need to intern or work on-the-job-training for careers such as this.

This internship time may vary and will be supervised by a profession. It could take up more than half of your final year in school for your master’s degree. The master’s degree is just the minimum requirement in most cases. Typically, people working as marriage and family therapists will continue to study even after this initial degree and some will continue throughout school while working in their jobs as well, often leading to doctorate degrees and more. You will also find that the more years you are in the profession, the more you will continue to learn and grow. This is why people who have been doing it for longer typically make more money and are better at their jobs.

How Much Money Can You Make?

So how much money can you expect to make in a job such as this? Just like any job, the rates can vary considerably but for the most part, you can expect to make good money in a profession as a counselor. There is also a high demand for marriage and family therapists and that demand is expected to continue to grow in years to come.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the average annual income including part time and self employed therapists in this profession was $42,300 in 2005. Higher percentages in some areas of the United States were seen at $53,000-$68,000 each year. These numbers have likely increased in the past few years with changes in the industry as well as the economy and they are predicted to continue to rise.

What Kind of Person is Right for This Job?

So how can you know if you are right for this job? We’ve mentioned already how there are certain people more cut out for this type of work than others. So what kind of person is right for this job? It’s important to be a good listener and to be passionate about people and helping people. You will need to inspire the trust of your clients so they will open up and share things with you. If you are not caring and compassionate, most people will also be able to sense it and you will be unable to help them.

To know if you are right for this career, you should be willing and ready to:

  • Spend time one on one with people
  • Be an attentive listener
  • Be compassionate and caring of people’s needs
  • Provide short term and goal oriented counseling
  • Help focus on the family
  • Help focus on couple relationships
  • Keep records and take accurate notes
  • Refer clients to other health care service providers when needed
  • Help clients with varying problems
  • Give psychological tests
  • Make psychological evaluations

These are just some of the many tasks that you may be called upon to do. You will need to do so with patience and understanding and compassion.

How to Get Started in This Career

So what can you do you get started in this career? If you think that all of this sounds like a career you want to be a part of, then there are some steps you can take to get started. No matter where you are in life, how old you are, what your previous experience or education levels are or any other factor, you can achieve your goals if you have a proper plan for getting there. This is why one of your first steps should be a personal priority plan or business plan.

You should sit down and write out all of your goals for becoming a marriage and family therapist. From this you can see what you want to do this, what you hope to achieve and even a timeline of when and how you think you want to achieve these goals.

Next you want to list the requirements you will need to get started in this type of career. This will include school and education, your degree, certifications, real life experience and any other factors that will help contribute to you seeking a career as a marriage and family therapist. When you have completed this, your next task will be to evaluate your own life and experiences and see what you still need to achieve.

The first step might be to start your education which will include finding a school that offers the program you want and then getting enrolled. There could be pre-requisites to enrollment that you will need to complete as well. When you are enrolled in school, know that this is not the end of what you need to do and seek other ways to gain more knowledge to help you in your career advancement.

You may also want to start looking into where you want to work when you have your degree and certifications. What type of practice do you want to run or where do you want to work? Planning for this now will keep you on track with your goals and help you know the next step to take once you have graduated and become certified.

Every person is different and each situation will vary but with these tips, information and advice, you should be able to achieve your goals to become a marriage and family therapist. We hope we have helped you get on the right track towards a fulfilling and rewarding career and a future in counseling.

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