Marriage and Family Counselor Career Information, Jobs, Degrees & Training Programs

Marriage, family, and child counselors administer therapy to couples and families struggling with various types of problems. Therapy is intended to alter perceptions, enhance communication, prevent potential crises, and assist families and couples striving to improve relationships. These counselors assist patients in private clinics, social welfare agencies, hospitals, and mental health clinics.

During sessions, counselors and patients typically participate in hour-long discussions. Counselors utilize various techniques to get their patients to share their hopes, fears, and frustrations. The main goal during these sessions is to discover underlying causes of problems. For example, if a couple thinking about divorce consulted a marriage counselor, he or she would first determine what factors led to this consideration before discussing possible reconciliation.

During couples therapy, counselors typically meet with both people simultaneously, but sometimes counselors counsel them individually. Couples counselors frequently organize group therapy sessions for married couples and individuals struggling with similar problems. Family counselors utilize similar therapies when meeting with an entire family or individuals within it. When therapists meet individually with family members, they generally determine root causes, after which solutions can be recommend.

Marriage and family counselors typically address these issues:
  • Adolescent behavioral problems
  • Bereavement
  • Depression
  • Domestic violence
  • Infertility
  • Infidelity
  • Marital difficulties
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health disorders
Counselors' duties differ by specialty and organization. Counselors managing private practices typically specialize in treating multiple issues. If counselors are unable to address an issue, they refer patients to other professionals. Counselors employed at clinics frequently consult with clinic colleagues to discuss how to best treat patients. Many clinic managers hire specialists to treat patients with unique problems.

Education and Training

Most states require marriage and family counselors to hold a graduate degree in psychology, counseling, or related discipline, obtain a certain amount of clinical experience, and pass a test. Counselors are also required to commitment to high ethical standards and annually enroll in continuing education classes.

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