How to Become a Marriage Counselor

Marriage and family counselors help with communication between family members and to deal with emotional issues and everyday stresses that are causing problems within the family dynamic, and this article includes information on getting started in the field, as well as advice, work environment and education requirements.

Education and Licensure

If you have an undergraduate degree in psychology, sociology, anthropology, peace studies, social work or religious studies, you are probably a good candidate to pursue a career as a counselor, even a career as a marriage or family therapist. Education requirements for marriage counselors can vary greatly, and some marriage counselors also counsel on family issues, as well as substance abuse and gambling, or have a religious vocation.

Most certified and/or licensed counselors have at least an undergraduate degree, in the humanities or social sciences, and others have a graduate degree in family or marriage therapy. Since counselors need to be ethical, as in preserve client confidentiality and by protecting the mental health of their patients, and meet professional standards, most states require that a counselor obtain a license to practice. The requirements to obtain a license can vary from state to state, but they usually require an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree or degree in family or marriage therapy, as well as the successful completion of a state licensing examination.

For more information about licensing by state, visit the National Board for Certified Counselors, as well as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy websites.

Becoming a licensed counselor also means that you can be listed in professional directories and association membership listings which will help you get clients.

Advice for Becoming a Marriage Counselor

If you are currently in college, you should take courses in psychology, family and gender studies. You can look for internship or volunteer opportunities working on distress lines, peer counseling or in healthcare settings.

If you have completed an undergraduate degree, begin your search on the National Board for Certified Counselors, as well as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy websites for information about practicing in your state and what courses you would need to complete to become a licensed marriage counselor. There are over one hundred colleges in the US that offer courses or degree programs in marriage and family therapy, and some will even have distance learning opportunities.

You should also discuss some of the possibilities with your religious or congregation leader, since they will probably have relevant advice or information for your community.

Work Environment

The job outlook for marriage and family therapists, for all counselors, is quite good, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that there will be more job opportunities than there are graduates from recognized programs. Most counselors make an average of twenty dollars an hour, and they work in comfortable office settings, or office in a healthcare facility. Counselors usually work nine to five, Monday through Friday, but they are also usually on call for emergencies or clients in distress, and calls can come at any time.

The environment is usually comfortable, but the client needs can be stressful, so a person considering this field should also be aware of their own personal biases and pressures, which can be explored while training to become a licensed marriage counselor.