The importance of mental health has become increasingly recognized in the public discourse recently, with a growing understanding of its causes and influence on people’s lives. Mental health does not solely affect people in personal or private contexts, and people are beginning to recognize how widespread its impacts can be. As a result, the demand services from mental health professionals like marriage and family therapists (MFTs) has grown dramatically.
Contrary to what their title would seem to imply, these professionals treat individuals, couples and families. What sets MFTs apart from other therapists is their approach. According to a description from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), MFTs focus on understanding a client’s symptoms and diagnoses within the context of their interpersonal relationships: “The existing environment and context is given careful examination, paying particular attention to the family system — as defined by (the patient).”
Becoming a certified marriage and family therapist starts with earning a graduate degree through a program such as the online Master of Science in Education (MSE) – Counseling Marriage and Family Therapy Track from the University of Wisconsin Superior (UW-Superior). Graduates of UW-Superior’s degree program will deepen their knowledge in areas of problem prevention, human development and social-emotional-developmental that affect individuals and families using the most up-to-date, research-based best practices. Upon completion of their degree, they will need to take the required licensure exams in order to become licensed counselors in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Given the widespread concern for mental health and well-being in society today, MFTs are desirable job candidates in many industries, filling various roles in different workplaces. Here is a look at some of the common occupations for MFTs today.
Private practice is one of the first workplaces that comes to mind for many people when they think of marriage and family therapy. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 15% of MFTs are self-employed, and 28% work in individual and family services. These MFTs typically see clients out of their own office. In these settings, MFTs must often take on additional administrative work similar to that of a small business owner. They have to attract clients, coordinate with insurance companies and create treatment plans with other specialists in addition to their mental health counseling.
Hospitals and Other Healthcare Systems
When employed at a hospital or similar type of healthcare facility, MFTs often work as inpatient therapists, seeing client who have been admitted under urgent circumstances. They also sometimes counsel the families of clients who require special care in order to help them deal with traumatic situations. Due to the nature of the workplace, MFTs often see clients on a shorter-term basis than in other work environments. Twenty-two percent of MFTs work in other health practitioners’ offices.
Inpatient or Outpatient Mental Health Facilities
MFTs in inpatient or outpatient facilities often deal with rehabilitation-style work for children, adults and seniors dealing with depression, substance abuse or other debilitating mental health conditions. These responsibilities can require MFTs to act almost like a caseworker, closely monitoring the progress of individual clients and coordinating treatment among a number of parties. This can include transitioning clients from an inpatient to an outpatient facility.
School Systems and Higher Education
School systems at all levels emphasize a more holistic approach to education that emphasizes not only academics but also the social and emotional learning and well-being of students. One major prong of this approach is the availability of expert professionals like MFTs in order to provide students with counseling and support for issues. In many cases, MFTs who work in schools will also need to communicate with parents as well, doing their best to coordinate assistance on both the home and school fronts for students.
Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
MFTs often work in nursing homes or other residential care facilities to provide in-house diagnoses for mental conditions and formulate care plans for client and their families. This often means that counselors will provide ongoing support to both the clients and their families trying to cope with the condition of a loved one.
Other common employers of marriage and family therapists include community health centers, government and non-profit social service agencies, legal and correctional systems, among others. An advanced degree in counseling can equip professionals to help individuals, couples and families in any number of work environments and capacities and better prioritize mental health services.