How to Become a Marriage Counselor

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Marriage Counselor? What Marriage Counselor do? Degrees for Marriage Counselor, Steps to become Marriage Counselor and much more.

What does a marriage counselor do?

Marriage counselors are individuals who provide support and therapy to couples who seem to be going through a rough spot. They usually deal with conflict resolution and its likes, their career revolves around couples who have differences that can usually be reconciled with the help of support and therapy. Marriage counselors often work in a guidance role, offering little to no opinion but rather helping the couple to uncover their own needs and conflicts. With a better understanding of these, the couple can begin to put strategies in place for coping with these areas of conflict, reducing them or negating altogether.

Most marriage counselors are approached by couples that are struggling to solve an issue that they are unable to solve themselves. Other times marriage counselors develop long term bonds with their clients and patients in order to help the work out any upcoming issues in the foreseeable future. Marriage counsellors offer a highly specific service to a particular demographic, which is to address couples that are struggling in their respective marriages. But they could also offer their highly useful services to individual counseling for both partners, couples counselling together, and family counselling with any children the couple may have.

The focus here is typically on the dynamics of the family and how the relationships between family members are contributing to the dysfunction. Marriage counselors usually work with families that are heavily impacted and influenced by drugs, alcohol, and/or domestic violence and abuse.  Marriage counselors may refer to one or both members of the marital relationship to treatment programs, such as a residential facility, to get clean.

Other times, marriage counselors will work with spouses that have been abused in order to help them overcome the trauma of the abuse they have suffered at the hands of a loved one. Marriage counselors also help to work with spouses that have committed abusive acts in order to help them work through the anger or other underlying issues that led to their behaviour. To conclude, a marriage counsellor helps those couples work through issues and differences that they deem to be irreconcilable and unsolvable using constructive and comprehensive advice. 

Steps to become marriage counselor

Earn an associates degree

In order to be considered eligible to pursue a bachelors degree, one must have an associates degree in subjects and courses relevant to the career such as psychology, science, biology and communication. In order to get an associates degree, one must have a high school diploma and/or a GED. 

Earn a bachelors degree

Most universities and colleges offer a four-year program for the pursual of a bachelors degree in relevant courses like psychology, science, biology and communication. A bachelors degree would make an individual eligible to pursue a degree in a masters programme. Some universities offer a degree especially in marriage counselling or family therapy as these two terms are often synonymous. these degree programs provide education in numerous areas directly related to marriage counselling, such as social psychology, cognitive psychology, sexuality, sociology and interpersonal relationships. Most bachelor's degree programs require completion of relevant internships or clinical practice prior to graduation.

Masters degree in marriage and family counselling

In order to legally begin your career as a marriage counsellor, one must pursue and complete a masters degree. A masters degree would involve a level of specialization that was previously absent in the pursual of a bachelors degree. This specialization would include drug dependence, domestic abuse and substance abuse. Master's degree programs fully educate students in social science-related areas of marriage counselling, often offering courses in areas such as adolescent and family counselling, cultural diversity, couples therapy, family systems sociology and marriage counselling ethics.

Clinical experience

 In order to be regarded as a licensed therapist or marriage counsellor, one must complete mandatory supervised clinical experience. This clinical experience can range from anywhere between 2,000-4,000 hours. In order to be a licensed therapist, one must undergo a minimum of 2 years of clinical experience. These requirements sometimes exist independently of any clinical practicum credits accrued during the completion of master's degree programs and are measured in weeks or hours, depending on the state. The standard supervised clinical requirement for marriage and family therapists is two years.


After the completion of a masters degree and a mandatory clinical experience of 2 years, one is eligible for the pursual of a certified license. Although the acquiring of a license is dependent on the rules and regulations in your particular state. 

Continual of education

Some marriage counsellors choose to further their education with a doctoral degree. This can expand your field, opening up new opportunities. Also, many states will require you to continue your education to be eligible to renew your license. This varies state to state, and the courses you’ll need to take may differ as well.


According to the US Bureau of labour statistics, The median annual wage for marriage and family therapists was $50,090 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 per cent earned less than $31,850, and the highest 10 per cent earned more than $82,240.

Marriage therapists earn an average yearly salary of $50,090. Wages typically start from $31,850 and go up to $82,240.

Job growth and outlook

Employment of marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 22 per cent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected due to the increasing use of integrated care, which is a treatment of multiple problems at one time by a group of specialists. In providing integrated care, marriage and family therapists are working with counsellors such as substance abuse, behaviour disorder, or mental health counsellors to address patients' issues as a team. wages have been growing steadily over the past decade, and they’re expected to continue growing over the next decade. There’s also a growing demand for marriage counsellors. The Bureau of labour statistics anticipates a 23% growth in positions by 2026.

School and university programs

In order to become an accredited marriage counsellor, one must have a certified high school diploma and a valid GED. in order to receive the aforementioned credentials one must have graduated from a school that caters to the requirements of a marriage counsellor. These schools and colleges must have extensive psychology, sociology and science courses.such schools include:

-university of Florida

University of Louisville

-Syracuse university

-Michigan state university

-university of Iowa 

-northwestern university 

-Florida state university

-texas tech university 

Types of degrees

Associate degree:

In order to pursue the career of being a competent marriage counsellor, one must have an associates degree in relevant courses and subjects like psychology, sociology and other assorted curriculums. In order to pursue an associates degree, one must fulfil the requirement of having a high school diploma or GED. the pursual of an associates degree would involve the following courses:

-psychology foundations

-personality theories

-human development

Bachelors degree:

The pursual of a bachelors degree would involve the prerequisite of having an associates degree in relevant subjects. The earning of a bachelors degree would involve a level of specialization that is integral for competent marriage counselling. these courses would include:

-personality and intelligence

-social psychology

-brain and behaviour

Masters degree:

A master's degree is the minimum education needed to become a marriage counsellor. Master's degree programs fully educate students in social science-related areas of marriage counselling, often offering courses in areas such as adolescent and family counselling, cultural diversity, couples therapy, family systems sociology and marriage counselling ethics.  Students often need to complete numerous credit hours of clinical research and internships to earn their degree. These courses include:

-life span and development

-couples counselling and domestic violence

-theory and practice of martial theory 

Concentrations to consider

Emotion focussed therapist: Emotion-focused therapy, as the name implies, focuses on understanding and controlling emotions. Each spouse is encouraged to discuss their emotions in a judgment-free environment in order to gain new knowledge and perspective about their partner’s emotional reactions. 

Cognitive behavioral therapist: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) involves forming a strong relationship with the therapist and exploring the primary cause of relational problems. This therapy encourages individuals to challenge their perception, beliefs, feelings, and thoughts in order to discover the root of their behaviour. 

Systems therapist: Systems therapy uses complex techniques to investigate each individual’s role within a relationship.  This therapy analyzes specific behaviours of individuals and how these behaviours affect the relationship in order to transform counterproductive behaviours into beneficial behaviours.

Preparing yourself for a career in marriage counselling

As with other professions within the counselling field, it is important that as a marriage counsellor you are able to communicate effectively, be perceptive to what your clients are saying (as well as what they really mean, which can differ at times), and be able to provide effective conflict resolution. Using a family-centred approach when working with clients, even on an individual basis, can help clients to understand how the dynamics may affect their own mental health.

An open mind is also a valuable thing for marriage counsellors, as you may hear the most intimate of details about the couple’s relationship, including sexual problems, which may clash with your own personal views. A good counsellor should make every effort to prevent their personal views from impinging on the lives of their clients.

Stand out skills

  • Interpersonal skills: A psychiatrist must be able to establish rapport with a patient and gain their trust.

  • Communication Skills: They need excellent speaking and listening skills to work with patients and their families as well as other healthcare providers.

  • Critical thinking: Psychiatrists must weigh the merits of different treatments and decide how to best help their patients.

  • Monitoring: They must evaluate their patients’ response to treatment and make changes as needed.

  • Integrity: Psychiatrists, like all doctors, must honour the confidentiality of all interactions with their patients.

Related careers

Social worker – Not all social workers are therapists, but they are intimately involved in helping individuals, couples, and families cope with problems that negatively impact their quality of life. For example, where a marriage counsellor might work with a couple to improve their communication skills with one another, a social worker might work with a couple to develop the skills needed to be more financially responsible.

Substance abuse and behaviour therapist – Unfortunately for many married couples, substance abuse and behavioural issues are the root cause of marriage difficulties. In that regard, substance abuse and behavioural counsellors often work with married couples (as well as individuals and groups) to help people recover from substance abuse and learn skills that lead to improved behaviours

Psychologist – Part of a psychologist’s job is to develop an understanding of why people behave the way they do. Through their studies and work, environments aren’t limited in scope to the behaviour of married persons, psychologists nevertheless can shed light on crucial issues related to marriage, such as understanding the concepts of attraction, communication, lifespan development, stress, and other issues that impact a married couple.

School counselors – School counsellors work with children to facilitate improved academic and social development. These counsellors are often tasked with testing and assessing a student’s abilities and then devising an individualized plan that promotes that student’s growth. School counsellors often work with parents, too, in order to generate strong support for their child as they learn and grow.