Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

Marriage and family therapists are helping thousands of families get their lives back on track, address problems, and stick together. Various socio-economic pressures often lead to families falling apart. Counseling and therapy helps in healing and resolving familial issues.
The need for qualified marriage and family therapists is growing. Many pursue a career in marriage therapy in the hopes of helping families and positively impacting the lives of many. According to CNN Money, marriage/family therapists were ranked amongst the best jobs in America in 2012. By year 2022, over 48,000 job openings are expected in this field according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Marriage and family therapy career can be a great option for you if you want to use your education, skill, and training to help others.

University of Southern California

Kaplan University Online

The George Washington University

Becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist

You will need at least a master’s level degree in marriage and family therapy to pursue this career. You can choose from many on-campus and online marriage and family therapy programs. These programs will equip you with counseling skills, knowledge, training, and career information needed to qualify for a state license. When selecting a college for a marriage and family therapy degree, make sure it is accredited regionally or nationally.

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy

This is a graduate program that aims to prepare students for entry-level positions in the field. The program will address the many challenges of the field in today’s highly diverse society. Students will gain in-depth knowledge of social responsibility, mental health systems, families, and relationships.
The first few semesters will highlight fundamental topics that help build a strong foundation of knowledge. Students will learn how to apply knowledge and techniques to solve problems. Further in the program, students will enroll in practical courses, complete field work, and also complete a clinical internship.   Here are some of the courses that may be covered in marriage and family therapy graduate programs:

  • Human growth and development

This course will cover the organic, social, and psychological development of individuals. Students will learn about the theories of personality, and evaluate different factors that influence growth.

  • Ethnicity, families and counseling

In this course, students will learn about the ethnic backgrounds of families and how ethnicity contributes to the functioning of families. The course will help students learn how counseling approaches must be modified when dealing with families of different ethnicities.

  • Counseling techniques

This course is dedicated to equipping students with knowledge about different counseling techniques. Students will explore topics such as self-awareness, therapeutic relationship, personality, etc.

  • Psychology and theology

This course will provide students with knowledge on how theology and psychology are related to each other.

  • Marriage and family counseling

The course will highlight the dynamics of marriage and family. Topics such as structure of marriage, functioning, family systems, and counseling are covered in the course.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the 2 year, master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, students may be able to:

  • Demonstrate complete knowledge of theories, models, social constructional paradigms, and methods
  • Apply theories of marriage and family in real situations
  • Demonstrate effective clinical skills needed for therapy and counseling
  • Use research tools, conduct research, and gather data needed for practice
  • Understand the social responsibility that comes with the profession
  • Address different familial problems effectively and develop therapeutic plans

PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy

Individuals seeking leadership roles and advanced clinical positions can opt for marriage and family therapy doctoral programs. Applicants must have a master’s level qualification for admission into PhD programs in this field.
This program is designed to prepare students for advanced roles in areas of research, teaching, and therapy. The program is research-oriented and focuses on advanced scholarly knowledge. Students will cover a wide range of fundamental courses during the initial semesters of the program. The next step will include passing oral examinations, completing an independent research project, and submitting a thesis. The program may also include clinical training that is geared towards equipping students with hands on experience and skill. PhD marriage and family therapy programs can take 4-8 years to complete.  Here are some of the courses and their descriptions:

  • Scholarly writing in MFT

This course will cover the theoretical literature related to the practice of marriage and family therapy. Students will learn how to evaluate reports, proposals, and other scholarly work.

  • Advanced theories in marriage and family therapy

This course will cover the advanced theories applied in this field. The course will highlight attachment theories, metaframeworks, agentive theories, and clinical theories.

  • Dynamics of family interaction

In this course, students will examine the vast dynamics of family and marriage. The course will shed light on family issues and marital problems. Topics such as family types, family roles, and family rituals will be covered.

  • Research methods in MFT

This course is designed to provide students with research skills. Students will cover different quantitative and qualitative research methods, limitations of each method, and their practice.


To enroll in marriage and family therapy programs, students must meet the admission requirements which vary from college to college. Typically, applicants are required to submit high school transcripts,  bachelor degree transcripts, etc. Other requirements may include:

  • Minimum GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Admission application

Online Programs

A number of schools are now offering online marriage and family therapy degree programs. Students can study from any location and time with the help of computer and internet connection. Masters in marriage and family therapy online programs are flexible, convenient, and easy to cover as compared to traditional programs.

Certification and Licensing

Some states require marriage and family therapists to be licensed or certified. The requirements for marriage and family therapy certification and licensing will vary from state to state. Applicants must meet these requirements, which generally include a:

  • Minimum age
  • Completion of education and training
  • Minimum work experience


As a marriage and family therapist, you can work in different healthcare institutions or begin your own practice. Your job duties will revolve around helping families deal with and overcome familial issues. You will diagnose and treat a variety of issues such as substance abuse, addiction, stress and low self-esteem, etc.  The income level will vary from place to place. According to the BLS, in 2012, marriage and family therapists made $46,670.


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Q:What are the learning outcomes of marriage and family therapy programs?

A:After completing a degree program in marriage and family therapy, students will be able to: demonstrate in-depth knowledge of family systems, apply clinical skills in a variety of contexts, understand the dynamics of families and marriage systems, practically apply knowledge in diverse client populations, and provide effective therapy to clients.

Q:What courses are covered in a masters in marriage and family therapy degree?

A:A masters in marriage and family therapy will provide students with in-depth knowledge of family systems and models. Students will learn how to provide effective therapy and counseling services. The program's curriculum may vary from place to place, but will generally cover subjects such as the following: theories of personality, marriage and family counseling, foundations of addiction, and family therapy theory.

Q:Who are marriage and family therapy graduate programs for?

A:If you are someone who has a passion for counseling and helping people deal with difficult times in their lives, you might want to consider specializing in this field. A marriage and family therapist, MFT, is a counseling specialist who assists couples and families deal with their problems and build healthier interpersonal relationships. This degree would train you to assess, diagnose and counsel individuals in order to help them make the most of their relationships.

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