What is Marriage and Family Counseling?

With the busy and stressful lives we lead, more couples and families find themselves in need of outside help and are choosing marriage and family counseling for that help. Marriage and family counseling offers guidance and support to couples and families dealing with problems that can affect not just their mental health but also the well-being of the entire family. Learn more about marriage and family counseling, including how it works and what it takes to become a licensed marriage and family counselor.

What is Marriage and Family Counseling?

Marriage and family counseling is a type of therapy provided to couples and families going through a rough time. It’s also often referred to as couples therapy or marriage counseling. Regardless of what title is used, the counselor’s goal is always the same: to help counsel and guide couples or families through a variety of issues. Seeing a marriage and family counselor is not looked upon negatively as it was in the past because of their wide use today and their success at helping troubled families.

What They Do

What marriage and family counselors do varies on the patients and the problems they’re experiencing. In all cases, they help individuals increase mutual respect and improve their communication skills. When working with children, the counselor’s main goal is to help the children grow and develop into healthy adults. Their duties include:

  • Helping clients process emotions and adjust to changes in their lives, such as layoffs, divorce or loss of family members
  • Encouraging clients to share their experiences and reactions
  • Helping clients make good decisions regarding their future
  • Referring clients to other services and resources in the community, such as inpatient/outpatient treatment facilities or support groups
  • Completing and maintaining confidential files and state-required records

When It’s Used

Marriage and family counseling is not just used when a couple is having marital problems and contemplating divorce. Its use to help all members of the family unit get through physical and psychological problems stemming from a variety of reasons. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, these counselors treat a wide variety of concerns ranging from depression to child-parent problems to marital issues. Marriage and family counselors or therapists also work with the following problems:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Children’s behavior problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Coping with elderly problems like dementia
  • Weight issues

Marriage and family counselors may also work with mental health issues affecting the family unit, such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or any similar issue that has an impact on the family and their well-being and happiness.

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How to Become a Marriage and Family Counselor

To become a marriage and family counselor requires years of college, internships, practical experience, licensure and continuing education. Marriage and family counselors are required to have at least a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, psychology or a related field from an accredited counseling program.

They must also have a license to practice marriage and family counseling. As part of the graduate program, candidates must complete a supervised clinical internship or residency. Although states may vary in their licensing requirements, marriage and family therapists or counselors are required to be licensed in all the states.

To be eligible for licensure, the candidate must have the degree and complete between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of post-degree clinical experiences under the supervision of a licensed counselor. Also, the candidate must pass a state-approved certification exam and keep up with annual continuing education.

Related Resource: 5 Best Online Ph.D. Marriage and Family Counseling Programs

Becoming a marriage and family counselor is a big decision and one that involves extensive education, work and commitment. It’s also an occupation reserved for those who have compassion, understanding and the desire to help others. Many that have been helped through marriage and family counseling will agree that the world is a better place because of these devoted professions.