Marriage and Family Therapy


Quick Facts: Marriage and Family Therapists
2017 Median Pay $48,790 per year 
$23.45 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Internship/residency
Number of Jobs, 2016 41,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 23% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 9,700

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Marriage and Family Therapy Career, Salary and Education Information

What Marriage and Family Therapists Do

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

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marriage and family therapy

Duties of marriage and family therapists

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 for Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists held about 41,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of marriage and family therapists were as follows:

Individual and family services: 28%

Outpatient care centers: 15%

Offices of other health practitioners: 14%

State government, excluding education and hospitals: 13%

Self-employed workers: 8%

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.

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

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.


salaries for Marriage and Family Therapists

The median annual wage for marriage and family therapists was $48,790 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for marriage and family therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals: $72,580

Outpatient care centers: $48,390

Offices of other health practitioners: $45,980

Individual and family services: $44,760

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


Job Outlook for Marriage and Family Therapists

Employment of marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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.

Job Prospects 

Job prospects are expected to be good for marriage and family therapists because of a combination of the projected increase in number of jobs over the next ten years and the expected need to fill jobs vacated by separating employees.

Employment projections data for Marriage and Family Therapists, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 41,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 51,200

Change, 2016-2026: +23%, +9,700


Careers Related to marriage and family therapists

Genetic Counselors

Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. They provide information and support to other healthcare providers, or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions

Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. They develop and implement strategies to improve the health of individuals and communities. Community health workers collect data and discuss health concerns with members of specific populations or communities.

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.

Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, or psychological effects of disabilities on employment or independent living.

School and Career Counselors

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

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers coordinate and supervise social service programs and community organizations. They manage workers who provide social services to the public.

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services, including support for families, in a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. Clinical social workers also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, mental health issues, or other mental or behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help clients recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Physicians and SurgeonsDoctoral or professional degreeThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year.
Psychologists$77,030
Rehabilitation CounselorsMaster's degree$34,860
School and Career CounselorsMaster's degree$55,410
Social and Community Service ManagersBachelor's degree$64,100
Social and Human Service AssistantsHigh school diploma or equivalent$33,120
Social Workers$47,980
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors$43,300
Health Educators and Community Health Workers$45,360
Genetic CounselorsMaster's degree$77,480

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Marriage and Family Therapists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/marriage-and-family-therapists.htm