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5 Qualities of an Effective Family and Marriage Therapist

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While stigmas surrounding mental health treatment are still prevalent, there is an increased willingness to seek professional help in order to work through individual, relationship and family challenges. Family and marriage therapists are mental health professionals whose psychotherapy training allows them to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Master of Science in Education – Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy Track online program can equip individuals to excel in the world of family and marriage therapy with confidence.

What Is Family and Marriage Therapy?

Family and marriage therapists usually practice short-term therapy for couples and family units. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), family and marriage therapists typically spend between 20 and 50 sessions with couples or families to help them work through their needs and conflicts.

Given therapy’s proven benefits, the demand for licensed and trained therapists will only grow. “After receiving treatment, almost 90% of clients report an improvement in their emotional health, and nearly two-thirds report an improvement in their overall physical health,” notes the AAMFT. “A majority of clients report an improvement in their functioning at work, and over three-fourths of those receiving marital/couples or family therapy report an improvement in the couple relationship.”

Qualities of a Good Counselor

It is crucial for trained and licensed family and marriage counselors to possess certain skills. Good counselors can best serve their clients when they:

  1. Maintain a sense of calm. Therapists should create a safe space of peace for clients to share their struggles. Given that couples and families often come to therapy when there is intense distress and mental health strain, therapists must maintain a level head and show compassion for their clients.
  2. Create a team atmosphere among parties. Therapists aim to help people better understand each other, which involves fostering a team atmosphere. Good therapists are experts at helping people practice healthy behavior that impacts others.
  3. Remain patient and listen well. Therapists focus on helping clients develop strategies to change their behavior and cope with situations. When therapists are patient and good at listening, they create the space for clients to discuss their emotions and experiences.
  4. Demonstrate strong communication. Therapists must know how to communicate, mainly because individuals in relationships and families often have difficulty communicating effectively. Therapists can help partners understand what their loved ones are feeling or trying to say.
  5. Balance individual client needs with group dynamics. Because family and marriage therapists work with individuals, couples and families, they must balance an individual’s needs within a group setting. These professionals understand how to evaluate family roles, relationships and shared issues like low self-esteem, addiction, stress, substance abuse, depression and more. The need for such evaluations often requires therapists to work with other professionals, like social workers and psychologists, regarding clients’ treatment plans.

Qualifications for the Role

Individuals can become marriage and family therapists by pursuing a master’s degree (2-3 years), doctorate (3-5 years) or post-graduate clinical training programs (3-4 years) and passing other licensure requirements depending on the specialty and state. After completing UW-Superior’s MSE in Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy program and passing the licensure exam, graduates will be qualified to work as licensed counselors in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

A therapist’s salary depends on factors like practice classification (private or freelance), state of residence, and training. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the mean annual salary for a marriage and family therapist is $56,890, as of May 2020, with top earners making over $92K.

Individuals who want to help couples and families manage mental health and relationship challenges should be calm, collaborative, patient, communicative and diplomatic. An advanced degree in marriage and family counseling can prepare individuals to assist others in the counseling setting. The UW-Superior online MSE program includes courses like Couple and Marital Counseling and Family Crisis Intervention. Completing such coursework brings theory and technique together for effective therapeutic intervention.

Learn more about the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s MSE – Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy Track online program.

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