How do I Become a Licensed Family Counselor?

If you want to help people and families overcome their family issues or stress, you may want to learn how to become a licensed family counselor. As a professional who works in the field of psychology, you will need to complete training programs where you can learn about theories, familial structures and counseling techniques. You can take a variety of routes to hold the title of family counselor, but the quickest route is always the best. Here are the steps that you must take to be a licensed family therapist so that you can work in mental health centers, hospitals or in your own practice.

Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree In Psychology

The first step to becoming a family counselor is to earn your bachelor’s degree in psychology or health studies. Before you select a Bachelor of Science degree program or a specific major, you should educate yourself on the prerequisite requirements of master’s degree programs so that you can fulfill these requirements while you are still an undergraduate student. Most graduate degree programs for family therapists will require that applicants have completed coursework in human development, counseling fundamentals, sociology and research methods. The best programs that will help you meet these requirements include psychology and human studies, but there may be other options where you can choose these courses as electives.

Earn a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy

The next step will be to get accepted to a master’s degree program majoring in marriage and family therapy or a related field. It is very important to find a program that is recognized and accredited by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Some of the different areas of study that you can pursue that will help you gain the skills and knowledge that you need include: family counseling, mental health counseling, forensic counseling or trauma and crisis. Select which degree will prepare you for the client base you would like to see.

Get Clinical Experience in Counseling

Next, you will need hands-on clinical experience which can be attained under the supervision of a licensed family therapist. Most states require you to possess a master’s degree and complete two years of clinical experience before you can take a licensing exam. You can volunteer your services at a charitable organization or work as a intern with a private practice or a mental health center. No matter which setting you choose to work in, it needs to be under the supervision of a licensed professional in the field.

With your clinical experience under your belt, you can apply to sit for your state’s licensing examination. A majority of states will administer the exam developed by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Board. This is a four-hour exam with multiple choice questions that will assess comprehension in many areas including treatment interventions, diagnosis and ethical standards.

Once you pass your license examination and you pass state background checks, you will be issued your license and be able to practice in your state. You can practice in a private setting or a public setting, depending on your interests. Be sure to keep up the required continuing education requirements to maintain your license status. By following these steps, you can become a licensed family counselor.