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Online Schools for Family Counseling: How to Choose

The field of family counseling includes the concepts and practices used to provide therapeutic services to people who are related to each other. Online degree programs in the subject are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Most states require marriage and family counselors to be licensed.

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How to Choose and Online Family Counseling School

Online programs in family counseling can be found at some universities as well as private, online schools. Many programs have a clinical requirement.


  • Program philosophy and focus
  • Licensure requirements

Program Philosophy and Focus

Online programs often have unique philosophies and viewpoints. Some colleges offer family counseling programs that have a religious or spiritual perspective, while others are offered by secular colleges without any religious undertones. Students should be aware of these differences and are advised to find a program that matches their own views.

Licensure Requirements

Licensing requirements for family counselors vary from state to state, but most states require counseling professionals to graduate from programs that are approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Because the CACREP does not often accredit online degree programs, students who are interested in a career as professional counselors should research licensing requirements in their state and make sure that whatever program they choose fulfills those requirements. Most states also require family counselors to hold at least a master's degree.

Available Online Programs in Family Counseling

Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies

Graduates of Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs are not usually eligible for licensure as professional counselors, but they do learn the skills and theories needed to further their education in the field. Coursework is usually offered primarily online, but students are often required to complete in-person field experiences. B.S. programs cover:

  • Early childhood development
  • Parenting dynamics
  • Marriage relationships

Master of Science in Family Therapy

A master of science in family therapy degree program is designed to give students the necessary skills and knowledge to enter into a career in family counseling. Depending on the state, graduates often have to complete a number of hours of supervised counseling experience in order to earn a state license. Course topics include:

  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Community counseling
  • Human development
  • Counseling ethics

Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy

Doctoral degree programs in family counseling are normally designed to give counseling professionals the opportunity to complete their doctorate while still working full-time. These degree programs are presented in hybrid or online formats and teach students about advanced counseling theories and skills, taking into account issues of:

  • Diversity
  • Social justice
  • Family dynamics
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