How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist
Master's programs in marriage and family therapy prepare students to provide counseling to couples, individuals, and groups.
Marriage and family therapists are required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.
To become a marriage and family therapist, applicants need a master’s degree in psychology, marriage and family therapy, or a related mental health field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter one of these master’s degree programs.
Marriage and family therapy programs teach students about how marriages, families, and relationships function and how these relationships can affect mental and emotional disorders.
There are several organizations that accredit counseling programs, including the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), and the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC).
Candidates gain hands-on experience through postdegree supervised clinical work, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In training, they learn to provide family therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy, and other therapeutic interventions, under the supervision of a licensed counselor.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states require marriage and family therapists to be licensed. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of postdegree supervised clinical experience, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In addition, therapists must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes.
Contact and licensing information for marriage and family therapists is available through the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.
Compassion. Marriage and family therapists often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.
Interpersonal skills. Marriage and family therapists work with different types of people. They spend most of their time working directly with clients and other professionals and must be able to encourage good relationships.
Listening skills. Marriage and family therapists need to give their full attention to their clients to understand their problems, values, and goals.
Organizational skills. Marriage and family therapists in private practice must keep track of payments and work with insurance companies.
Speaking skills. Marriage and family therapists need to be able to communicate with clients effectively. They must express information in a way that clients can understand easily.