Marriage and Family Therapists

Summary

mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists image
Marriage and family therapists help people manage problems with their family and relationships.
Quick Facts: Marriage and Family Therapists
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Typical Entry-Level Education $qf_education_html
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On-the-job Training $qf_training_html
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Job Outlook, 2018-28 $qf_outlook_html
Employment Change, 2018-28 $qf_openings_html

What Marriage and Family Therapists Do

Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems with family and other relationships.

Work Environment

Marriage and family therapists work in a variety of settings, such as private practice and mental health centers. Most work full time.

How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists are required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.

Pay

Job Outlook

Employment of marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected due to an increasing use of teams for treatment, in which these therapists work with other counselors to address patients' needs. 

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for marriage and family therapists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of marriage and family therapists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about marriage and family therapists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Marriage and Family Therapists Do

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists
Marriage and family therapists encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences.

Marriage and family therapists help people manage problems with their family and other relationships.

Duties

Marriage and family therapists typically do the following:

  • Encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences
  • Help clients process their reactions and adjust to difficult changes in their life, such as divorce and layoffs
  • Guide clients through the process of making decisions about their future
  • Help clients develop strategies and skills to change their behavior and to cope with difficult situations
  • Refer clients to other resources or services in the community, such as support groups or inpatient treatment facilities
  • Complete and maintain confidential files and mandated records

Marriage and family therapists use a variety of techniques and tools to help their clients. Many apply cognitive behavioral therapy, a goal-oriented approach that helps clients understand harmful thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and teaches how to replace them with positive, life-enhancing ones.

Many marriage and family therapists work in private practice. They must market their practice to prospective clients and work with insurance companies and clients to get payment for their services.

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families. They bring a family-centered perspective to treatment, even when treating individuals. They evaluate family roles and development, to understand how clients’ families affect their mental health. They treat the clients’ relationships, not just the clients themselves. They address issues, such as low self-esteem, stress, addiction, and substance abuse.

Marriage and family therapists coordinate patient treatment with other professionals, such as psychologists and social workers.

Work Environment

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists
Many marriage and family therapists work in private practice.

Marriage and family therapists work in a variety of settings, such as mental health centers, substance abuse treatment centers, and hospitals. They also work in private practice and in Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which are mental health programs that some employers provide to help employees deal with personal problems.

Work Schedules

Marriage and family therapists generally work full time. Some therapists work evenings and weekends to accommodate their clients’ schedules.

How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists
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.

Education

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).

Training

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.

Important Qualities

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.

Pay

Marriage and Family Therapists

Median annual wages, May 2019

Marriage and family therapists

$51,340

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

$47,500

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

Marriage and family therapists generally work full time. Some therapists work evenings and weekends to accommodate their clients’ schedules. 

Job Outlook

Marriage and Family Therapists

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Marriage and family therapists

22%

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

14%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected due to the increasing use of integrated care, which is a treatment of multiple problems at one time by a group of specialists. In providing integrated care, marriage and family therapists are working with counselors such as substance abuse, behavior disorder, or mental health counselors to address patients' issues as a team.

Employment projections data for marriage and family therapists, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Marriage and family therapists

21-1013 66,200 80,900 22 14,800 Get data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of marriage and family therapists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2019 MEDIAN PAY
Physicians and surgeons Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
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School and Career Counselors School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed. Career counselors help people choose a path to employment.

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Social and community service managers Social and Community Service Managers

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Social and human service assistants Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services in a variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work.

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Social workers Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors provide treatment and advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, or other mental or behavioral problems.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Health educators Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. Community health workers collect data and discuss health concerns with members of specific populations or communities.

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genetic counselors image Genetic Counselors

Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects.

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Contacts for More Information

For more information about accredited programs, visit

Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education

Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs

Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

For more information about marriage and family therapists, visit

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards

For general information about counseling and for information about counseling specialties, visit

American Counseling Association

For information about contacting state regulating boards, visit

National Board for Certified Counselors

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Marriage and Family Therapists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/marriage-and-family-therapists.htm (visited October 25, 2021).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2019