Marriage and Family Therapist Salary and Job Description

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Marriage and family therapists play a valuable role in helping families cope with various challenges, ranging from substance misuse to mental illness. In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranked marriage and family therapists second on its list of best social services jobs for 2021.

Unlike other mental health professionals, such as psychologists and clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists examine their clients’ symptoms in the context of familial or partner relationships. As the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) notes, these professionals always operate with the viewpoint that “relationships matter.”

Those pursuing this role should be aware of the responsibilities and requirements, as well as marriage and family therapist salary ranges. An online degree program such as Maryville University’s Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Family Studies can serve as a strong foundation for students planning careers in family and marriage therapy.

A young couple is smiling and holding hands during a session with a marriage and family therapist in an office.

What does a marriage and family therapist do?

Marriage and family therapists treat individuals one on one, as well as with other family members, always taking into account how people exist in their environments and relationship networks. Marriage and family therapy is unique in that it is short term, solution-based, and designed to meet specific, attainable end goals, according to the AAMFT.

Marriage and family therapists are tasked with:

  • Diagnosing mental and emotional disorders
  • Conducting psychotherapy and counseling for children and adults
  • Teaching life skills and coping strategies
  • Building treatment plans

These professionals are trained to address a range of issues, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autism
  • Behavioral and emotional disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Alcoholism and drug misuse
  • Chronic physical illnesses
  • Marital problems
  • Child-parent conflicts

Marriage and family therapists may also work in many different settings and environments, including:

  • Private practices
  • Hospitals
  • Community health clinics
  • Educational institutions
  • Substance abuse treatment centers
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Businesses

Marriage and family therapist salary

The median annual marriage and family therapist salary in 2020 was $51,340, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The lowest 10% of earners made less than $33,140, while the highest 10% earned over $92,930. As PayScale.com notes, advanced skills in team leadership, clinical supervision, and writing procedures and documentation can contribute to higher salaries for professionals in these roles.

The BLS projects the number of jobs for marriage and family therapists to increase by 16% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than average (8%). As more clients and healthcare organizations prioritize integrated care — the treatment of multiple issues by a team of specialists — they’ll call upon marriage and family therapists to provide expertise and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to address clients’ needs.

How do you become a marriage and family therapist?

The path to becoming a marriage and family therapist consists of a few important steps.

Education

Marriage and family therapists need at least a master’s degree in a related field, such as psychology, human development, or social work. Aspiring professionals can prepare for graduate study through an undergraduate program such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Family Studies. The program can help students build a foundation of knowledge in family management theories and psychology. Courses cover fundamental subjects such as interpersonal relationships, critical thinking in social science, and family law, policy, and advocacy.

Clinical supervision

After graduating from an accredited master’s program, prospective marriage and family therapists need to complete at least two years of clinical training supervised by a licensed counselor. This training involves providing therapy sessions and treatment services for individuals and families.

Licensure

Marriage and family therapists need a license to practice. They can pass a state licensing exam or national exam conducted by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB), which is recognized by most states and jurisdictions.

Support mental health and family wellness

Marriage and family therapists build rewarding careers promoting wellness and supporting mental health for parents, children, and partners. To do so, they first need to acquire the appropriate education and experience.

Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Family Studies is designed to help aspiring marriage and family therapists study the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development of individuals and family members of various ages and stages of life. Students can choose from specialty tracks in early childhood development, youth development, family life education, and adult development and aging, aligning their academic coursework with their passion for making a difference. The curriculum also covers healthcare policies and laws, practice ethics, and experiential learning through fieldwork and advocacy projects.

Learn more about how the Maryville University online bachelor’s in human development and family studies degree can prepare you for a fulfilling career as a marriage and family therapist.

Recommended Reading

Cultural Influences on Child Development

Impact of Online Education on Families: Understanding the Transition to Remote Learning

Nature vs. Nurture Child Development: Exploring Key Differences

Sources

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, “About Marriage and Family Therapists”

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, “Marriage and Family Therapist: The Family-Friendly Mental Health Professionals”

O*Net Online, “Summary Report for: 21-1013.00 – Marriage and Family Therapists”

PayScale.com, “Average Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Salary”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Marriage and Family Therapists”

U.S. News & World Report, “Marriage and Family Therapist Overview”

Verywell Mind, “What Is a Marriage and Family Therapist?”