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 $49,170 in May 2015. 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 $31,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,960.
Employment of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Federal legislation mandating individual health coverage may increase the number of health insurance customers. In addition, the law requires insurance plans to cover treatment for mental health issues in the same way as other chronic diseases. These two factors will open up prevention and treatment services to more people who were previously uninsured, did not have these services covered, or found treatment to be cost-prohibitive. Mental health centers and other treatment and counseling facilities will need to hire more marriage and family therapists, to meet this increased demand.