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Counseling, Marriage & Family Therapy

Updated on February 9, 2015

Marriage & family counseling or marriage & family therapy is provided by professional counselors and therapists who specialize in interpersonal relationships, particularly family relationships. Specifically, these professionals are trained to work with individual members of a family, entire families, couples or groups of families. They typically assess each situation, make a diagnosis and offer various forms of treatment. These include helping with social adjustment and assisting families in moving towards a more satisfying, productive marriage or family.


Some marriage and family counselors or therapists also offer pre-marital counseling, divorce or separation counseling and even child counseling. Another area of specialization in this field is sex therapy which focuses primarily on sexual issues related to individuals in some type of relationship. These therapists and counselors are typically licensed by the state or region in which they practice. Check with the specific licensing requirements in your state or region for specific details. Most of these professionals have a masters or doctoral degree, several thousand hours of supervised, clinical experience and have passed extensive formal testing or examination.


Definition of Marriage & Family Therapy

Those who practice marriage and family counseling or marriage and family therapy have been specifically trained to assist people, specifically those who are part of a family, with managing or overcoming emotional and mental disorders that occur because of or within that family relationship. That covers a lot of people since virtually everyone is, or has been part of a family at some point in time.

Marriage and Family Therapist or Counselors provide a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere, allow clients to speak freely.

Marriage and family therapists treat their clients with a family-centered approach to healing even when treating specific individuals or couples. Their main emphasis is evaluating specific roles within a family and hoe those roles affect the mental health of other family members. A common example would be a teen who is disrupting a family through some sort of self-destructive behavior. Another common example would be a spouse who is physically or emotionally abusing other family members.


Why Would Someone Go to a Marriage & Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapy is for anyone who is part of a family in some way, specifically those who may need help in identifying, understanding and dealing with problems caused by being a part of that family. These professional therapists work closely on improving the client's relationships within families, not just the clients themselves.

Those family members who may be affected by stress, anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, addiction and any form of abuse will find a visit to a marriage and family therapist to be very helpful and healing.


Marriage and family therapists are trained to help individuals and family develop strategies that will ultimately improve their situations. Some clients have issues that need to be managed while others have problems that need to be overcome and vanquished completely.

Examples of disorders that need to be continually managed might be depression or grief. Examples of issues or problems that need to be eliminated would be sexual abuse, suicidal tendencies and drug or alcohol abuse. Still others need simple, basic help in order to get along with other family members.



Specifically, marriage and family therapist or counselors help families and individuals with:

• Provide diagnosis and treatment for emotional disorders

• Help clients process and adjust to changes like layoffs, death or divorce

• Will encourage clients to talk about their experiences and emotions

• Provide advice to help clients in making decisions about their future

• Help clients develop skills and strategies to deal with difficult situations

• Refer or coordinate treatment with others like psychiatrists or social workers

• Refer clients to support groups, community services or inpatient treatment facilities


3 Things to Look for in a Qualified Marriage & Family Therapist

Unfortunately, all marriage and family therapist or counselors are not the same. It is critical to find the best marriage and family counseling or marriage and family therapy. Some marriage and family therapist or counselor are just going to be better at treating certain problems or certain types of family issues. The only way to get the best professional for your family is to take the time to do your homework. Don't be afraid to call ahead and ask to speak with the counselor or therapist about these things.


1) Make Sure You See a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)

There are a whole bunch of different therapists and counselors out there who went to any number of schools, universities, training facilities or even weekend seminars. I'm not saying some of those nice folks aren't good at giving good advice but there are some who should not be presenting themselves and their practice as offering legitimate marriage and family counseling. It is best to work with a therapist or counselor who has professional credentials and is licensed by a local, regional or national credentialing authority.

Licensed marriage and family therapists or counselors have undergone many years of extensive training specific to families, practiced as many as 3,000 hours under the supervision of a licensed therapist and have passed rigorous written and oral examinations. Be sure to check with the credentialing authorities in your particular area before going to see a therapist or counselor.


2) Fees, Insurance and Availability

It is very important that you clear up these items before you ask any of the other questions listed here. Don't feel awkward when asking about a professional's fees, office hours or if they will take your insurance.

There is nothing worse than finding a good therapist or counselor and discovering that they don't accept your insurance or they can't meet when you need to meet. Look on their website (most do have a website) for specific information. If you can't find the information there, simply make a call and speak with the therapist or counselor.


3) Specific Experience Counts

Now that you have determined fees, hours, insurance coverage and credentials of your therapist or counselor, you'll want to go a bit further and ask about his or her experiences with various types of clients.

For example, some therapists or counselors will specialize in sexual issues between couples. Others may focus on the dynamics of large family groups. Still others have vast experience dealing with substance abuse within families.

Your marriage or family is unique and has very specific issues. For example, if you and your spouse are having sexual or intimacy issues and you enlist a therapist or counselor who hasn't had much past experience or training in this area, you're likely to receive a less than satisfactory result from therapy.



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    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Texas

      vrbmft - Thanks for your well-thought-out and detailed response. Appreciate you stopping by - Thank You!

    • vrbmft profile image

      Vernon Bradley 

      3 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      There is a tendency in therapy practices today to find solutions for clients, to come up with unique and effective interventions from one's bag of tricks. What is often missing for a therapist is knowing how to just BE with the couple or the family and I don't mean in the sense of not giving feedback. But to genuinely BE in the room with the couple and the family and to learn from that experience where the pain lies. Most couples bring a great deal of pain to the relationship and this pain never gets healed prior to marriage. Therapist often overlook this pain and try to resolve something in the current relationship while the couple keeps trying to heal an old wound in the relationship. AND if the therapist, him or herself, has not had the courage to work on his or her own wounds, both new and old, then the therapist ends end up being just a cardboard prop of a therapist dishing out "advice."

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for stopping by and taking time to read.

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 

      5 years ago from Rochester, New York

      Many good avenues to seek help, thank you. Very informative.

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for the read and comment DDE 15. Best, m

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      These are tough times in a problematic marriage


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