Marriage and Family Therapists

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Also known as:
Child and Family Counselor, Couples Therapist, Family Counselor, Family Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Marriage Therapist, Relationship Counselor

Video transcript

A growing segment of the mental health profession is marriage and family therapy. Therapists with a master's or doctoral degree in this category evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders, health and behavioral problems, and relationship issues - all within the context of the family. How does that work? In a variety of ways.

Often, a patient seeing a therapist individually is referred to a marriage and family therapist when it is determined that family dynamics and family life cycle issues, such as the birth of a child or the death of a family member, are contributing to a problem.

Parents and couples struggling to make family relationships work also can benefit from this kind of therapy. The therapist most often sees couples and whole families together but may occasionally see individual family members as well. The goal is to help them find better ways to communicate and meet each other's needs.

More than 40 states currently license marriage and family therapists with state examinations or by a national examination by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy regulatory boards. These therapists often come from the ranks of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, pastors, and educators. Recognizing how key the family experience is to overall health and well-being, they seek additional training to specialize in this important field.

Diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, whether cognitive, affective, or behavioral, within the context of marriage and family systems. Apply psychotherapeutic and family systems theories and techniques in the delivery of services to individuals, couples, and families for the purpose of treating such diagnosed nervous and mental disorders.
Critical decision making
Level of responsibilities
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
Dealing and handling conflict
Competition for this position
Communication with others
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
Comfort of the work setting
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
Exposure to job hazards
Physical demands
Daily tasks

Provide public education and consultation to other professionals or groups regarding counseling services, issues, and methods.

Provide instructions to clients on how to obtain help with legal, financial, and other personal issues.

Determine whether clients should be counseled or referred to other specialists in such fields as medicine, psychiatry, or legal aid.

Develop and implement individualized treatment plans addressing family relationship problems, destructive patterns of behavior, and other personal issues.

Maintain case files that include activities, progress notes, evaluations, and recommendations.

Ask questions that will help clients identify their feelings and behaviors.

Collect information about clients, using techniques such as testing, interviewing, discussion, or observation.

Counsel clients on concerns, such as unsatisfactory relationships, divorce and separation, child rearing, home management, or financial difficulties.

Encourage individuals and family members to develop and use skills and strategies for confronting their problems in a constructive manner.

Confer with clients to develop plans for posttreatment activities.

Confer with other counselors, doctors, and professionals to analyze individual cases and to coordinate counseling services.

Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Assisting and Caring for Others Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Therapy and Counseling Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Psychology Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Customer and Personal Service Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Sociology and Anthropology Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Clerical Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
Law and Government Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
Philosophy and Theology Knowledge of different philosophical systems and religions. This includes their basic principles, values, ethics, ways of thinking, customs, practices, and their impact on human culture.
Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Social Perceptiveness Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Judgment and Decision Making Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Service Orientation Actively looking for ways to help people.
Writing Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Complex Problem Solving Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.