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Relationship Counseling Degree Program Information

Individuals interested in careers in relationship counseling often enter a master's degree program in marriage and family therapy. Doctoral programs are also available in this field.

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Essential Information

Master's degree programs in relationship counseling prepare students to work as family counseling therapists. Students prepare for marriage and family therapy licensure through coursework in psychology, counseling, psychological research and up to 300 hours of clinical experiences. Courses in these programs also cover topics such as counseling theory, counseling techniques and client assessments. Doctoral programs prepare graduates for careers in research or as university professors. These programs are focused on research, but students also must complete teaching requirements and clinical experiences. Coursework in these programs covers topics from diagnosis of mental illness and treatment models to syllabus development and lesson planning. Some programs may require for applicants to have taken the GRE.


Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy

The curriculum in this master's degree program examines the role of a therapist as an intermediary for couples and families affected by marital strife, adolescent behavior disorders, addictions and more. Coursework includes studies in counseling theories and techniques, counseling research and individual assessments. Studies in counseling ethics also introduce students to ethical and professional behavior in a therapeutic setting, as well as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy's code of ethics. Course topics might include:

  • Origin theory
  • Cultural beliefs
  • Child development
  • Domestic violence
  • Bereavement

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Marriage and Family Therapy

Designed for students who plan to pursue jobs in research or teaching related to relationship counseling, the program prepares students to apply psychological theories to a wide-range of counseling issues, including the diagnosis of mental illness and treatment of psychological trauma. Other areas of focus include treatment models and teaching competencies like syllabus development, learning assignments and lesson planning. Students are required to complete student teaching experiences, comprehensive examinations, a 12-month internship, clinical practicums and a doctoral dissertation. A research-intensive program, coursework in this program includes a substantial amount of qualitative and quantitative research, including research in clinical trials, adult learning and high-risk populations. Other course topics might include:

  • Loss and grief
  • Addiction therapy
  • Regression
  • Family systems
  • Social justice

Popular Career Options

Graduates go on to careers in a variety of settings, including education, counseling and research. Popular career titles for graduates include:

  • Professor
  • Clinical supervisor
  • Research analyst

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), marriage and family therapists held about 32,070 jobs in the U.S. in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that jobs in this profession were expected to grow by 15% between the years 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary of a marriage and family therapist in May 2015 was $48,600.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates are eligible to sit for the National Certified Counselor (NCC) Examination for Licensure and Certification, administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. NCCs are required to complete 100 continuing education hours every five years to maintain certification. Since requirements vary by state, graduates should refer to their state licensing boards for specific requirements.

Graduates of a relationship counseling graduate degree program may become relationship counselors, professors, or research analysts. Licensure is available through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

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