Marriage and family counseling, also known as couple and family counseling, marriage and family treatment, family systems counseling, and premarital therapy is a field of psychology which deals with couples and families in various intimate relationships. The most common issues that couples and families deal with include: conflict, infertility, adjustment to life after divorce, adjustment to new partner, conflict resolution, abuse, depression, stress, and jealousy. This course of action may also deal with other relationship issues like parenting, trust, money, pornography, and self-esteem. It aims at providing information and support on a number of these areas to couples and families who are trying to make their lives better.
A PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy covers the basic principles of psychology. The discipline seeks to understand the origins of human relationships and the factors that drive them, with an emphasis on exploring the physiological and psychological foundations of human beings. Couples and families who have an interest in this field are usually seeking a way to deal with a variety of marital and familial problems. Marriage and family counselors seek to use psychological methods – both verbal and behavioral – to explore the reasons behind a couple’s difficulties in dealing with their own and their families’ problems. The basic principles of psm are also used to help improve interpersonal communication skills, relationship building techniques, and therapeutic strategies.
The major areas that are covered in a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy are marriage and family history, psychological theories and models, dyadic family structures, relationship styles and processes, and psychopathology. The focus of this doctorate is to provide a comprehensive understanding of marriage and family history, develop explanatory models of marriage and family dynamics, explore explanations for marriage and family problems, analyze explanations of psychological and physical phenomena in relation to marriage and family, and develop interpersonal and cognitive skills. The doctoral program emphasizes research methodology, social science approaches, and clinical methodologies. All students must be awarded an extensive foundation in basic psychology and the most common courses required are Principles of Psychopathology, Principles of Marriage and Family Therapy, and Counseling Psychology.
A master’s degree typically takes two to three years to complete. It generally requires that the student have an advanced understanding of human behavior, marriage and family processes, and basic principles of psychotherapy. Students may need to specialize in a specific aspect of marriage and family counseling. For example, a marriage and family therapist may need to be a practitioner of marriage and family counseling or a marriage and family therapist.
The student who pursues a doctoral degree will have the opportunity to research in a variety of areas, such as marriage and family studies, psychology, marriage and family counseling, and psychological disorders. There are many areas that an advanced degree may cover. Areas of study may include understanding the fundamental principles of pathology, understanding complex behaviors, researching conceptualization, research methodology, assessment, phenomenology, neuropsychological approaches, developmental psychology, sociology of marriage and family problems, research design, counseling and schooling, philosophy of marriage and family problems, social psychological methods, and schooling and parenting issues. There is no limit on the number of academic disciplines that can be studied. For instance, a PhD in Clinical Psychology could open a variety of doors for those who are interested in human behavior and helping others. This doctorate program also has a strong emphasis on family services.
After completing a four year undergraduate degree, students are expected to complete an approximately half-year internship. During this period of study, students will perform experiential work under the direction of an experienced Marriage and Family Therapist. The internship is generally held in either a clinical or outpatient setting and is brief usually no more than one week. Students will be given the opportunity to select electives in which they may research and write a thesis on their chosen area of interest. Students may opt to take up one of two areas of study in which to complete their Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling; either in the area of clinical and forensic psychology or in family and marriage therapy.