How Do I Become a Family Counselor?

Anyone who wants to become a family counselor will need to start their journey by enrolling in school. While most organizations would prefer to hire an applicant who has a degree, counselors must complete at least a minimum level of college before they can be licensed. States set their own rules pertaining to counseling professions and what is required to start a career. Here is a basic step-by-step guide on what prospective counselors must do to jump-start their careers:

Enroll in a Bachelor’s Degree Program

The first step to becoming a counselor or therapist that specializes in resolving family issues is to enroll in a Bachelor’s degree program. While some accredited schools do offer majors in Family Counseling or Marriage and Family Therapy, it’s more common to find more generalized major areas at this level.

If the school that you’re interested in attending does not have a specific degree program that you can enroll in studies in Psychology, Counseling, Human Services, or Sociology. When you’re taking a more general approach to your undergraduate education, it’s important to take classes on family dynamics, relationships, human development, and life stages.

Know the State Requirements

A family counselor is more commonly referred to as a Marriage and Family Therapist or MFT. To become an MFT, you will have to be licensed by an association like the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. You will also need to qualify for a license through your state where you will be practicing.

Each state has different licensing requirements. All states require a graduate education for licensing. Some states require more credits in certain areas than others. This is why you must complete a Master’s degree program when you’re planning to work in a clinical setting.

Find a Master’s Degree Program

There are loads of graduate programs that you can enroll in to tailor your learning specifically to family counseling. When you are searching for accredited graduate programs, be sure to focus on cost, credit requirements, and delivery of instruction. You can find Master’s degree programs in both Marriage and Family Counseling as long as Master’s in Social Work programs that are approved by licensing boards by visiting the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education.

Get Supervising Work Experience

Students who are in school learn the theory behind the practice. Putting the theory to use can take time. This is why family counselors must spend time completing supervised hours as an intern before they are licensed.

The number of hours can range from 1000 to 1500, depending on the state. After they have completed the supervised hours as a counseling under the direct supervision of a licensed counselor or therapist, they will be ready to apply for their own license.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Social Work Degree Programs

Attending school can take anywhere from six years to ten depending on your enrollment status. After grad school, you must also take the time to find a supervisor who will give you a platform where you can work as an intern and accumulate your hours. Family counselors must pay a fee, take a state licensing examination, and pass a background check before they can practice on their own. Once licensed, a family counselor then has to decide if they’d like to work for a company or if they’d like a private practice.