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Career Profile: Family and Marriage Therapist

Why Is Family and Marriage Therapy a Job of Tomorrow?
As divorce and emotional stress continue to plague couples and their children, marriage and family therapists will be needed to help improve relationships. Employment opportunities for family and marriage therapists are expected to increase 30 percent by 2016, a much faster rate than the average for all U.S. occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Family and marriage therapists earn an average salary of about $43,000 annually.

What Does a Family and Marriage Therapist Do?
Family and marriage therapists act as unbiased third parties to listen to troubled families and couples discuss their problems. They help people work through emotional issues—such as insecurity, distrust or general anxiety—that strain relationships. Therapists aid clients in understanding the motives behind their partner’s or children’s actions, and enhance the overall communication between feuding parties. Sessions typically take place in a conversational style, with the therapist asking the clients to talk about the issues causing tension in the relationship. Therapists may recommend methods of combating problems, such as avoiding situations that usually trigger arguments. Couples who are on the verge of divorce typically seek the aid of a therapist to help save their marriage. Family therapy sessions may be needed if a child is troubled, or if he or she must learn to cope with a loved one’s cognitive or mental disorder.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Family and Marriage Therapist?
Family and marriage therapists must hold a master’s level degree in mental health counseling or family counseling. A master’s degree typically takes an additional two to three years to earn after first obtaining a four-year bachelor’s. Mental health counseling courses cover such topics as human growth and development and relationship theories. Licensing requirements differ among states.

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