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Getting started in Psychology
The primary role of a marriage counselor, is to help couples that are having difficulties in their relationship. They provide advice and suggest possible solutions that may be beneficial in improving the relationship. To work as a marriage therapist, the counselor must be either certified or licensed, depending on the state requirements. Working in the field of marriage counseling requires the person to be able to deal with a variety of sensitive issues and they must be able to reserve judgmental thoughts and opinions that may interfere with the counseling sessions. For example, if someone is cheating on their spouse, the counselor cannot express negative feelings and/or opinions toward the one who is cheating in the relationship.
When people seek couples counseling, they are attempting to save their relationship and avoid separation or divorce by learning to communicate with each other, be open and honest with each other as well as learn to understand why they may be having difficulties in their relationship. Marriage counselors teach couples various methods of effective communication skills that may help with communication and/or trust between the couple.
Before someone can be qualified to provide couples counseling, they must go through a variety of educational endeavors. Although you can work as an assistant in a therapist office with a bachelor degree, you have to hold a masters or a doctorate degree in order to provide therapy. A counselor may have a license in a different field such a school counselor or an addictions counselor and practice as a marriage counselor, however, the majority of states require additional certifications in couples counseling as well.
To become a licensed marriage counselor, you will need to obtain a master's degree or a doctorate degree in a field that relates to marriage and family therapy. When entering graduate school, there are a variety of areas that you can focus your studies on in order to have the studies required for couples therapy. Specializations could include fields such as cognitive psychology, behavioral psychology, intergenerational theory, structural family therapy and/or multicultural therapy. Schools vary in their focus on studies and/or classes offered to qualify for licensure in ,marriage counseling.
It is important to note that not all classes you take will be strictly about relationships. For example you will have studies relating to emotions and feelings, how to cope with grief, how to provide multicultural therapy and if you want to specialize, in for example couples who are dealing with an addiction, you will also have to take studies regarding addictions.
If you have earned a bachelor degree in psychology and are interested in pursuing your masters degree in marriage and family counseling, there are several universities that offer online programs. Enrolling in a masters or a doctorate degree through an online program will allow you to work in the field of psychology while earning your degree. When you have experience in some capacity of psychology, many online universities will apply your knowledge and experience to credit for class work. Before enrolling in an online program it is important that you completely read the school requirements for completing the program. For example, you will be required to complete a specified number of hours as an intern, however, some online schools do not provide the internship programs, so it is your responsibility to seek an internship that will qualify for your credits.
States vary on the requirements to become a licensed marriage counselor so it is important that you visit your state's licensing website to determine how many credits you will need, length of internship or supervision and what type of school accreditation they require. On the licensing page, you will also be able to find information such as how often they do testing and if the exam is a written, face to face exam or both.