How to Become a Family Therapist


Family therapists work with families as well as individuals on the issues that may be impacting their family. These professionals take a family centered approach to any assessment, diagnosis or treatment that is given. It will be very important for these professionals to look at the roles within the family as well. They work very hard to determine how the family impacts the client’s overall mental health. What is important to know about this type of therapy is that the therapist will be treating the family as a whole rather than the client his or herself. Some of the most common issues that could be addressed during this type of treatment may include low self-esteem, alcoholism and even stress.

Special Qualities

Individuals that want to be in this helping role will find that there are a few special qualities that someone should possess. For starters, it is good for this person to be compassionate. Professionals in this field will continually be listening to others that are dealing with stressful situations. It is important to be compassionate. Listening skills are also important. Any of these professionals that will be working independently should also have great organizational skills in order to keep track of any payments and scheduling that has to be done. Finally, these therapists will be working with many types of people. Having the ability to work with different people will help make the job more enjoyable.

Related Reading: How to Become a Mental Health Therapist

Work Environment

Those individuals that become a family therapist will find that they work in a wide variety of locations. They can be found in mental health centers, substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, and even within colleges. Some of these individuals may even make the decision to go out on their own and open their own private practice. Anyone that has this title will generally work full time. Some of them may even find that they are working weekends and evenings in an effort to accommodate the clients that they are working with. This may be seen more frequently with those professionals that are working independently and that will be setting their own hours.



In order to become a family therapist and individual will need to have at least a master’s level education. This must be in counseling or family and marriage therapy. During the individual’s education they will be learning about how the family impacts someone’s mental health. Students are also going to be learning how families work. Some of the most common courses that are taken may include sexual abuse counseling, reality therapy and even mediation and divorce therapy.

Most of the time, the student will be required to go through some type of an internship. This is necessary to give the student some hands on experience. Students will be supervised as they work with clients and implement what they have learned during their schooling. Their supervisor will be able to observe them while they work with their clients and give feedback related to what tools they should be implementing. This is also necessary to help the student worth through any ethical issues that may develop.

Licenses or Certification

A family therapist must have a license. In order to obtain this license the professional must have a master’s degree and at least 2 years of supervision related to clinical experience. This is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These individuals also have to sit for a state approved license exam. It will be necessary for the professional to complete continuing education classes to keep their license. He or she will be required to fulfill a set number of continuing education hours each year. Individuals can look at the Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards to learn more about the licensing exam and continuing education hours.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2013 the median pay for a family therapist was $51,690.  Keep in mind that the work location, as well as experience in the field, can play a role in the amount of money that is made each year. Obviously those that have been doing family therapy for a long time will make more money than someone that is right out of school.

Job Growth

It has been estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that the job field related to family therapist is expected to grow by 37% between 2010 and 2020. This is a lot faster than job growth related to other professions. More and more people are willing to see these providers compared to the other types of professionals that are out there. Insurance companies are also a lot more willing to pay for these types of services compared to psychiatric services or inpatient hospitalization. Maybe this career is on the rise because so individuals are more likely to enter this type of treatment in today’s society than they were years ago.

Related Reading

Further Reading

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