How to Become a Marriage Counselor

Licensed marriage and family therapists, or marriage counselors, provide families and couples with the impartial guidance they need to overcome challenges and build happier and healthier relationships. Due to the nature of their work, family therapists tend to have a strong sense of compassion and commitment to improving the lives of others.

What Does a Marriage Counselor Do?

Marriage counselors help families and couples deal with issues and conflicts that are affecting their relationships, mental health, and well-being. While no two clients will have the same needs, here are some common issues you can expect to solve as a family therapist.

Marriage counselors may see clients who are:

  • Suffering through depression.
  • Being affected by substance abuse of a partner or family member.
  • Being affected by the psychological disorders of a partner or family member.
  • Going through marital stress or family conflict caused by grief, emotional pain, fear, anger, guilt, or separating lifestyles.

Marriage counselors help these clients by:

  • Being an impartial listener.
  • Observing how family members and couples interact with one another.
  • Highlighting problematic relational and behavioral patterns.
  • Evaluating and finding effective and pragmatic resolutions to problems.
  • Helping replace dysfunctional behaviors with healthier alternatives.

The work isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, studies have shown an improvement in work productivity, partner relationships, and emotional health for those who have gone through marriage counseling.1

Considering a Career as a Family Therapist?

Pepperdine University offers an online Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy that combines interactive course work with in-person clinical training in your community.

Marriage Counselor Degree and License Requirements

To pursue a master’s in family therapy, you will need to have earned a bachelor’s degree. While some marriage counselors pursued undergraduate majors in psychology or social work, students of all educational backgrounds are generally able to apply. You will then need to:

  • Complete a master’s program in clinical counseling, ideally one with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy.
  • Fulfill a certain amount of fieldwork hours as required by your state’s licensing board.
  • Pursue licensure as a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) or a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). Programs like Pepperdine University’s online Master of Arts in Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy prepare you to meet the requirements for LPCC and LMFT licensure in California and other states.

Keep in mind that licensing requirements vary by state. You can learn more about LPCC and LMFT requirements by state by visiting your state’s licensing board.

What Is the Difference Between an LPCC and an LMFT?

Both LPCCs and LMFTs can work in family therapy (names of the licenses may vary by state); however, each one specializes in different areas of mental health:

LPCCs focus on:

  • A broader scope of mental health issues.
  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental, emotional, and addictive disorders.
  • Providing service to a larger audience–from individuals, to families, to larger organizations.

LMFTs focus on:

  • Issues that stem from marriage and family dynamics.
  • Interpersonal relationship issues and parent-child conflicts.
  • Depression, substance abuse, and trauma, and how they affect couples and families.

Career Outlook for Marriage Counselors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026.2

LMFT career options are many. Marriage counselors can work in hospitals, schools, social service agencies, or even start their own practice. Many counselors also choose to work with a specific population, such as children or the elderly. As you earn your master’s and complete your fieldwork hours, you’ll have time to explore your areas of interest within the field.

Become an LMFT at Pepperdine University

The online Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy at Pepperdine prepares you for a rewarding career in helping others build better relationships. As a student, you will learn about the latest theories and advancements in psychology from esteemed faculty during live, online classes and interactive course work you can complete at your own pace.

Prepare to Improve the Lives of Others

Learn how to diagnose mental health disorders, facilitate therapeutic processes, and develop treatment plans to help families thrive.

1 American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, About Marriage and Family Therapists, Why Use a Marriage and Family Therapist? Return to footnote reference