Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems with family and relationships. They work with individuals, couples, and families. Unlike other types of mental health professionals, 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 such issues as low self-esteem, stress, addiction, and substance abuse.
Education and Certification Requirements
Marriage and family therapists typically need a master’s degree in psychology, social work, counseling, marriage and family therapy, or a related mental health field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s-level program. Marriage and family therapy programs teach students about how marriages, families, and relationships function and how they affect mental and emotional disorders. In most cases, marriage and family therapists must be licensed. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised clinical experience, and therapists must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes.
The median annual wage for marriage and family therapists was $50,090 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,240.
Employment of mental health counselors and 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.