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Family Therapists

Family therapists provide counseling to families or couples that want help with solving conflicts, changing behavior or improving communications. They provide counseling to the entire family or sometimes with individual family members.

A family therapist uses family systems theory, principles and therapeutic techniques to improve communication and understanding among family members and to modify's client's perceptions and behavior. They try to prevent family or individual crises.

While counseling couples that are considering a divorce, marriage and family therapists strive to determine the underlying reasons for the divorce and determine if reconciliation is possible.

Marriage counselors typically provide counseling sessions that include both the husband and wife. However, sometimes they will talk with the husband and wife separately. Marriage counselors also provide counseling to groups of married couples, groups of wives and groups of husbands.


  • Encourage family members to develop and use strategies and skills for dealing with problems in a constructive manner
  • Collect information about clients via interviews, tests, observations and discussions
  • Make referrals to psychiatric resources
  • Maintain case files
  • Ask appropriate questions to help clients identify their feelings and behaviors
  • Determine if clients should be referred to other specialists
  • Develop plans with clients for post-treatment activities
  • Follow up with clients to determine the effectiveness of counseling

Job Characteristics

Marriage and family therapists often have flexible hours in order to accommodate families in crisis or working couples who need evening or weekend counseling sessions. Those working for agencies, particularly marriage counselors, usually work two or three evenings per week. They provide therapy sessions which last for approximately one hour.

Family therapists need excellent interpersonal and communication skills. They need to be attentive, considerate and sometimes critical in order to accomplish objectives.

Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 30 percent growth from 2006 to 2016 for employment of marriage and family therapists which is much faster than average for all occupations. The average annual earnings for marriage and family therapists in 2008 was $44,590. Some of the highest paid marriage and family therapists are self-employed counselors with well-established practices and those employed by state government, and general medical and surgical hospitals.

Family therapists have opportunities to work as directors of agencies and departments. Some therapists advance by achieving a doctorate or by completing additional postgraduate courses. Experienced counselors have opportunities to work as teachers and trainers of new counselors.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

Educational requirements for family therapists vary depending on State licensure and certification requirements. Typically, marriage and family counselors need a master's degree in counseling or in marriage and family therapy along with two years or three thousand hours of supervised clinical experience. They also need to pass state recognized exams. Some states require counselors in public employment to have earned a master's degree and some states require a bachelor's degree with appropriate counseling courses.

Usually, coursework in a marriage and family therapy master's degree program includes counseling therapy and practice, research and evaluation in psychology, clinical applications of human development and family therapy theories.


Major Employers

The top employment sectors are individual and family services, State government, local government, outpatient care centers, health clinics, institutions, private practices and hospitals.

Schools for Marriage And Family Therapists are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Marriage and Family Therapists

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Marriage and Family Therapists jobs , as of 2016

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 4,080 $52,330
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 1,590 $61,270
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 1,350 $41,860
San Diego-Carlsbad 1,160 $57,870
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale 1,080 $76,200
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario 840 $65,820
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson 830 $49,780
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 640 $42,470
Tucson 480 $44,680
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis 450 $38,800

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to family therapists

Most Popular Industries for
Marriage and Family Therapists

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Social Service 10,010 40% $39,230
Government 6,930 28% $50,310
Medical Office 5,140 21% $45,080
Nursing And Residential Care 980 4% $36,800
Hospital 700 2% $51,270
Education 370 1% $54,840
Non-profit 280 1% $38,570
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Marriage and Family Therapists.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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