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5 Popular Specialty Areas for Marriage & Family Therapists

Five Marriage & Family Therapy Concentrations

  • School Counseling
  • Addiction and Recovery in Families
  • Conflict and Infidelity in Marriage
  • Trauma in Relationships
  • Community Programming

Students and professionals who choose a marriage & family therapy specialty area usually work with a narrower range of clients, but this targeted expertise can help achieve positive outcomes at a faster rate among specific populations. When there are obvious stressors in the family system like alcoholism, mental illness, or grief, a therapist who specializes in these areas can provide a more standardized, streamlined approach to care, having treated similar clients on a regular basis. Some areas of expertise in the field include the following.

1. School Counseling

Therapists in elementary and high schools have a difficult job because they primarily see the students in the school environment, but usually, problems with behavior at school are due to issues in the home. Adequately treating children’s behavioral and emotional difficulties requires the cooperation and involvement of the parents, so these specialists are trained in identifying dysfunctions in parent-child interactions. They then can instruct both parents and teachers on the necessary interventions.

2. Addiction and Recovery in Families

Whether involving a child or parent, substance abuse affects everyone in the family. A marriage & family therapist who specializes in addiction recovery services has completed extensive coursework in the biochemical, social, and psychological aspects of addiction. Some of these professionals work with the rest of the family before the addict is ready to get help, teaching them how to react to their loved one’s behaviors. Therapists are also involved in the process of planning an intervention and assisting in the healing process with the newly-sober family member.

3. Conflict and Infidelity in Marriage

For many spouses, infidelity is a deal-breaker which is why this specialty of marriage and family counseling requires a great deal of patience as well as the ability to stay calm and help the couple understand how to fix their relationship. Couples counseling, as it is commonly called, is also beneficial for spouses who find themselves arguing more than they did before and enjoying each other less. These therapists often see couples who are on the brink of separation which adds to the challenge.

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

4. Trauma in Relationships

Traumatic life events include military duty, natural disasters, childhood neglect or abuse, a family member’s death, and serious illnesses. The timing and extent to which these affect an individual varies significantly depending on the person, and as Psychology Today reports, these events can have profound effects on relationships and behavior. Counselors with this expertise help a client process trauma while also teaching the family how to best support him or her.

5. Community Programming

This is a specialty area for marriage and family therapists that focuses on designing public health campaigns and programs to improve the psychological health of a group. Often these professionals will work for the government or nonprofit agencies and focus on certain topics like parenting techniques from infant to teenager, drug abuse, or elder care issues. Through their training, therapists have a different perspective than other public health professionals and can offer insight as to the best ways to impact the target populations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field of therapy is in high demand and the industry is expanding with about 20% more jobs expected by 2026. By gaining targeted education and experience, a marriage & family therapist concentration can help a professional more effectively treat clients.

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