Full Guide On How To Become A Marriage Counselor

The increasing rate of marriage failure in the world shows how important the role of marriage counselors is. While some see the job of marriage counselors as a vital and good development in our daily lives, others see it as a disadvantage.

Reason being that it shows people no longer take their marriages and relationships seriously. To help reduce this rate of marriage failure and also increase sanctity in today’s relationships and marriages, you will need a full guide on how to become a marriage counselor.

In our relationships with people, we experience stress and conflict and couple relationships are no exception to this rule. According to Wilkinson & Finkbeiner Family Law Attorneys, almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation. Still from their report, every 13 seconds, there is one divorce in America.

Quick math on this gives us 277 divorces per hour, 6,646 divorces per day, 46,523 divorces per week, and 2,419,196 divorces per year.  The rates are alarming I know but it would have been worse without the marriage counselors and therapists who help married people through life’s difficulties.

Therefore, this post will guide you on how to become a marriage counselor. It will also provide information on the degrees needed, job description, salary and career outlook of marriage counselors. In addition, at the end of this article, you will get answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) relating to marriage counselors.

Who Is A Marriage Counselor?

Also referred to as marriage and family therapist, a marriage counselor is a licensed mental health practitioner who works with couples to help them improve their relationships.

Marriage counselors evaluate relationship problems and offer strategies for resolving them using psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy”).

In addition, they help couples determine if their problems are reconcilable or not.

What is Marriage Counselling?

Marriage counseling helps couples; married or not; understand and resolve conflicts and improve their relationship. It is a form of psychotherapy that involves helping couples analyze and resolve their problems.

Also called couples therapy, it gives couples the tools they need to communicate better, negotiate differences, problem solve, and also, discuss in a healthier way.

Marriage counseling is usually short term. This means that you need only a few sessions to help you overcome a crisis.

On the other hand, if your relationship has deteriorated greatly, you may need marriage counseling for several months. As with individual psychotherapy, you will see a marriage counselor once a week.

When is marriage counseling needed?

As all couples experience tension or conflict at some point in their relationship, many people do not know when they should seek marriage or couple counseling.

However, according to most marriage counselors, it is best to seek counseling the moment you experience discontent in the relationship.

Below are some of the reasons why couples go for marriage counseling:

  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Financial issues
  • Anger issues
  • Infidelity
  • Major life adjustments 
  • Frequent conflict or high-stress levels
  • Conflicting ideas on childrearing Power struggles
  • Communication issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Sexual dissatisfaction

What are the Qualities of a Marriage Counselor?

Working with adults whose personal lives are in distress can be difficult or unsettling. Therefore, it is expected of any marriage counselor to possess the following qualities:

  • Compassion
  • Listening skills
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Organizational skills

Compassion

Marriage and family counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and challenging situations. Therefore, they show compassion and empathy with their clients.

What are the roles of Marriage and Family Counselors or Therapists?

Basically, marriage counselors and therapists help people manage problems in their homes and also profer solutions to overcome these problems. However, according to BLS, below are some of the responsibilities of these professionals:

  • Encourage clients to talk about their emotions and experiences.
  • Help clients manage their reactions and also, adjust to difficult changes in their lives, such as divorce and layoffs.
  • Guide clients in the decision-making process about their future.
  • Help clients develop strategies and skills to change their behaviour and to cope with difficult situations.
  • Refer clients to other resources or services in the community, such as support groups or inpatient treatment centres.
  • Complete and maintain confidential files and mandatory records

How to Become a Marriage Counselor

  • Earn a relevant bachelor’s degree
  • Obtain a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy
  • Gain clinical experience in the field
  • Become a licensed marriage counsellor
  • Continuing education to retain licensure

Earn a relevant Bachelor’s Degree

Typically, earning a bachelor’s degree is a starting point for most careers. Also, it is necessary for enrolling in a master’s degree program for marriage counselors. Unfortunately, most schools do not offer bachelor’s degree programs specifically in marriage counseling.

However, students can obtain their undergraduate degree in marriage and family therapy since the two terms are often interchangeable, social work, psychology, or another related area.

In addition to teaching students the basics of psychology and social work, these programs education in many areas directly related to marriage counseling. Areas such as social psychology, cognitive psychology, sexuality, sociology, and interpersonal relationships.

Most bachelor’s degree programs require completion of relevant internships or clinical practice prior to graduation.

Obtain a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy

To begin a career as a marriage counselor, you will need to have at least a master’s degree. It is needed to get licensure.

You can also choose the type of marriage counseling that suits what you want as most master’s degree programs offer specializations.

Marriage counseling master’s degree programs also place great emphasis on applied clinical experience and research, with students often having to complete numerous credit hours of clinical research and internships to earn their degree.

Gain Clinical Experience in the Field

Marriage counseling licensure requirements vary from state to state. Most states mandate marriage counselors to complete a certain number of hours of supervised marriage counseling work experience before they get their licensure.

Sometimes, these requirements exist independently of any clinical practicum credits obtained during the completion of master’s degree programs.

Basically, these clinical experiences are measured in weeks or hours, depending on the state. The standard supervised clinical requirement for marriage and family therapists is two years.

Become a Licensed Marriage Counselor

After completing your clinical experience and obtaining a master’s degree, you have probably met all the prerequisites for getting the license.

In other words, prospective marriage counselors can apply for a state license as this is the last step required before starting a marriage counselor career.

Note that the licensure varies from state to state. Therefore, meeting the requirements of a State might not be satisfactory to another.

Obtaining the marriage counselor licensure always requires a written exam. Classes and exams on ethical standards may also be required, depending on the state.

Some states have their own licensing exams, while others use a standard exam provided by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards. After meeting the educational requirements, clinical work experience, and exams.

Continuing Education to Retain Licensure

Basically, continuing education as a marriage counselor can help expand your field and open up new opportunities. In addition, in many states, you will need to continue your education in order to renew your license.

However, the rules and regulations differ from state to state and the courses you need to take may also differ.

For instance, most licenses expire on an annual or biannual basis and require the completion of about 30 continuing education units for renewal. Also, different states have lists of approved topics or course providers that are accepted towards the fulfilment of these requirements.

Education – Marriage Counselling Degrees

As seen above, enrolling in a fitting educational program is the first step to becoming part of the Mental Health and marriage Counseling field.

However, to specialize in marriage or family counseling, you need to get to the masters level as there are little or no options for it at the undergraduate level.

Bachelor’s Degree

A student who wants to pursue a career in marriage counseling should opt for programs that focus on human behavior, relationships, health, and therapy.

Earning bachelor’s degrees in psychology, counseling, or social services are great options for a future in the marriage and family counseling field. Most programs here last for 4 years.

Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology

Typically, this program offers education in human behavior and related sciences, as well as core psychology coursework. The coursework covers topics such as the following:

  • Perception
  • Psychological research methods
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Child development
  • Personality theories

Master’s Degree in Marriage Counseling

Typically, a master’s degree program in marriage counseling will take approximately 2 years to complete.

As a basic requirement for a career as a marriage counselor, master’s programs train students in social science-related areas of marriage counseling.

Master’s degree in Marriage counseling courses cover areas such as:

  • Marriage counselling ethics
  • Therapy techniques
  • Psychological development
  • Group and family dynamics
  • Marriage therapy techniques
  • Human sexuality
  • Adolescent and family counselling
  • Cultural diversity
  • Couples therapy
  • Family systems sociology.

Here, students get to pick specializations that best fits the type of marriage counselling they want.

Doctoral Degree in Marriage Counseling

A doctoral degree will help expand your marriage counselor career opportunities in academia and research. Most counselors choose to continue their education by earning a doctorate in marriage and family therapy.

A Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy consists of classes in MFT theory and practice, research, and clinical work with clients. To enroll in this program, students must have a master’s degree and satisfactory standardized test scores. They generally last five to seven years.

Basically, the coursework here will cover:

  • Quantitative research methods
  • Adolescent development
  • Statistical methods
  • Dynamics of family relationships
  • Ageing

Marriage Counselling Accreditation and Licensure

Prospective marriage counselors are advised to enroll in programs that are recognized by accrediting bodies. There are several organizations that accredit counseling programs; they include but not limited to the following: 

Licensure for a marriage counseling career varies among states. However, the requirement for getting licensure is basically a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of postdegree supervised clinical experience, that is, an internship or residency.

In addition, counselors must pass a state-recognized exam and also complete annual continuing education classes for renewal of the license.

For more information on licensing for marriage and family counselors and therapists, contact the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards through the link below.

What is the Salary of a Marriage Counselor?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 report, the median annual wage most marriage counselors and family therapists earn is $50,090 per year and $24.08 per hour. With the lowest 10 percent earning less than $31,850, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $82,240.

Still on the BLS marriage counselor salary, below are the median average wage for those working in top industries

  • The state government, excluding education and hospitals – $69,900
  • Outpatient care centers – 51,270
  • Offices of other health practitioners – 49,190
  • Individual and family services – 44,760

Meanwhile, according to GlassDoor, marriage and family therapists earn an average base pay of $53,045 annually.

What Is the Job Outlook for Marriage Counselors?

According to the US BLS, the employment of marriage counselors and family and therapists is expected to increase by 22 percent between 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is expected because of the increasing use of integrated care. Integrated care is a treatment of several problems at one time by a group of specialists.

By providing integrated care, marriage and family therapists work with counselors who provide community and social services such as substance abuse, behavior disorder, or mental health counselors to address patients’ issues as a team.

Where Do Marriage Counselors Work?

Basically, marriage counselors and family therapists work in the public and private sectors of every country. Some may run their own private offices while some work in hospitals and social service centers.

In addition, some may decide to work with a specific group like homosexual couples, incarcerated, elderly, families or newlyweds.

However, below is a breakdown of where marriage counselors work:

  • Private Practice
  • Social Service Agencies
  • Medical Centers
  • Mental Health Centers
  • Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
  • Government
  • Legal and Correctional Systems
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Inpatient Care Facilities & Hospitals
  • Offices of Health Practitioners
  • Schools
  • Substance Abuse & Addiction Treatment Centers
  • Military
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • Health Maintenance Organizations – HMO’s
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Facilities
  • Churches and Religious Settings

Generally, most marriage counselors work full time. However, some work evenings and weekends to accommodate their clients’ schedules. 

What are the Benefits of being a Marriage Counselor?

As you proceed in your career as a marriage counselor, you will get to enjoy some benefits. Below are some of these benefits:

  • If you love to meet people, then you are certainly going to enjoy your marriage counselling career. Here, you get to work with people from different backgrounds and walks of life.
  • You get satisfaction from the fact that you can help people work through mental and emotional stresses and disorders.
  • The flexibility of work especially when you run your own private practice.
  • Variety of work environment. As a marriage counselor, you have various job options from community services to running your own practice.
  • Since marriage counselors deal with human behaviors and emotions, they get to learn about various psychological approaches, such as Solution Focused Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. These skills can be used in other lines of work, as well as in your personal life.
  • You enjoy independence as you work. Marriage counselors work independently, assessing the needs of their clients and coming up with forms of treatment and intervention that are suitable to them.
  • Opportunity for life long learning. Typically, to maintain your license as a marriage counselor, there is room for life long learning.
  • As a marriage counselor, you get to see the immediate impact of your interventions in your clients.
  • You enjoy fantastic job security, regardless of where you decide to work.
  • Mobility of work; you can work in any location across the country. However, you may need to update your license in order for it to be valid in a particular state.
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Marriage Counselor Associations And Groups

Below are some associations and groups you can belong to as a marriage counselor.

FAQs

Is a doctoral degree required to become a marriage counselor?

No, doctoral degrees aren’t required to be a marriage counselor. The major degree needed is the masters degree and this is so because marriage counselling courses aren’t done at the undergraduate level.

However, after earning a masters degree, many professionals decide to continue their education and earn a doctoral degree. This in turn, allows them to specialize, and sometimes even teach marriage counseling students.

What is the work schedule of marriage counselors?

Typically, marriage counselors work full time. However, some therapists also work evenings and weekends to accommodate their clients’ schedules. 

How long does it take to become a marriage counselor?

Typically it takes approximately 9 years to become a marriage counselor. Below is the breakdown:

4 years for undergraduate program
2 years for masters program
2 years for clinical experience
1 year for licensing exams

Are marriage counselors the same as family and marriage therapists?

Although used interchangeably, they are not necessarily. Basically, marriage counsellors will work strictly with couples. On the other hand, marriage and family therapists may also work with kids that are involved. However, some therapists go on to work only with married couples.

Does marriage counselling work?

According to research done by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, families and couples who have attended family or couples therapy sessions indicate high levels of patient satisfaction.

However, when people ask if marriage counseling work, they actually want to know whether or not marriage counseling can save their marriage. Unfortunately, this is not always the right question to ask as some marriages actually end up in divorce after the counselling.

This is so because in some cases, marriage counseling works by convincing a couple that they are not in a healthy relationship and also giving them the encouragement they need to end their relationship.

What type of issues do marriage counselors treat?

Some issues marriage and family counsellors and therapists handle include but not limited to the following:

LGBTQ issues
Domestic violence
Infertility
Child and adolescent behavioral problems
Grieving
Depression and anxiety
Marital conflicts
Substance abuse

What are some marriage counselor specializations?

Marriage counselors may focus on specific couples, such as newlyweds or homosexual spouses. Also, many Christian schools offer degrees in marriage counseling with an emphasis on Christian faith. Some married couples prefer these types of counselors.

Must I have a master's degree in marriage counselling before I can become one?

Conclusion

As more marriages take place and individual differences are in existence, the place of marriage counselors cannot be overlooked. I hope with the information above, you will have little or no issues as you pursue a career in marriage counseling.

GOOD LUCK AND SUCCESS!!!

References

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