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How To Become A Marriage Counselor in 2021

October 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

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The increased rate of marriage failures around the country demonstrates how significant the role of marriage counselors is. Most families that include a troubled marriage consider marriage counselors vita. Some couples take their marriages seriously, while a substantial number do not. There is also a significant concern for failed families where children, siblings, and parents fall out due to various issues, increasing the rate of failed families and relationships. To help reduce the rapidly growing rate of marriage and relationship failures, most people turn to marriage therapists to seek help. 

Marriage counseling, also referred to as couple counseling, focuses on relationships and marriages. Marriage counseling services are provided by licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT). Marriage counselors help couples identify their problems and work collectively to solve the issues. Couple’s therapy is quite a fascinating profession to consider pursuing. To become a marriage therapist, you need at least a bachelor’s degree to enroll in a master’s degree program. An aspiring marriage counselor must complete a master’s degree program and clinical experience to obtain licensing and certification. You also need to complete continuing education to maintain your marriage counseling certification.

This post is a comprehensive guide on how to become a marriage counselor. It will also provide information on the education requirements, job description, and components of successful marriage counseling. Some of the aspects covered include:

  1. Steps to becoming a marriage counselor 
  2. Education required to become a marriage counselor 
  3. Certification requirements for marriage counselors 
  4. Skills needed to become a successful marriage counselor

Steps to Becoming a Marriage Counselor

According to recent statistics, there is a divorce in America every second. Interestingly, nearly 50 percent of all marriages are projected to end in separation or divorce. These statistics are quite alarming. The situation could be even worse without the input of marriage counselors and therapists. There are several factors that prompt couples to seek marriage counseling from a therapist. Some of the likely factors include: 

  • Disagreement over parenting, lifestyle, or financial decisions 
  • Effective communication between couples 
  • Disagreement over household responsibilities 
  • Having trouble recovering from a recent loss or tragedy 
  • Partners who feel their relationship is on auto-pilot and nearing death bed 

Irrespective of the cause of the family feud, marriage counselors strive to help partners resolve their issues by first determining the cause of the problem and whether it is irreconcilable. Although the profession is satisfying as it involves impacting other peoples, it can be challenging.  Hence, before embarking on a journey to become a marriage counselor, it is vital to get informed on the job description and employment outlook for marriage counselors. This page explores these aspects in detail.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Marriage Counselor?

The steps to becoming a marriage counselor involve a lot. To become a marriage therapist, you need to fulfill various education requirements and gain clinical experience before obtaining a practicing license. The learning path to becoming a professional counselor is quite involved. You will need first to earn a bachelor’s degree in a marriage counseling-related field. A bachelor’s degree helps prepare you for a master’s degree program. The coursework for the bachelor’s degree program typically takes four years to complete. Some bachelor’s degree programs might require students to complete relevant clinical practice or internships before graduation. These programs might have a varied duration ranging from six to twelve months. 

Upon completing a bachelor’s degree program, you must enroll in and complete a master’s degree program. Marriage counseling requires highly educated individuals, making a master’s degree program the minimum education needed to become a marriage counselor. The master’s degree program covers courses related to counseling such as family counseling, adolescent, and couple therapy. The coursework takes a minimum of two years to complete. Those learning on a part-time basis might take longer, depending on their learning schedules. 

Although marriage counseling certification requirements differ from state to state, most states require aspiring marriage counselors to complete two years of supervised clinical work experience, after which a written licensing exam is required. The licensure exams typically take one year to complete. Please note that undertaking the licensing exams is the final step to becoming a marriage counselor. This is a clear indication that it takes approximately nine years to become a marriage counselor. Here is a summary of the breakdown:

  • 4 years for bachelor’s degree program 
  • 2 years for master’s program 
  • 2 years for gaining clinical experience 
  • 1 year for licensing exams 

What’s the Job Description for Marriage Counselors?

Marriage counselors typically provide support and guidance to couples. Although they work closely to guide couples on ways of resolving their issue, they offer little opinion. The marriage counseling services provided by marriage counselors involve providing counseling to families if the couple has children, individual couples, and both partners. Marriage counselors focus on the family dynamics, including how the family relationship is contributing to the dysfunction. Below is a summary of the job responsibilities of marriage counselors: 

  • Talking to marriage partners about their problems and investigating their feelings on specific issues related to their marriage or with other family members 
  • Diagnosing and determining the root cause of the dysfunction in a marriage or family relationship 
  • Providing regular counseling services to couples and families, especially those dealing with divorce, mental illnesses, custody issues, and financial problems. 
  • Collaborating with other health care professionals to help develop effective treatment options for clients, particularly those battling mental illnesses and drug abuse. 
  • Monitoring the progress of the couple and family members to ensure improved relationships and health outcomes 
  • In case of custody issues, the family therapist offers guidance and counseling services to the children. The marriage counselor then makes recommendations for family custody issues based on the outcomes of the counseling sessions. 

What’s the Employment Outlook for Marriage Counseling Careers?

If you consider a career as a marriage counselor or related occupations, you must probably be interested in how fast the field is growing. Fortunately, marriage counseling careers have a promising career outlook as the earning potential has steadily grown over the past decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate of family therapists and marriage counselors is expected to grow by 22 percent within the next decade. The projection indicates that marriage counseling careers are growing much faster than the average of all occupations. 

Although it is a fortunate thing for marriage counselors, it should be a worrying trend, as the decreased demand indicates failed marriages. Marriage counselors are either paid an hourly rate or an annual salary. The salary rate depends on the job location, employer, and position one is holding. Nonetheless, marriage counselors earn a median salary of $48,790 per year. This is an hourly salary of $23.45. If you seek to increase your earning potential, consider specializing in a specific marriage counseling field.  Specializations also lead to better job security.

Education Required to Become a Marriage Counselor

Although an aspiring marriage counselor must complete a bachelor’s degree, the undergraduate program isn’t the minimum educational requirement needed to become a marriage counselor. To become a marriage counselor, one needs a graduate program at a minimum. Therefore, a bachelor’s degree is just a prerequisite for enrolling in a master’s degree program. There are several master’s degree programs that one might pursue to become a marriage counselor. 

The programs provide marriage counselors with comprehensive knowledge of marriage counseling. The courses covered also help students learn and develop various skills they need to succeed in the marriage counseling profession. Whichever master’s program you decide to pursue, ensure a recognized marriage counseling body accredits it. This post explores the degree required to become a counselor and the likely subjects that you must study to become a marriage counselor. Keep reading to get the insights. 

What Degree Is Required to Become a Marriage Counselor?

To begin a career in marriage counseling, you will need to have at least a master’s degree in a related field. You first need to complete a bachelor’s degree program in various areas such as social work, counseling, or psychology to establish an education foundation required to complete a master’s program. The undergraduate courses enable students to have an insight into some of the courses covered in a master’s degree program, making it easier to understand and excel in the lessons.

Master’s degree programs educate students in various areas of marriage counseling, including clinical psychology, couple therapy, and adolescent and family therapy. The programs are also effective in developing and honing student skills in counseling as the programs emphasize applied clinical experience and research. The master’s degree program enables students to specialize in various marriage counseling concentrations. This will allow the marriage counselors and family to understand and meet the needs of different couples and families.

The master’s program also prepares students for licensure exams needed to become certified counselors. The licensing exams typically test understanding of the basic counseling principles, among other intensive subjects. To pass the exams, you need comprehensive knowledge of marriage and family counseling.  The master’s degree program is a prerequisite to enroll in a doctoral degree program. The doctoral program helps students gain advanced knowledge in psychology and counseling.

What Master’s Degree Is Helpful for Being a Marriage Counselor?

When you research the learning path to becoming a marriage counselor, you will discover that several routes take you to your destination. While some of the learning routes will open up a world of new opportunities, others might not. Again, some learning paths might take a more extended period to complete. Therefore, you always need to keep these factors in mind when shopping for your options to begin a marriage counseling career. We now know that a master’s degree is the minimum educational requirement to become a marriage counselor or family therapist. You might opt to obtain a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, family therapy, or related field as long as the program is accredited by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Commission. But which is the best master’s degree program for marriage counselors? 

Irrespective of the marriage counseling career you might choose to pursue, earning a master’s in counseling focusing on marriage counseling could be the best education choice. A counseling education unlocks several career opportunities in addition to becoming a marriage counselor. Some of the likely options might include becoming an adolescent and family therapist, mental therapists, and other career options.  The counseling program could be beneficial when undertaking your licensing exams as a master’s degree in counseling provides a well-rounded education to aspiring marriage counselors. 

What Subjects Are You Supposed to Study in University to Be a Marriage Counselor?

Although there are several marriage counseling programs, there are common courses that students must study to earn their degrees. The typical coursework for a master’s program in marriage counseling trains students in social science-related areas of marriage counseling. Some of the likely subjects include: 

  • Counselling Theory: This is an essential subject that all counseling students undertake. The counseling theory course is generally covered in the initial stages of the degree program. In the study, you learn the basic understanding of theoretical issues around counseling. The counseling theory courses help prepare a student to learn specialized techniques in counseling. 
  • Group Therapy Techniques: This course helps students develop the technical skills needed to succeed in the marriage counseling profession. Marriage counseling mainly involves group therapy. Hence, counselors must learn how to handle partners together, making this course an essential aspect of a counseling program. 
  • Social and Cultural Issues: Students learn the different social factors that are likely to affect couples today. This helps them gain theoretical knowledge on identifying the issues and designing the most appropriate techniques to resolve them. 
  • Mental Health: A more significant percentage of mental health conditions are brought about by family issues and failed marriages. Aspiring marriage counselors and counseling psychologists are taught how to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. 

Other courses covered include: 

  • Human sexuality 
  • Couples therapy 
  • Family systems sociology 
  • Psychological development 
  • Marriage counseling ethics

Certification Requirements for Marriage Counselors

Each state requires an aspiring marriage counselor to meet specific licensing requirements to practice as a marriage counselor. Although the certification and licensing requirements vary from state to state, almost all states require those seeking a career as marriage counselors to complete a graduate degree, preferably a master’s degree program. Additionally, you are required to complete a supervised training program in a clinical setting to gain hands-on experience in marriage counseling. The supervised clinical experience program typically takes two years two complete. It is essential to visit your state website to determine the certification requirements for your state. However, this post outlines some of the typical licensing and certification requirements that must be fulfilled by all aspiring certified marriage counselors, irrespective of the state they are practicing in.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Certified Marriage Counselor?

Certified marriage counselors or family therapists are highly trained experts that support families, couples, and individuals with emotional, mental, behavioral, and social issues. Clients usually seek care from family therapists for problems ranging from simple family and relationship conflicts to life-changing events such as abuse, divorce, and loss. Solving these issues requires the services of highly knowledgeable and experienced personnel. Therefore, marriage and family therapists must meet certain standards before beginning practice. Are you aspiring to become a certified marriage counselor? Well, this is the right post for you as it outlines the steps needed to become a certified marriage counselor. Please note that this is the standard guide and not specific to a state.

  • Earn a Master’s Degree: Most states require marriage counselors to possess a master’s degree in marriage counseling or a related field before getting certified. The master’s degree programs equip students with comprehensive knowledge on social factors related to marriage counseling, such as family counseling, social and cultural diversity, adolescent and family therapy, among other subjects. Earning a master’s degree demonstrates that a student has met all the education standards put in place by the Commission for Accreditation. 
  • Complete A Supervised Internship: Supervised internship programs are vital in an individual’s career trajectory. The Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) and other state licensing boards require students to complete 2000 to 4000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Through the internship program, students gain the hands-on experience needed to practice as a professional counselor. 
  • Pass Certification Examination: Like other occupations, marriage counselors must pass a licensing exam to gain certification. The AMFTRB typically administers the certification exams. 
  • Apply for Certification: After taking and passing your certification exams, you need to apply for licensure from the relevant state board of examiners. Always visit your state board to determine the application process and the documents required to obtain a practicing license. 
  • Continuing Education: Continuing your education to doctoral levels can help expand your field and open new opportunities. In addition, most states require you to continue your education as a requirement for license renewal. The courses taken vary from state to state. 

What Are Some Marriage Counselor Specializations?

Marriage and family therapists typically work with a narrower range of clients to help achieve positive outcomes faster than when they work with a broad range of clients. There are various stressors within a family setting, such as grief, mental illness, alcoholism, and abuse. Family therapists need to specialize in any of the areas, leading to a standardized treatment approach for similar clients regularly. Some of the areas of specializations in marriage and family therapy include: 

  • School Counseling: Family therapists focused on school counseling to treat children’s emotional and behavioral difficulties. They achieve this by collaborating with the parents, as most stressors are due to family issues.
  • Addiction and Recovery in Families: Substance abuse has devastating effects on everyone in the family, including children. Marriage counselors who concentrate on addiction recovery services assist clients in recovering from substance abuse. Also, they help the family members adopt the newly-sober family member. 
  • Conflict and Infidelity in Marriage: Infidelity is quite rampant in most marriages. Dealing with infidelity is quite tricky and requires a great deal of patience. Conflict and infidelity counselors help couples heal from infidelity challenges. 

How Do You Earn a License for Marriage Counseling?

Earning a license for marriage counseling requires prospective marriage counselors to meet specific requirements. They include:

  • Earning a bachelor’s degree 
  • Earning a master’s degree 
  • Completing a supervised clinical experience 
  • Taking and passing the state licensure examination 
  • Applying for licensure

Skills Needed to Become a Successful Marriage Counselor

Marriage counseling is quite involved and challenging. Therefore, the healthcare profession isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You might have the proper educational and licensure requirements to become a marriage counselor but fail at your job. The reason being, you might not have the right qualities needed to succeed as a marriage counselor or family therapist. Marriage counseling requires various interpersonal and technical skills to understand your clients and develop effective solution plans to help clients solve their issues or health from a loss or mental illness. Most of these skills are learned and developed throughout your career path. This page explores the skills and qualities of a successful marriage counselor.

What Skills Are Required to Be a Successful Marriage Counselor?

Are you looking forward to becoming a marriage counselor? Well, here are some of the skills you need to become successful: 

  • Communication Skills: Marriage counselors are always in constant communication with their clients. To understand and diagnose the issue affecting their clients, they need clear communication between the couple counselor and the client.  , you need strong verbal and non-verbal skills to educate clients about the treatment plans. 
  • Listening Skills: A marriage counselor must be a good listener. Good listening skills enable a family counselor to understand and untangle the needs and concerns of couples.  Listening skills allow them to identify vital information that might help in the counseling process. 
  • Critical Thinking: Licensed marriage counselors should diagnose problems effectively just by listening to the couple’s concerns. Counselors should be able to identify and implement plans that would help solve the clients’ issues. 
  • Research: Counselors should study the behavioral patterns of their clients scientifically to make informed decisions. Research skills are usually learned through on-campus and online programs and developed through on-the-job experience. 

What Kinds of Personalities Are Suitable to Being a Counselor?

Individuals who make good marriage counselors genuinely like others even if they don’t have close ties. Counselors like being around others and enjoy talking to all kinds of people. However, this isn’t always enough. Some personality traits are suitable for a counselor. They include: 

  • Empathy and Compassion: A good counselor should have a caring personality. They should visualize themselves in a client’s position to understand and help find a suitable solution. 
  • Good Listener: Counseling involves a lot of talking. Counselors should focus more on their clients by giving them a chance to speak more and listen to understand their concerns and needs. In some cases, a patient might have trouble expressing themselves verbally. A counselor should be able to read the body language. 
  • Secretive: Clients commonly reveal secret information to their counselors. A good counselor should be able to keep the information private and confidential. This will help build a professional relationship between them. 
  • Self-Awareness:  a marriage counselor must know herself first. They should know their preferences to avoid biases when dealing with couples. Self-awareness enables a counselor to remain objective. 
  • Creative Problem Solvers: Although clients might present similar concerns, you must treat every client uniquely. Try to be creative when developing a treatment plan for your client, as not all treatment plans might work for all clients. Always align the treatment plan to the unique concerns and needs of each client. 

What Are the Qualities of a Good Counselor?

To become a good counselor, you must have the following qualities: 

  • Patience 
  • Good listening 
  • Highly knowledgeable 
  • Observant 
  • Confidentiality 
  • Personal integrity 
  • Empathetic and compassionate 
  • Understanding 

Final Thoughts 

Today, the world is experiencing an increased rate of failed marriages. According to a recent report, there is a divorce or separation every thirteen seconds. Importantly, if it weren’t for marriage counselors’ critical role in mending marriages, the number would be even higher. Currently, several couples experience stress and conflicts in their relationships. While a substantial number turn to marriage counselors for emotional guidance and support, others fail to do so, leading to life-changing events such as divorce, loss, and separation. To this effect, the demand for marriage counselors has spiked up, leading to a promising career option for students. 

Before choosing to become a marriage counselor, it is essential to know the components of a successful career in marriage counseling. The first component is having the right education. Marriage counselors must have a master’s degree in marriage counseling or a related field and complete a two-year supervised internship program before sitting for their licensing exams. In addition to the education requirements, you must have the right skills and qualities. Some of the needed skills include communication skills, problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, research skills, etc. The qualities of a good counselor include knowledge, empathy, 

The qualities of a good counselor include knowledge, empathy, understanding, confidentiality, and observance. Do you have what it takes to be a marriage counselor? If so, the time is now. Go for it!

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