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Marriage and Family Therapists

At a Glance

  • Work with individuals, couples, and families
  • Often work evenings
  • Have a master's degree
  • Need a license
  • Usually work 40 hours a week

Career summary

Marriage and family therapists help individuals, couples, and families deal with emotional problems.

Marriage and family therapists work with:

They meet with individuals and groups. They help clients identify conflicts and problem behaviors and help them to learn new ways of coping with problems.

In many cases, therapists help people learn new ways of communicating so that they can express their feelings in a healthy manner.

Marriage and family therapists review records and interview clients. They sometimes observe them interacting. Together, the therapist and client develop a plan or strategies for handling a conflict or emotions.

Sometimes therapists consult other therapists, counselors, doctors, or social workers, depending on the situation.

Therapists may refer patients to support services such as medical evaluation and treatment, social services, and employment services. They often refer addicts to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Therapists work in a private practice. They also provide treatment in a variety of settings including:

They prepare and maintain written records and case files. They also attend conferences and read journals to keep their skills up to date. Some therapists supervise beginning therapists.

Related careers

This career is part of the Human Services cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to marriage and family therapists.

Common work activities

Marriage and family therapists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, marriage and family therapists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Marriage and family therapists frequently:

It is important for marriage and family therapists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for marriage and family therapists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Marriage and family therapists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a marriage and family therapist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

You must have a master's degree in marriage and family therapy to work in this field. Several colleges and universities offer graduate programs in marriage and family therapy or counseling. For your bachelor's degree, you should take courses in social work, psychology, sociology, and statistics. Majoring in one of these fields, especially psychology, is a good idea.

In marriage and family therapy programs, you take courses in therapy techniques, human psychological development, social research methods, and statistics. You also learn how to counsel individuals (both adults and children) and families and how to identify specific behaviors and problems. Master's degree programs take two years to complete.

Work experience

Part-time or volunteer work at a social service agency is good background for this occupation.

On-the-job training

Marriage and family therapist students complete an internship while in school. As an intern, you work with clients and an experienced therapist supervises your work. Internships last from one to two years depending on the degree you are earning. An internship is usually required to become a licensed therapist.

Employers often provide training to new marriage and family therapists. You often work with an experienced therapist for a period of time before receiving your own caseload. You learn agency procedures, forms, and patient management. This type of supervision may last for up to one year.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers often prefer applicants who have work experience. Internships and volunteer work are good ways to get experience. Some employers hire graduates who completed internships in their agency. Employers also look for people who are dedicated and have excellent communication skills.

Many new marriage and family therapists begin work with an experienced therapist who has an established practice and clientele.

Costs to workers

Workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues.


Marriage and family therapists need to be licensed by the State of Washington.

Therapists must first become licensed as an associate therapist by:

An associate license may be renewed up to four times while the individual works towards meeting full licensure requirements.

To become a licensed therapist they must complete:

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Health Systems Quality Assurance
Marriage and Family Therapist Credentialing (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504-7877

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Marriage and family therapists (SOC 21-1013)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $17.07 $19.94 $22.43 $24.96 $29.72
Monthly $2,958 $3,456 $3,887 $4,326 $5,150
Yearly $35,500 $41,480 $46,650 $51,930 $61,810
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $17.41 $20.65 $23.74 $28.05 $31.80
Monthly $3,017 $3,579 $4,114 $4,861 $5,511
Yearly $36,217 $42,956 $49,368 $58,336 $66,151
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $16.59 $18.06 $20.68 $23.61 $25.35
Monthly $2,875 $3,130 $3,584 $4,092 $4,393
Yearly $34,521 $37,554 $43,021 $49,127 $52,727
    Vancouver Hourly $18.08 $21.03 $24.90 $30.01 $41.83
Monthly $3,133 $3,644 $4,315 $5,201 $7,249
Yearly $37,598 $43,736 $51,775 $62,426 $87,007
United States Hourly $15.31 $18.35 $24.08 $30.43 $39.54
Monthly $2,653 $3,180 $4,173 $5,274 $6,852
Yearly $31,850 $38,170 $50,090 $63,300 $82,240

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The therapist's level of experience also affects wages.

Therapists who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Marriage and Family Therapists (SOC 21-1013)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 270 15.2% 16.1% 38
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 16 31.3% 11.9% 2
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 52 9.6% 14.1% 6
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 39 12.8% 14.6% 5
    King County 93 9.7% 19.6% 11
    Pierce County 20 30.0% 15.2% 4
    Spokane County 39 15.4% 13.9% 5
United States 55,300 22.4% 5.2% 7,500

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be very strong. The new health care laws expand insurance coverage of therapy. Clinics will need to hire more marriage and family therapists. Demand also grows as people become more comfortable seeking professional help for personal and family problems.

Job opportunities are excellent especially in rural and other underserved areas.

Other resources

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (external link)
112 South Alfred Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
American Counseling Association (external link)
6101 Stevenson Avenue, Suite 600
Alexandria, VA 22304
National Council on Family Relations (external link)
661 LaSalle Street, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55114


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster