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How to become a marriage and family therapist in 4 steps | UMass Global
Our families and spouses are the people we love most — the ones we turn to for consistent support and understanding. Yet it is also true that personal relationships can be complicated.
When miscommunication occurs with loved ones, it may lead to pain, anger and nights spent silently eating dinner across from one another. But sometimes the discord that seems insurmountable can be overcome by bringing in a fresh perspective, someone to help define the root of the issues and assist in paving a path forward.
As a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), you can help couples and families examine their conflicts and work to repair the bonds they hold so dearly. Through listening, discussing and advising, you could help your clients find ways to make their relationships and families thrive. If you’re eager to learn more, read on to discover how to become a marriage counselor.
While everyone’s path looks different, there are some concrete steps you’ll have to go through. Here’s an overview of the basic marriage and family therapist requirements:
1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree
All marriage and family therapist positions
will require a graduate-level education, but first, you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree. While studying psychology or communications can be helpful in this career path, most graduate psychology programs will accept students with any undergraduate major. So don’t worry if you’ve invested time and money in a bachelor’s in nursing, history or another seemingly unrelated field.
In fact, there are plenty of applicable skills from a variety of majors that will help you become a better therapist. Consider how the following qualities naturally lend themselves to the tasks marriage and family therapists are responsible for:
- Patience: Anyone who has stayed up all night revising a stubborn term paper knows a thing or two about patience. When a client shows little sign of improving and returns to the same problem session after session, this quality will come in handy. Marriage and family therapists will often have to experiment with different approaches to get a message through to a client who won’t budge.
- Boundary setting: A healthy work-life balance is essential, especially for those who work in helping professions. Marriage therapists must create and maintain clear boundaries, which can be difficult at times. But a burnt-out therapist can’t do their job effectively. Making time for self-care is the best thing you can do for yourself (and your clients).
- Collaboration: Most of the time, you will be working by yourself as a therapist. But teamwork skills are still important. In many cases, you will have to collaborate with social workers, insurance companies and psychiatrists to create an effective treatment plan. Your experience on an event planning committee or an intramural team could be put to work in coordinating the best care for your clients.
- Compassion: People can tell when you truly care about them and when you don’t. Being present and invested is critical to building strong relationships with clients. After a long day of appointments, you’ll likely have to work harder at maintaining empathy and compassion. You’ll have an advantage if you’ve already worked to develop this competency as a tutor, coach or teacher.
- Organizational skills: Paperwork is a necessary part of working in mental healthcare. Detailed notes are essential for insurance companies and government programs to accurately assess clients on a case-by-case basis. Writing summaries after each session can also help you remember where to pick up for next time. If your undergraduate degree found you taking complex notes in your classes, then your skills won’t go to waste.
2. Earn a graduate degree
Regardless of the bachelor’s degree you hold, you will need a master’s degree to become a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). While doctoral options in psychology are available for those interested in teaching or research, they usually aren’t necessary for counseling roles.
You have several options when it comes to choosing a master’s program. To start, you can choose between a Master of Science (MS) and a Master of Arts (MA). An MA in the field emphasizes advanced statistics and research, while an MS focuses more on behavioral science and counseling. Both degree types require courses in research methods as well as a practicum. In graduate school, you’ll collect and analyze data relevant to the field and complete 150 to 500 practicum hours, in addition to coursework.
It’s also important to understand the different emphases available as part of an advanced therapy degree program. You could specialize in substance abuse, behavior disorders or mental health, for example. With a passion for healing hurting relationships and families, however, becoming an LMFT may be the right path for you.
3. Take the state licensing exam
Precise marriage and family therapist requirements will vary, so you’ll need to meet the state-specific guidelines for where you hope to practice. Regardless of the location, you’ll have to take a state-recognized exam.
There are two test options: the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE), which consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), made up of 10 clinical simulations. Though some states prefer one test over the other, the choice is often yours. But it’s always best to make an informed choice before committing.
4. Decide on the environment in which you want to work
Once you’ve earned your degree and licensure, you get to decide where to put your newfound skills into practice. The good news is that career opportunities for marriage and family therapists are poised to see a 16 percent increase by 2030 (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.
As an LMFT, you will have the option of opening a private practice, working at a mental health or substance abuse treatment center, or practicing in a hospital. Healthcare providers are increasingly looking for qualified professionals who can help address the underlying issues that exacerbate their patients’ problems.
As with any career, there will be ups and downs to becoming a marriage and family therapist. But in this people-centric field, you’ll have the chance to help others break out of old patterns and make a positive impact for generations to come.
Invest in a meaningful career
Relationships are often fraught but also worth repairing. By becoming an LMFT, you will be able to help people find harmony with their closest loved ones.
Now that you have a better understanding of how to become a marriage and family therapist, it’s time to start planning your next steps. Whether that’s completing your bachelor’s degree or starting graduate school, UMass Global has educational options to help qualify you for this rewarding role.
For more information, explore our Bachelor of Arts in Psychology or Master of Arts in Psychology programs.
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How to Become a Marriage & Family Therapist (MFT)
How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)
Frequently Asked Questions About how to become a marriage counselor
If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic how to become a marriage counselor, then this section may help you solve it.
What academic background is ideal for marriage counseling?
Before you can start your career as a marriage counselor, you must obtain a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Most master’s degree programs also offer specializations, so here you can choose a type of marriage counseling that fits best with what you want.
Where do couples therapists earn the most money?
What are the Top 10 Cities with the Highest Paying Jobs for Marriage Counselors?
|City||Annual Salary||Hourly Wage|
|Roslyn Estates, NY||$144,365||$69.41|
6 more rows
What qualifications are necessary to work as a marriage and family therapist?
If you’re considering pursuing a degree in marriage and family therapy, it’s a good idea to consider whether you possess the following five abilities:
- Empathy. Clients often seek counselors during the most difficult moments of their lives. …
- Communication. …
- Analytical Thinking. …
- Business Know-How. …
Is couples counseling challenging?
Marriage counseling is challenging because it requires couples to acknowledge the death of a long-standing mode of communication and to embark on a challenging search for fresh, enlivening modes.
Do counselors for marriage file for divorce?
According to McCoy and Aamodt, the divorce/separation rate for therapists, all other, was 24.20%, for sociologists it was 23.53%, for social workers it was 23.16%, for counselors it was 22.49%, for other social scientists and workers it was 19.65%, and for psychologists it was 19.30%.
What distinguishes counseling from marriage therapy?
Marriage counseling, on the other hand, is frequently attended by newlyweds and is occasionally even required of couples before getting married. Couples therapy, on the other hand, is typically pursued when the couple is experiencing problems, big or small, in their relationship and wants to understand the?why?
What is the length of training to become a marriage and family therapist?
According to U.S. News & World Report, the majority of MFT degree programs take full-time students two to three years to complete open_in_new due to the quantity of clinical hours and various settings required to demonstrate competency as a therapist.
What should not be done by couples in therapy?
The only person you can control is yourself, so even though you may feel like your partner needs to change too, that cannot be where your focus is in couples therapy. Sitting back and waiting for your partner to change isn’t a healthy approach to couples therapy.
How many marriages continue after therapy?
According to US studies, only 11–18% of counseling cases are successful.
What is the primary issue in marital therapy?
COMMON MARRIAGE COUNSELING PRIORITIES EXPLORED Conflict brought on by financial stress; conflict related to parenting; infidelity and/or lack of trust; communication problems, such as constant fighting and/or annoyance with one another.
What portion of couples who attend counseling continue to be together?
98% overall success rate is what the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists reports.