The role of a marriage and family therapist (MFT) is to treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage and family systems. These disorders may be cognitive, affective, or behavioral. A marriage and family therapist will use psychotherapeutic and family systems theories and techniques to treat and diagnose these disorders. Sometimes these professionals work under the name of clinical services director, clinician, family therapist, or licensed clinical social worker.
A marriage and family therapist will ask clients questions to identify their feelings and behaviors. Often, a client will seek therapy if they are having problems with divorce, separation, child-rearing issues, or financial difficulties. The therapist will counsel the client on ways to develop strategies to confront their problems and develop plans for post-treatment activities. The therapist will maintain case files and notes on clients based on discussions and observations to determine if the clients should be referred to other specialists such as psychiatrists or legal counselors. At times, the therapist may confer with other counselors and follow-up on the progress of a clients program.
The majority of people working in this field hold at least a master’s degree, with some professionals obtaining a PhD, M.D. or even a J.D. Some occupations require internships or on-the-job training before practicing, however in this field, a student usually has the knowledge and skills needed to practice in the field right after completing school. Besides the formal education to be effective in this field, a professional should possess some softer interpersonal skills to be successful. Traits such as active listening, social perception, good judgment and decision making, problem solving, monitoring and assessment, critical thinking, speech clarity, oral comprehension, and clear expression are necessary. The MFT will need to be able to understand information and ideas in writing and communicate information so that others will understand. In addition, the counselor must be able to recognize problems and provide and emotional support to others.
The work environment for a marriage and family therapist may be face to face or by telephone. Some clinics or mental health care systems have also begun to provide consultation over the web. A large amount of time is spent sitting indoors in a structured environment. The professional should be comfortable making decisions without supervision and be at ease if there is an error in her diagnosis. This therapist will frequently help people make decisions that affect other people, their financial resources, image and reputation of themselves, or at times organizations, clients, or co-workers.
Due to the nature of this profession, the personality type of a marriage and family therapist should be social, persistent, honest, and ethical. She will frequently be involved in searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally. If you are good at maintaining your composure, even in difficult situations, then this profession may be for you. This occupation is valued and respected in all communities, providing self-satisfaction in the results you see in others giving a feeling of accomplishment.
According to Payscale.com, 75% of people in the marriage and family therapy profession are women. Fifty percent of the professionals have one to four years of experience in the field, and the salary ranges from $30,000 to $62,000. With bonus and other forms of compensation, this professional could earn over $100,000 per year. Most jobs are found in the health care, social services, counseling, community mental health, and psychotherapy industries with the highest annual salary of $75,000 found within psychotherapy. Top degrees are obtained in Master of Arts, Counseling Psychology; Masters of Arts, Psychology; Masters of Social Work; Masters of Science, Marriage/Family Therapy; and Masters of Arts, Marriage/Family Therapy.