Marriage and family counselors are also called marriage and family therapists. They train in diverse methods of psychotherapy and have a minimum of two years of clinical experience. A licensed marriage and family counselor diagnoses and treats problems that arise within the context of romantic relationships or family systems.
Some people consider marriage and family counselors the same as couples therapists. However, the former have a broader function–to analyze the family structure and formulate methods for resolution. Marriage and family therapists may treat people coping with bereavement, adolescent behavior issues, depression, fertility issues, domestic violence, infidelity, marital challenges, substance abuse and mental health problems.
One of the defining factors of marriage and family therapy is its relatively short-term time frame. A typical course of therapy lasts for about 12 sessions. The brevity of the therapy demands that participants create concrete goals that solve current problems.
Marriage and family counselors charge varying rates, partially depending upon the local market and sometimes based upon the patients’ income. The typical rate ranges between $75 and $200 for a 1-hour session. Some therapists accept insurance.
Marriage and family counselors use an array of techniques in therapy sessions. The genogram is a symbolic depiction of a family’s relationships. The family floor plan is a graphic tool that may look like a family tree and can inspire discussions about the roots of various issues. Reframing is a technique that compels patients to view their problems from a different perspective. Tracking involves the therapist carefully recording the sequence of events in family stories to help determine cause and effect. Most therapists teach patients concrete communication techniques. Family sculpting is a diagnostic technique that has a patient physically arrange the family, while family choreography has the sculptor discussing his choices for the physical arrangements. Family photos involves patients responding verbally and nonverbally to photographs in a family album. The empty chair method has one partner communicating to an empty chair as if the other partner were seated in it.
To obtain a degree in marriage and family counseling requires two or three years of academic study. Coursework covers the areas of adolescent psychology, counseling theories, human sexuality, group therapy, human growth and development, marriage and family systems. substance abuse, counseling techniques and theories of psychotherapy. Electives allow students to specialize in marriage and family dynamics. The final requirement is an internship or practicum that gives the student clinical experience in the field of specialty.