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Become A Family Counselor

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Working As A Family Counselor

  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $51,070

    Average Salary

What Does A Family Counselor Do

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and other relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Duties

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists typically do the following:

  • Diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression
  • Encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences
  • Help clients process their reactions and adjust to difficult changes in their life, such as divorce and layoffs
  • Guide clients through the process of making decisions about their future
  • Help clients develop strategies and skills to change their behavior and to cope with difficult situations
  • Refer clients to other resources or services in the community, such as support groups or inpatient treatment facilities

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists use a variety of techniques and tools to help their clients. Many apply cognitive behavioral therapy, a goal-oriented approach that helps clients understand harmful thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and teaches how to replace them with positive, life-enhancing ones. Furthermore, mental health counselors use cognitive behavioral therapy to teach clients to eliminate unwanted and damaging behaviors and to replace them with more productive ones.

Although some disorders can be overcome, others need to be managed. With the latter, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help the client develop strategies and skills to minimize the effects of their disorders or illnesses.

Many mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work in private practice. They must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with insurance companies and clients to get payment for their services.

Mental health counselors provide treatment to individuals, families, couples, and groups. Some work with specific populations, such as the elderly, college students, or children. Mental health counselors deal with a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, and suicidal impulses. They also help with mental and emotional health issues and relationship problems. 

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families. Unlike other types of mental health professionals, they bring a family-centered perspective to treatment, even when treating individuals. They evaluate family roles and development, to understand how clients’ families affect their mental health. They treat the clients’ relationships, not just the clients themselves. They address issues, such as low self-esteem, stress, addiction, and substance abuse.

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists coordinate patient treatment with other professionals, such as psychiatrists and social workers.

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How To Become A Family Counselor

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are typically required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.

Education

To become a mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist, applicants typically need a master’s degree in psychology, clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or a related mental health field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s program.

Counseling programs prepare students to recognize symptoms of mental and emotional disorders and to use effective counseling strategies. Marriage and family therapy programs teach students about how marriages, families, and relationships function and how these relationships can affect mental and emotional disorders.

Many employers prefer to hire counselors who have graduated from programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.

Training

Candidates gain hands-on experience through postdegree supervised clinical work, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In training, they learn to provide family therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy, and other therapeutic interventions, under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Licenses

All states require mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to be licensed in the state in which they practice. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of postdegree supervised clinical experience, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In addition, counselors and therapists must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes.

Contact information for state boards regulating mental health counselors is available through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Contact and licensing information for marriage and family therapists is available through the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Counselors and therapists often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for counselors and therapists. They spend most of their time working directly with clients and other professionals and must be able to encourage good relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, both of whom need to give their full attention to their clients to understand their problems, values, and goals.

Organizational skills. Good organizational skills are especially important for counselors and therapists in private practice, who must keep track of payments and work with insurance companies.

Speaking skills. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists need to be able to communicate with clients effectively. They must express ideas and information in a way that clients can understand easily.

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Family Counselor jobs

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Family Counselor Career Paths

Family Counselor
Service Coordinator Program Manager Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director Case Manager
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Clinical Manager Nursing Director
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Social Worker Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Therapist
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Clinician
Clinical Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Program Director Educator Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Social Worker
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Service Director Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Program Director Specialist Case Manager
Family Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Family Therapist Program Director Career Manager
Geriatric Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Family Therapist Therapist Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Education Coordinator Nurse Manager
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinician Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Program Coordinator Social Worker
Social Work Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Social Worker
Social Work Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Social Worker 3.5 years
School Counselor 3.0 years
Family Therapist 2.8 years
Juvenile Counselor 2.8 years
Work Counselor 2.7 years
Clinical Counselor 2.6 years
Service Counselor 2.6 years
Family Worker 2.6 years
Family Specialist 2.3 years
Outreach Counselor 2.3 years
Family Consultant 2.2 years
Resource Counselor 2.2 years
Group Counselor 2.1 years
Intake Counselor 2.1 years
Counselor 2.0 years
Family Counselor 2.0 years
Program Counselor 1.9 years
Peer Counselor 1.8 years
Unit Counselor 1.8 years
Teen Counselor 1.7 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 13.8%
Counselor 12.1%
Case Manager 10.1%
Therapist 7.3%
Clinician 3.8%
Teacher 3.3%
Supervisor 3.0%
Volunteer 2.5%
Top Employers After
Case Manager 10.8%
Counselor 8.7%
Therapist 8.3%
Clinician 5.6%
Internship 4.5%
Supervisor 3.3%
Consultant 2.9%

Family Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

71.7%

Male

25.6%

Unknown

2.7%
Ethnicity

White

80.0%

Hispanic or Latino

10.8%

Asian

6.5%

Unknown

2.0%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

70.5%

Portuguese

3.8%

Russian

3.8%

French

3.0%

Belarusian

3.0%

Polish

2.3%

Mandarin

1.5%

German

1.5%

Dakota

1.5%

Japanese

1.5%

Chinese

0.8%

Vietnamese

0.8%

Ukrainian

0.8%

Braille

0.8%

Malay

0.8%

Coptic

0.8%

Arabic

0.8%

Cantonese

0.8%

Tamil

0.8%

Korean

0.8%
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Family Counselor Education

Schools

Capella University

12.8%

Liberty University

10.7%

University of Phoenix

9.2%

Virginia Commonwealth University

5.8%

New York University

5.5%

University of Southern Maine

4.6%

Webster University

4.6%

Walden University

4.6%

Troy University

4.3%

University of Maine

4.0%

University of Central Florida

4.0%

Norfolk State University

4.0%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

3.7%

Nova Southeastern University

3.7%

Barry University

3.4%

University of South Florida

3.1%

Wayne State University

3.1%

University of North Texas

3.1%

Arizona State University

3.1%

Valdosta State University

3.1%
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Majors

Social Work

22.8%

School Counseling

12.0%

Psychology

12.0%

Counseling Psychology

9.0%

Mental Health Counseling

6.9%

Family Therapy

6.4%

Business

3.9%

Clinical Psychology

3.6%

Criminal Justice

3.6%

Human Services

3.3%

Education

3.0%

Sociology

2.6%

Human Development

1.8%

Rehabilitation Science

1.8%

Educational Leadership

1.8%

Nursing

1.5%

Theology

1.1%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.0%

Law

1.0%

Human Resources Management

1.0%
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Degrees

Masters

55.9%

Bachelors

21.3%

Other

11.7%

Doctorate

5.7%

Associate

2.6%

Certificate

2.3%

License

0.3%

Diploma

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Family Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Pastoral Youth and Family Counselor New Vision Youth Community Center Irving, TX Sep 14, 2016 $49,045
Individual and Family Counselor Family Insight, PC Roanoke, VA Jul 10, 2013 $46,874
Msw/Ma-Level Family Counselor SCO Family of Services New York, NY Feb 13, 2014 $44,840
Bilingual Family Counselor Lincoln Child Center Oakland, CA Jan 10, 2011 $44,346 -
$74,000
Msw/Ma-Level Family Counselor SCO Family of Services New York, NY Apr 09, 2011 $42,000
Msw/Ma-Level Family Counselor SCO Family of Services New York, NY Jun 22, 2012 $41,200
Family Counselor SCO Family of Services New York, NY Aug 10, 2011 $41,000
Family Counselor SCO Family of Services New York, NY Oct 01, 2012 $40,000
Msw/Ma-Level Family Counselor SCO Family of Services New York, NY Jun 22, 2009 $40,000
Family Counselor The Aleph Institute, Inc. Surfside, FL Oct 20, 2010 $37,200
Family Counselor Youth Villages Arlington, VA Apr 29, 2008 $37,000 -
$41,000
Family Support Counselor Y.O.U. Inc. Worcester, MA Oct 17, 2011 $35,000
Family Support Counselor Y.O.U. Inc. Worcester, MA Apr 03, 2011 $35,000
Youth and Family Counselor Omni Youth Services Buffalo Grove, IL Oct 01, 2011 $35,000
Christian Family Counselor Saenuree Alliance Church, Inc. Palisades Park, NJ Mar 01, 2010 $34,916
Family Counselor Serenity Mental Health, LLC. Carson City, NV Sep 09, 2014 $33,363
Family Support Counselor Kids In Distress, Inc. Wilton Manors, FL Jun 12, 2010 $31,270

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Top Skills for A Family Counselor

CrisisInterventionFamilyTherapyWeeklyTreatmentPlansChildAbuseMentalHealthServicesCouplesCounselingSubstanceAbuseCommunityResourcesAngerManagementDomesticViolenceMflcLifeSkillsIntensiveIn-HomeServicesDischargePlanningServicePlansProtectiveServicesSocialServicesGroupTherapySupportServicesConflictResolution

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Top Family Counselor Skills

  1. Crisis Intervention
  2. Family Therapy
  3. Weekly Treatment Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed and implemented crisis intervention plans, treatment plans, and person centered plans.
  • Provide individual and family therapy to youth in inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
  • Identify specific goals and assign measurable tasks to the child and family, which are included in weekly treatment plans.
  • Diagnose adult patients and adolescents and their families with histories of mental illness, child abuse, domestic violence.
  • Provided referrals for soldiers and family members out of scope to ensure they receive appropriate mental health services.

Top Family Counselor Employers

Family Counselor Videos

A Day in the Life of a School Counselor

A Day in the Life - Drug/Alcohol Counselor

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