Family Therapist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Family therapists meet with families to address the psychological and emotional problems that are disrupting them. They help identify these issues and modify the family member's behavior to create a more cohesive and agreeable family unit. This career requires a master's degree and state licensure. Voluntary certification is available.

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Family Therapist Job Description

Family therapists can work in hospitals, treatment programs, government agencies, health organizations and private practices. The typical work setting is an office where the family therapist meets with different patients and clients throughout the day. Office hours are usually determined by the family therapist, but in some cases, they might need to be flexible with patients. Many appointments are arranged in advance.

Family therapists have to be prepared to handle stress in an efficient manner that doesn't interfere with helping their patients. Emotional and physical tension can occur during therapy, so family therapists have to be confident and trustworthy in order to get the best out of their patients.

Job Duties

A family therapist typically meets with an entire family to discuss and examine the issues that are interfering in their lives. However, a family therapist also performs one-on-one counseling time if necessary with family members. The goal of therapy is to address and treat emotional or mental disorders that are harming the family. For example, families may be undergoing some sort of crisis at work or a psychological conflict with them. By talking with patients, a family therapist seeks to address and modify these issues.

Job Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all 50 states and the District of Columbia have licensure requirements for family therapists (www.bls.gov). The first step towards acquiring licensure for a family therapist is to possess a master's degree in family therapy. These programs are usually 48-60 semester hours over two years with a supervised clinical work internship under a counselor to get firsthand experience of family counseling. Next is meeting the supervised work experience requirement of 3,000 hours or two years. An examination chosen by the state must be completed by the family therapist. Annual continuing education is necessary, along with following the ethical guidelines set by the state.

While certification is not a requirement, family therapists who possess a National Certified Counselors certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors demonstrate additional credentials and skills to clients (www.nbcc.org). A written examination, completion of an internship and graduation from an accredited educational school are necessary, in addition to completing the certification examination. To maintain this certification, 100 credit hours of continuing education or re-examination must be completed every five years.

Career Outlook

The BLS stated that marriage and family therapist jobs were predicted to grow 31% between 2012 and 2022, which was much faster than the national average. This growth was due to increasing numbers of people gaining mental health coverage in their insurance plans. About 25% of all marriage and family therapists worked in individual and family services in 2012, and another 24% worked in outpatient care centers, per the BLS. The mean annual wages of marriage and family therapists was $51,690 in May 2013.

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