Are you a good listener? Do you have the ability to listen fairly to people who are on opposite sides of an issue and administer sound advice? Do you have compassion for people who are facing issues that keep them from being able to function appropriately on a day to day basis? If you said yes to these questions, then maybe it is time for you to consider pursuing a career as a marriage and family therapist. In this profession you will spend the majority of your time working with individuals, couples, groups, and families to help them be better able to cope with the issues they deal with in their life.
While a master’s level degree is not required to work in this field, it is likely that you will need a master’s level degree to obtain your licensure. It is important to note that the specific licensing requirements vary slightly from one state to another; therefore, you will want to be familiar with what is mandated by your state of residence. Of course, before you can be admitted to a master’s degree program you must have first completed an undergraduate degree program in a field related to marriage and family therapy. Within a master’s level degree program in marriage and family therapy you will be learning how to examine your patients’ interpersonal relationships, how to assess these relationships, and how to help them improve upon the relationships in their life.
You can expect to learn about the different levels and types of interactions that families and couples have as you complete classroom based courses, fieldwork, and clinical experiences. Within your degree requirements you will be required to complete classes such as: human sexuality, family violence, family dynamics, cultural diversity, diagnosing psychopathology, the law and ethics of therapy, personality theories, and substance abuse in the family. Take a few moments and request a free information packet from any of the schools on our site that are particularly appealing to you and your career goals. As a degree holder in marriage and family therapy you may also be able to find employment in other areas of counseling and therapy. In addition, in the capacity of marriage and family therapy you may be able to work in a hospital or clinic type setting, within a practice of other counselors and therapists, or you can choose to open your own practice.
In order to become licensed to practice independently or within a clinical environment a minimum of a Master’s Degree from an accredited institution is required to obtain licensure. The MFT Candidate will follow a pathway which includes obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited institution in one of the following areas:
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Marriage and Family Therapy
- Other related fields
Obtaining a Bachelors’ Degree in one of these areas lays the foundation for Master’s Level and Advanced Degree coursework on the pathway to licensure. The courses that are introduced at each level are stepping stones to help the learner prepare for a smooth transition to a Master’s Degree program or Advanced Degree programs. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs is the preferred standard set by most states and employers for licensure and accreditation. You can learn more about the Council and what they do here: http://www.cacrep.org/. MFT programs are available both in a traditional learning environment and there are also fully accredited Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Advanced Degree programs available for online study. Many working professionals today are interested in changing careers but aren’t quite sure how to fit this into an already busy schedule. The introduction of an online learning option makes this transition much easier for MFT Candidates to complete their studies while maintaining their current work-life balance. Courses are available online and that allows for the learner to maintain a current career and income while preparing to earn a degree and to become licensed in the field. Self-Paced programs allow for learners to learn at their own pace.
For the online learner the benefits of completing the MFT degree program online include:
- Downloading of Lectures and Readings
- Attending Virtual Discussions and Classroom Interaction
- Learning at Your Own Pace
- Studying and Learning at non-traditional hours
Whether you choose to complete your course of study in a traditional environment or online the requirements for obtaining your degree and state licensure are the same. Below you will find information on what to expect in a typical program including requirements, length of study and courses that may be introduced in each program. The courses that a student will take may vary depending on the chosen institution for study and any specialties selected by the student. A general framework for the expected path to licensure is as follows:
Bachelor's Degree in MFT
This is a 4-year program that prepares the student by laying the basic foundation for universal core courses that are required at the undergraduate level and program specific courses related to the field of Marriage and Family Therapy such as:
Assessments, Tests and Measures: These courses introduce the learner to the concepts of administration and analysis of psychological tests and measures for their clients.
Principles of Psychopathology: These courses introduces the learner to psychological issues and dysfunction related to
Graduate Degree in Marriage & Family Therapy
Professional Ethics in Marriage and Family Counseling: This course focuses on the introduction of professionally accepted standards and requirements in the field of mental health counseling and also adhering to professional ethics and industry laws in the field. Upon successful completion of an accredited Graduate Degree program, the Marriage and Family Therapy candidate will be required complete a Residency or Practicum as the next step on the pathway towards licensure. This Residency or Practicum is supervised on the job training as the student begins to practice Marriage and Family Counseling with clients under the supervision of an already practicing and licensed MFT professional. The hourly requirements for completion of the Residency or Practicum will vary according to the educational institutional requirements and state mandated requirements. Upon successful completion of 2000-4000 hours of supervised practice (dependent on educational institution and state mandated requirements) , the Marriage and Family Therapy Candidate then becomes eligible for licensure in their state of residence. The licensing process is handled by the Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.
https://amftrb.org/. Licensure requires the minimum of a Master’s Degree from an accredited institution in all states. Check with your local regulatory authority for specifics and requirements in your state.
You need 2000 to 4000 hours of post -degree supervised training is required for licensure. A state exam and continuing education refresher courses to stay up to date with changing rules, laws, and standards that govern the field are also required on an ongoing basis. During the Residency or Internship the student is prepared to sit for their state licensing exam and to earn their license as an LPCC: Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. For those seeking licensure in the area of Marriage and Family Therapy, the current governing authority is the Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Board. The AMFTRB is responsible for issuing licenses, monitoring the status of licenses, portability, competency, disciplinary actions, and revising statutes and regulations. The AMFTRB is also responsible for producing and maintaining the Marriage and Family Therapy National exam. You can find information and resources on how to prepare for licensure and taking the Marriage and Family Therapy National Exam on the AMFTRB website. The AMFTRB offers great resources for MFT candidates to help prepare for your new career as a licensed MF counselor. https://amftrb.org/#board
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average median salary for mental health counselors in this field was 49, 170.00 annually or 21.24 per hour. Employment opportunities in this field are expected to grow by at least 19% between 2014 and 2024 which is much faster than projected growth for all other occupations covered under the BLS umbrella.