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What Are the Requirements to Become Licensed as a Family Counselor?

Becoming licensed as a family counselor will allow you to address problems that strain the health of familial relationships. Family counselors utilize therapeutic approaches to help families cope with various concerns, including divorce, grief, addiction, cancer, depression, and infidelity.

Counselors first evaluate the family’s behaviors before lending strategies to alter the conflict with better communication. More families are seeking counseling to remedy their arguments, especially since the Affordable Care Act requires coverage for mental health treatment. Demand for family counselors will keep growing faster-than-average by 15 percent through 2024, thus creating around 5,000 jobs. Becoming qualified for these openings will require being a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) though. The following are the three main requirements you must satisfy to legally practice in family counseling…

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Graduate Counseling Degree

Having a bachelor’s degree won’t cut it if you want to be licensed as a family counselor. All 50 states require LMFTs to attend graduate school for a master’s degree. Counseling programs must be completed at regionally accredited institutions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Pursuing a degree with approval from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is also suggested. Master’s degrees typically must be at least 45 semester hours and cover all content competencies. Licensing will require passing prerequisites in human development, family studies, MFT practice, counseling psychology, and professional ethics. Certain states, such as New York, will also mandate registering for child abuse training.

Supervised Clinical Practicum

Classroom instruction is only one component of the licensing requirements. LMFT candidates must also accrue client contact hours with supervised clinical practicum. The specific number of hours will vary by state. For example, North Carolina requires 1,500 direct contact hours whereas California requires at least 3,000. Counseling practicum must be completed under the supervision of a licensed professional. Supervisors can be counselors, family therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, or even clinical social workers. Trainees must meet with supervisors at least two hours every week to oversee client records. Contact hours typically must be obtained within 12 to 24 months of the candidate’s application for LMFT licensing.

Passing the MFT Board Examination

Last but certainly not least, family counselors must apply to take the licensing exams given by state MFT boards. Master’s students can usually submit their application before graduation if they’ve achieved at least 39 credit hours. Application fees range from $100 to $400 so that the state licensing board can review candidates’ qualifications. Your application will likely require official college transcripts, practice verification, and two to three references. Once it’s accepted, you’ll need to sit for the National MFT exam. This multiple-choice exam contains 200 questions covering clinical knowledge required for family counseling practice. Your score will be determined by the correct number of responses. Online practice exams are available to study.

Although the preparation is long, becoming a family counselor is a rewarding option for good listeners with a genuine interest in helping identify and resolve domestic problems before they escalate. Licensed family counselors can independently practice in family service centers, outpatient care facilities, health practitioner offices, residential care facilities, government agencies, hospitals, and their own businesses. According to the BLS, the 32,070 LMFTs in America earn an average yearly salary of $53,520. Taking the steps to fulfill the above requirements is critical to be licensed as a family counselor.

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