Online Schools for Family Counseling: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online family counseling school. Keep reading to get an overview of the program options, experience avenues, and common topics offered for the field of study.

Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in family counseling are available online, and students should consider a program's philosophy and licensure requirements when selecting a program. Here we discuss these considerations in depth and take a look at a few of the available school options.

How to Select an Online Family Counseling School

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. 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

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 across the lifespan
  • Marriage relationships
  • Applied research methods

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
  • Theories of personality

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:

  • Systemic therapy and supervision
  • Social justice
  • Family dynamics
  • Diversity

Schools With Online Programs in Family Therapy

Pennsylvania State University has an online Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies program that requires a real-world experience internship. Students will study diverse populations and a wide variety of human services. This program consists of 120 credits.

Capella University provides an online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy that requires 92 quarter credits. Supplementing the marital and family therapy coursework are courses in human development research, psychopathy, addiction, ethics, and gender and sexuality. The program does require two residencies, 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours for real-world experience.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy with a concentration in systemic studies program for professionals already working in the field. The program requires 60 semester units that can be completed in two years. This program is theoretically based and does not prepare students for licensure.

When making a decision on what an online family counseling program to attend, students should consider a program's focus, whether it prepares them for licensure and any in-person requirements, such as internships or residencies. Online bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs are available in the field of family therapy.

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