Online Relationship Counseling Degree Programs and Training

Get info about online master's degree programs in relationship counseling. Read about program requirements and course topics, and check out career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Master's degree programs in marriage and family therapy can be completed partially through distance learning. While all coursework may be completed online, students will need to complete practical clinical training at a nearby counseling center or medical facility. Some programs also require on-campus residencies. Completion of online coursework may require career or tutoring services, a sound and video card as well as a video plug in.

Programs need to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Students should contact their state licensing board to find out whether or not certain online programs will prepare them to sit for qualifying exams. To begin a professional career in this field, one must complete a master's degree program, undergo supervised clinical training and pass state licensing examinations.

Marriage and Family Therapy Master's Degree

An online master's degree program in marriage and family therapy prepares graduates to provide relationship counseling and other therapeutic treatment to couples and families dealing with issues such as family crises and marital problems. Emphasis is often placed on the structure of marriage, as well as cultural factors impacting counseling. Graduates should be well versed in understanding healthy family functioning, potential emotional disorders within relationships and intergenerational influences within the family structure. Areas commonly covered include assessment and treatment techniques, contemporary and traditional family and marriage therapy models, and legal issues in counseling.

Program Information and Requirements

Prospective master's-level marriage and family therapy students interested in relationship counseling must typically hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and have prerequisite coursework in psychology. Marriage and family therapy programs are often hybrid in nature and may require supervised clinical experiences or intensive on-campus experiences.

Course material is delivered via online learning systems, such as Blackboard, and students are able to communicate with professors and other students via online bulletin boards, e-mail or chat rooms. Additional online resources might include career services, writing assistance and tutoring. Computer requirements include a cable or DSL Internet connection, Microsoft Office, an updated operating system, a sound card, a video card and speakers. In order to view online video components, plug-ins, such as Flash Player or Windows Media Player, are also commonly required.

Sample Coursework

Online master's-level marriage and family therapy curriculum explores a number of theories, as well as techniques, used in counseling couples and families. Students can also learn methods used in counseling children and study the psychopathology of abnormal behavior.

Human Growth and Development

A course exploring human growth and development looks at psychological and social factors impacting personality development. Topics include personality development theory and research methods in personality development.

Marital Counseling

Numerous courses offered as part of a marriage and family therapy program explore areas of marital and couple counseling. These include dysfunctional marriages, couple therapy models, emotionally focused therapy and couple therapy assessment.

Children Counseling

Students explore issues related to the counseling of children and adolescents. Topics include children's developmental needs, childhood trauma and factors impacting family development.


This course focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal behavior. Students may study diagnostic models and the treatment of mental disorders, among other areas.

Career Information for Graduates

Graduates of an online marriage and family therapy master's degree program are prepared to provide therapeutic or educational services to couples and families in a variety of settings, including medical centers, outpatient care centers, public service agencies, hospitals, mental health centers and educational facilities. Marriage and family therapists also commonly work in private practice.

Licensure requirements for marriage and family counselors vary by state, but typically require completion of a master's degree program, extensive clinical experience and passage of a state exam. While typically not required for practice, it is possible to pursue a doctorate degree in marriage and family therapy. Employment for marriage and family therapists is expected to increase by 15% from 2014-20214, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The BLS also reports marriage and family therapists had median annual earnings of $48,600 as of 2015.

Master's degree programs in family and marriage therapy can be found online, with coursework fully online and some in-person requirements such as residencies or internships. These programs are typically the first step for those looking for licensure as marriage and family counselors.

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