A licensed marriage and family therapist can offer you many benefits in your ongoing marriage issues. It is not uncommon to seek the help of such professionals, as relationships are often difficult to sort out and deal with on your own. A mental health professional can offer you advice and assistance that you wouldn’t be able to decide for yourself, and they are qualified to do so because they have gone through rigorous training that teaches them how to assess and treat clients.
The first step in seeking professional assistance is to find an accredited organization or school that holds the proper licensing to practice in your state. This is typically a process that takes about a year to complete, depending on where you live, so it will help to research the requirements ahead of time. You will need to pass the clinical exam administered by the National Board of Marriage and Family Therapy (NBMWT) before you are licensed to practice. You will also need to successfully pass the state exam in order to be certified.
Licensing is not the only requirement, however, as marriage and family therapists must undergo a rigorous two-year clinical experience as well. This experience is administered by various institutions, including universities and colleges, and it helps in preparing the therapist for their role. During this time, therapists are taught techniques and strategies that help them deal with various marital and family dynamics and issues. Clients are usually given individualized attention during this time, which is necessary in order for the therapist to truly understand each patient’s needs and behaviors.
After becoming licensed and undergoing the clinical experience, marriage and family therapists are then allowed to take a course in which they learn to give direct client contact hours. These hours are designed to provide immediate feedback to the therapist and to the client, and they are usually scheduled during working hours so that you can get real-life practice. This coursework is often comprised of either a set number of hours or a set number of days, depending on the course administrator and the institution in which you take the class.
If you decide to get a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, you will also have to complete an additional two years of study. This second master degree is called a master of arts in marriage and family therapy. In many states, your license cannot be transferable once you have become licensed. However, you may be able to defer your master of arts in marriage and family therapy degree if you are interested in other career options or if you are currently employed. There is also a master of science in marriage and family therapy. This is usually achieved through a four-year college or university and is usually the preferred route because it is less demanding than the master of arts.
Marriage and family therapists must work with their patients one-on-one, so communication is key to effective treatment. They usually work in groups, and there are some who work solely with couples. Counselors can provide information and resources for clients and help them develop tools to strengthen their relationship. Clients and therapists can also seek support from each other during and after the sessions.