So, You Want to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist? 8 Items to Consider

so you want to become a marriage and family therapist

Life has been rather busy for us lately, and I have finally found a few minutes to get back to writing again. The U.S. World News & World Report wrote that by 2022, the occupation of marriage and family therapy will grow by 30.6 percent, and this is significantly faster than the average for all other occupations.  It also ranks marriage and family therapy as #16 of best jobs in healthcare and #35 of the best 100 jobs.  Wow!

Recently, I have been thinking about was advice I would give to someone considering becoming a marriage and family therapist. You will need a masters level graduate degree.  Here is what I came up with:

#1 Stage of Life

It is important to consider where you are in life when starting such an intense and personal degree. If you are experiencing a major life change, it might not be a good idea to start any new degree right now.

#2 Just Go to Therapy

If you want to get this degree only to fix yourself, your marriage, or your family, please go to counseling. It is much cheaper in the long run. Though marriage and family therapists experience tremendous personal growth during their training, you need to have a greater motivation to make it a satisfying career.

#3 Finances

Can you afford graduate school? Do you have huge student loans? I would recommend taking as few loans as possible (or none at all) because you are not likely to make a great deal of money in this field. If you want to just make money, do something else.

#4 Be Prepared to Grow

You will likely learn and develop as a person and professional as you work toward a degree in marriage and family therapy. This can be exciting, painful, overwhelming, and even fun. If you want to ignore our own problems, this is not the career path for you.


#5 Research Marriage and Family Therapy

Make sure you know what marriage and family therapists actually do. I remember when first applying to graduate school thinking I could just do premarital counseling and work with “happy couples.” I was very fortunate to soon learn the many places that marriage and family therapists work and clientele they can treat. This article will tell you more.

#6 Interview a Marriage and Family Therapist

One of my favorite assignments from a professional issues and ethics class that I taught was to interview a practicing marriage and family therapist. This gave the students an opportunity to hear the good and bad of different people’s experiences.

#7 Program Accreditation

Make sure when you are choosing a school that you look into how they are accredited. There are many states with specific requirements (such as AAMFT, CACREP, CORE, etc.) and this might limit some of your options in the future if they do not meet certain standards.

#8 Know Your State

Right now, every state has a marriage and family therapist licensure, but they do not have the same requirements. Be doubly certain that you are starting a program that meets the requirements for the state (or states) that you would like to live in. I have had several seasoned therapist friends who had to take additional classes before receiving their license in a new state. This can make finding a job quite difficult.

I hope you are not discouraged by this post, but I wanted to be honest about some important items to consider.  You can read about the many benefits of being a marriage and family therapist here.

There were just a few of the items I thought would be helpful to know. To our counseling professionals, what else do they need to know?

Check out Summit Family Therapy in Peoria, IL to learn more about Dr. Courtney Stivers’ professional work. 

About Courtney Stivers, PhD (25 Articles)
Courtney Stivers, PhD, LMFT, is a subject matter expert in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her professional experience includes residential addiction, school-based therapy, community mental health, teaching, research, public speaking, professional consultation, and several administrative roles. She is currently the Executive Director of Summit Family Therapy in Peoria, IL. Please learn more on her practice website,

5 Comments on So, You Want to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist? 8 Items to Consider

  1. I disagree that you can’t make money as an LMFT. That’s one of the unfortunate rumors that drives potentially highly competent people away from the field. There are as many ways to be successful in this field as there are in any other if you have passion for systemic clinical work as well as creative business passion. Everything else here is pretty spot on but that one needs to be reconsidered. We need to teach MFT students to value money as an ethical part of practice without dismissing it as an issue for other professions.

    • Mathis, thank you for sharing your thoughts here. My intent was to say that if money is your only goal, then pick another job. There are faster and cheaper paths to wealth than counseling. What I did not intend to say is that becoming a counselor is requires some sort of vow of poverty. I think it depends on what one thinks “a great deal of money” means. I feel that I make an excellent salary at my job, but I have considerable student loans from private school. I would never want to discourage someone from becoming a MFT, but I would coach them to consider the cost of their education and the prelicensure years that might be difficult (especially in certain states). U.S. News & world Report claims that marriage and family therapists earned an average of $51,730 in 2014. To me that is not “a great deal of money.” Also, did you go to Virginia Tech? I think we have some mutual friends. Best of luck with your private practice!

  2. Reblogged this on bcbonusmomblog and commented:
    REBLOG from:
    Great read!!!

  3. Great post Courtney! I’m pointing my MFT grad students to your blog. For your followers: I do an (almost) daily broadcast on the way to work and at other special times. You might call it “Daily musings of a Marriage and Family Therapy Professor”. I started it for my students but have noticed others joining too. You can follow it “live” on your periscope app for android or ios or watch the replays here:

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