How to Become a Marriage Counselor Online

Nov 27, 2019

Learn about the degree and licensure requirements for marriage and family therapists. Find out how to complete some of the courses needed to become a licensed MFT online.

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Introduction to a Career in Marriage Counseling

Aspiring marriage counselors can complete a master's degree in marriage and family therapy to qualify for licensure. After completing the necessary classes and becoming licensed, therapists work with couples and families to discover the difficulties or obstacles in the clients' relationships and work with them to solve these challenges. Many steps to become a marriage counselor can be completed online, though some must be done in-person. The field is expected to grow in the next decade, as noted in the table below.

Required Skills Communication skills, empathy, impartiality
Job Growth (2018-2028) 22%*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $50,090*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Becoming a Marriage Counselor Online

Becoming licensed as a marriage and family therapy counselor requires a master's degree. For those who need a more flexible schedule or prefer distance learning, courses toward this degree are available online. While practicums and internships must be performed in real-world settings, some programs allow students to submit therapy session videos to their professors and get feedback through online forums. As a licensed therapist, one can work in a variety of settings, including as an online MFT counselor.

Step 1. Complete Master's Degree Coursework

Prospective marriage counselors should enroll in an accredited master's degree program that will prepare them to obtain licensure. Through an online curriculum, students research and prepare assignments and then participate in interactive sessions with professors and other classmates to discuss their work. Common courses include analytical methods and therapy techniques, ethical considerations, and counseling within culturally diverse populations. A bachelor's degree is typically required for admission to these programs.

Step 2. Meet Program Experience and Training Requirements

Once students have finished the online classes, they are required to participate in practicums and internships where they can implement what they have learned with actual couples or families. While this counseling occurs in a clinical setting, some programs permit students to record their hours, videotape their sessions, and then present their work online. Instructors can provide feedback through live discussions and provide additional guidance to inform students' future work.

Step 3. Qualify for Licensure

Once students have completed the online coursework, real-world training, and often a capstone project, they can receive their Master of Marriage and Family Therapy or a related degree. Before obtaining licensure from their state of residence, prospective counselors are required to also complete supervised clinical training, usually for 2 years.

While there are professional training standards outlined by national associations like the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, individual states may have their own requirements in terms of necessary classes and hands-on experience. Students should check with their state's licensing board before beginning their path to a career in marriage and family therapy.

Step 4. Begin Work and Pursue Continuing Education

Once licensed, an MFT counselor can work in a variety of settings, such as in private practice or as part of a medical institution; an option that is becoming increasingly common is online therapy. As with online education, this type of work offers flexibility in terms of location and schedule. Counselors and their clients can determine a mutually suitable time to engage in a videoconference therapy session.

Finally, as is the case in many careers, therapists must periodically acquire continuing education credits as determined by their individual state's licensing board. Both the AAMFT and the American Psychological Association offer online courses and proficiency tests that can fulfill CE requirements.

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