Marriage counselors have a very important role in our society, more so because the sanctity of marriage has been watered down significantly over recent generations. Some say that this is a benefit, mainly because many people will no longer have to remain in an unhappy marriage. Others say it is a drawback because it means people no longer take relationships and marriage, in particular, seriously. A marriage counselor is there to help people who are married through life’s difficulties. In most cases, this means helping them work through their problems so that they can remain together. At the same time, marriage counselors can also help people who want to part from each other but want to do so in an amicable way.
Those with whom we share our lives, from our parents to our children, have a strong impact on our overall mental well-being. As a marriage counselor, you understand this very strongly and you use this understanding to improve the lives of your clients. Essentially, your role will be to build strong relationships. Through your work, you will help people break through issues such as substance abuse, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, low self-esteem, anxiety, and more. You will approach this from the perspective that family roles and dynamics have a direct impact on the mental health of everybody within the family unit.
So what are the benefits of becoming a marriage counselor?
- You get to work with people from all types of backgrounds and walks of life.
- You can enjoy tremendous satisfaction from the fact that you are able to help people work through mental and emotional stresses and disorders.
- You will be well-compensated for your work, with a median annual salary of $43,190 per year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
- There is a huge demand for your skills and knowledge. In fact, the BLS reports that from 2014 to 2024, there will be a 19% increase in demand for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists.
- You can work very flexible hours, particularly if you operate your own private practice.
- You will learn about various psychological approaches, such as Solution Focused Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. These are transferable skills that you can use in various other lines of work, as well as in your personal life.
- You get to work independently, assessing the needs of your clients and coming up with forms of treatment and intervention that are suitable to them.
- Job openings for marriage counselors exist in a variety of different places, from Veterans Affairs to private practices.
- Your role is incredibly diverse. Besides working directly with individuals, you will also have to maintain high quality patient records, as well as implementing, planning, and evaluation various therapeutic programs for treatment.
- You can and should engage in life long learning. Often, this is a requirement in order for you to maintain your license as a marriage counselor.
- You can see the immediate impact of your interventions in your clients.
- You have fantastic job security, regardless of where you decide to work.
- You can work in any location across the country, although you may need to update your license in order for it to be valid in a particular state.
- You will be work one on one with individuals, building professional relationships that improve over time.
- You have fantastic opportunities for personal growth. This is in part due to the transferable skills that you learn during your education, which essentially means that you can learn how to improve your own life and that of your family. It is also due to the fact that you work directly with people, who may inadvertently serve as role models for yourself.
- You can expect excellent in work benefits, including paid vacations, 401(k) plans, life insurance, and medical insurance.
Becoming a marriage counselor requires a significant investment of both time and money. As a minimum educational requirement, you must hold a master’s degree. This means that you will also have to complete a total of around six years of study: four for your bachelor’s degree and two for your master’s degree. Many marriage and family counselors are psychologists, however, which means they have also completed a doctorate degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.), generally requiring a further five to seven years of study. Unfortunately, with tuition fees, the costs of materials, and the inability to work full time and study full time at the same time, the financial investment required is also substantial. While financial aid, scholarships, and grants are available, most marriage counselors enter the workforce with a significant amount of student debt behind their name.
That said, those who become marriage counselors generally do so because they have a genuine desire to help others. Many have grown up in homes with marital difficulties, while others have experienced their own share of marital problems. Others do not have a personal background to rely on, although this is less common. Either way, out of the 16 benefits described above, only one is related directly to earnings. The salary of a marriage counselor is unlikely to reach six figures, which means it will take you some time to see a return on investment. However, the other benefits are hard to quantify in terms of monetary value, but it is these specific benefits that make people feel that investing in their own education is worth it. To be able to see the difference you have made in the lives of children and couples is, for most, more compensation than they could ever ask for.
- Laura M. Brotherson. Why I Chose to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist. (2010, Jan. 16) Retrieved from https://www.strengtheningmarriage.com/why-i-chose-to-become-a-marriage-and-family-therapist/
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists. (2015, Dec. 17) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
- Thomas D. Carlson & Martin J. Erickson. Honoring and Privileging Personal Experience and Knowledge: Ideas for a Narrative Therapy Approach to the Training and Supervision of New Therapists. (2011, Jun.) Retrieved from https://www.ndsu.edu/fileadmin/hdfs/TC_Honoring_and_Privileging_personal_experience.pdf