How to Become a Marriage and Family Counselor

top cake in a wedding cakeWhat Is Marriage and Family Counseling?

Despite many people looking forward to "happily ever after", this doesn't always happen. Many relationships and families aren't perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, and some have so many problems that they seem irreparable. However, contrary to what some may believe, happy marriages and peaceful families are possible. They just take a little - or, in some cases, a lot - of work.

Marriage and family counseling can help many couples and families work out their differences and difficulties. Professionals will often see the same types of problems in most of the couples and families that they work with. Some of the most common problems in many households, for example, often stem from inefficient communication or even a complete lack of communication. Many married couples also find themselves arguing over such things as finances, bad habits, schedules, intimacy, and child rearing.

In today's hectic world, it is not uncommon for couples and families to split up over even the most minor issues. In fact, some studies have shown that the divorce rate in this country is as high as it has ever been. Because of this, there is an ever growing need for marriage and family counselors.

Featured Marriage & Family Counseling Degree Program

Why Do We Need Marriage and Family Counselors?

As mentioned above, the divorce rate in the United States is astounding. Nearly 50% of marriages today end in divorce. Not only does this have an impact on the married couples in these situations, it also usually has a profound impact on any children that were the result of the unions. Children involved in a divorce will often be angry, confused, hurt, and guilty.

Marriage counseling, however, can be used to help save some marriages and patch rifts between family members. This can help lower divorce rates, making children feel more secure, loved, stable, and comfortable in their homes.

What Do Marriage and Family Counselors Do?

Marriage and family counselors work with all different types of married couples and families in an attempt to repair volatile relationships between involved parties. Some of these counselors may specialize in working only with married couples or certain types of families, while others may work with nearly any family that is having troubles.

During these meetings, a marriage and family counselor will typically act as an unbiased third party. He will let each individual in a marriage or family state his or her "side", or point of view. While one person is speaking, the others involved in the counseling are encouraged to let them state their concerns. If they have anything to interject, they are to wait until it is "their turn" to do so. Also, when speaking, individuals must be courteous and respectful of other family members. For instance, family members should refrain from name calling, yelling, and blaming. They should also be ready and willing to admit their own faults as well.

The goal of marriage and family counseling is not necessarily to cease all arguments, but to open the lines of communication between married couples and other family members. In many cases, this does not usually mean that families will not argue at all. Instead, they will learn to discuss issues, or even argue more effectively.

Marriage and family counselors will often help couples and families tackle a number of issues. however, in most cases, abuse is not usually one of these issues. In fact, counselors in many areas are considered to be mandated reporters of abuse. This means that they are required by law to report suspected cases of abuse, particularly child abuse, to local law enforcement officials.

Where Do Marriage and Family Counselors Work?

Marriage and family counselors may work in a a few different settings. For instance, they may be part of a social service office or a community health center.

The majority of marriage and family counselors, however, usually go into business for themselves, opening their own private practices. In these situations, couples and families seek out the services of the counselors and meet in the counselors' private offices.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Marriage and Family Counselor?

 Counseling Educational Track
Education Requirements Education Length Available Programs
Undergraduate Work Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling 4 Years Online or Campus
Graduate Work Earn a Master's Degree in Counseling 5-6 Years Online or Campus
PHD or Doctoral Work Earn a Doctorate in Counseling  7-8 Years Online or Campus

In general, most school counselors begin their careers with a bachelor’s degree in areas

Many individuals pursuing a marriage and family counseling careers will often start by earning a bachelor's degree in counseling or psychology. While enrolled in a bachelor's degree program, students interested in a marriage and family counseling career should take courses to help them understand life stages, child development, marriage and relationships, and family dynamics.

In order to become a licensed marriage and family counselor, you will also usually need to earn a minimum of a master's degree in marriage and family counseling as well. Some marriage and family counselors will also earn doctoral degrees in this area. The majority of states also require marriage and family counselors to have at least 3,000 hours of supervised work experience before they can take their licensing examinations. This may vary from state to state, however, so you should contact your state's licensure board for exact details.

What Is the Average Salary of a Marriage and Family Counselor?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May of 2014, marriage and family therapists earned an annual average salary of $51,730. However salary will range depending on education and employer and experience. For example, the top 10 percent of marriage and family counselors make an average salary of $78,920 while the bottom 10 percent make just $30,510. New Jersey pays its marriage and family counselors the most of any state in the country while states like Florida and Virginia pay the counselors much less.