“We are all broken and sometimes we are lucky enough to have other people around to catch us when we fall apart,” says Holly Long, a marriage and family therapist who has written about her struggles while married to someone with mental health issues. With the help of therapy, the couple was able to save their marriage and move into a happier and more peaceful phase in their lives.
This is the profound power of becoming a marriage counselor: helping couples stay together or at least come to terms with the idea that they are better apart. These therapists and their associates are a vital part of the mental healthcare safety net in the U.S., which a new study reveals is in the midst of a crisis.
With the need and interest in mental health growing quickly, there is a high demand for therapists of all kinds, including marriage and family therapists. It’s a profession with strong job security, solid income potential, and the certainty of a satisfying role helping others. These are some of the reasons that U.S. News and World Report lists it among the Best 100 Jobs and the Best Social Services Jobs.
A Master of Marriage and Family Therapy provides essential training to thrive as a therapist in this promising career track. But that’s not all.
1. Every day will be different.
A Master in Marriage and Family Therapy provides a grounding in the many complex challenges that couples and families grapple with, such as relationship stress and dysfunction, communication challenges, and behavioral problems. You’ll also learn how to approach issues that children and teens may struggle with, such as bullying, substance abuse, and disordered eating.
2. With the right program, licensure is all yours.
To make sure you’re getting the best education that’s up to accepted standards, look for a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). These programs will ensure that students are prepared to pass licensure exams required to practice marriage and family therapy.
3. You’ll be ready to get certified.
All COAMFTE-certified programs will prepare students to obtain state licensure as Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT). The requirements vary by state, as dictated by each state’s MFT licensing board, but many follow the recommendations of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Graduating students will be prepped to get licensed and start practicing right away.
4. Clinical work could start before you graduate.
In many states, a certain number of hours of supervised clinical work are required for licensure. In California, for example, prospective LMFTs are required to complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work. Many Master in Marriage and Family Therapy programs incorporate a certain amount of supervised clinical work into their requirements.
5. You’ll gain a new perspective on the field.
Master in Marriage and Family Therapy programs often include curricula on a variety of topics that provide a theoretical grounding and introduce students to many valuable ideas. You may do coursework in theories of marriage and family therapy, cross-cultural communication and counseling, psychotherapy, research methods and data analysis, law and ethics of counseling, substance abuse, domestic violence, and human sexuality, among other topics.
6. Employment prospects are strong.
The job market for marriage and family therapists are set to grow 23 percent by 2026, more than three times faster than other U.S. occupations. New avenues for marriage and family therapists to engage with patients are opening up as a result of the increasing popularity of integrated care, in which providers team up to provide holistic treatment.
7. You can depend on a good income.
While the average salary for marriage and family therapists clocks in below $50,000, there is plenty of room for growth, with those in the top 10 percent of the pay scale earning an average of $81,760. Working in state government is the most lucrative track, with salaries averaging $72,580.
8. It’s a career path with freedom and flexibility.
Graduates may find marriage and family therapy work in hospitals, schools, mental health institutions, substance abuse treatment centers, nonprofit organizations, and government offices. They may also be useful in workplace Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and may work in private practice. where they can set their own hours and schedule appointments in advance.
9. You’ll make an impact.
Your job as a marriage and family therapist isn’t to force a family or couple to stay together when they’d be better off splitting up, but to play a vital role in helping families make decisions to best suit their needs. You can help couples find a new way of relating and support parents as they find ways of engaging with their children to address problematic patterns. Your role can help change a family dynamic for the better—and the course of patients’ lives, too.
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