What makes a marriage great? How do some couples avoid divorce, even after years of mistrust or infidelity?
The answer is different for every couple, but as marriage counselors will tell you, there are certain skills and tools that can help many couples prevent issues and overcome them. If this subject fascinates you, you might want to consider a career in marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling, otherwise known as family counseling or relationship therapy, can be a very rewarding career (and one that makes you a hit at parties!) Read on to learn how you can start on a career toward marriage counseling, what approaches are popular among modern marriage counselors, and who you can look to in the field for guidance. Let’s save some marriages!
What does a Marriage Counselor Do?
A marriage counselor helps couples and families navigate common relationship issues using a number of different approaches. They might help a couple work out communication issues surrounding fidelity, revive intimacy issues after having children, or give tools to prevent any problems that couples may be anticipating as they move through life.
Not all marriage counselors use the same tools or approaches to help their clients. Common approaches include:
- The Gottman Method
- Emotionally Focused Therapy
- Imago Relationship Therapy
- Discernment Counseling
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
All of these approaches have different explanations for why we choose certain partners, how we strengthen relationships, and the best way to have hard conversations.
Before most marriage counselors choose a specific approach that appeals to them, they learn general concepts in psychology or social work at college. Marriage therapists must earn a minimum of a Master’s Degree in relationship therapy or a related major in order to move forward with licensure or opening a private practice.
Licensure requirements vary by state, but most require that you have clinical experience in the field. As you go through college, you will find many opportunities for internships or experience that is accepted by licensing boards.
Although you may open a practice after obtaining your license, you will still need to continue education to keep that license and to be the best counselor you can be!
Since most marriage counselors open their own practice, they have to foot the bill for gaining clients and maintaining their business. Although this leaves less room for a high salary, it’s still possible for a marriage counselor to make six figures. Your salary will depend on how much you charge, where you live, and customer retention.
Marriage Counselor Reported Salary
Schools for Marriage Counseling Degrees
Before you can earn a salary, you have to go to school! These colleges and universities are known for their marriage counseling programs:
- The College of New Jersey (Ewing, NJ)
- Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
- John Brown University (Siloam Springs, AR)
- Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX)
- Brandman University (Irvine, CA)
- LeTourneau University (Longview, TX)
- University of Massachusetts - Boston (Boston, MA)
- University of West Alabama (Livingston, AL)
- Concordia University - Wisconsin (Mequon, WI)
- Fresno Pacific University (Fresno, CA)
Companies That Hire Marriage Counselors
In the past, marriage counselors primarily opened a private practice or worked alongside a small group of marriage counselors. Now, there are more options. Healthcare has gone digital, and many people are turning to apps and websites for access to different types of counseling. Telehealth companies are always hiring new therapists to serve in different states and serve different clients that may be turning to these businesses for help. Before you apply to work with a larger healthcare company, make sure they accept your credentials and align with the way that you want to approach marriage counseling.
Interviews from a Marriage Counselor
Marriage counselors are frequently in the news, offering their advice on how couples can navigate different issues or just discussing the fascinating job that they have! If you want to learn more about the day in the life of a marriage counselor and the future of the position, read this interview with counselor Tina Tessina.
You can also listen to these podcasts on YouTube or various podcasts. On the Marriage Money Bootcamp podcast, Victoria Vogel discusses both her career and offers advice for couples who are becoming new parents.
Famous marriage counselors like Drs. John and Julie Gottman also give talks on their approach and their experiences in the field. You can find so many speeches, lectures, and TedTalks from counselors like them!
Famous Marriage Counselors
Marriage counselors are either famous for starting their own approach to marriage counseling or writing books that help people navigate their own marriages. Esther Perel, for example, is known for her podcast and best-selling books on adultery and fidelity.
Drs. John and Julie Gottman are known as being the founders of the Gottman Institute. This is one specific approach to marriage counseling, backed by research.
Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt are the founders of Imago Relationship Therapy.
Ten years after this theory was developed, Drs. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg introduced the world to Emotionally Focused Therapy. This approach pulled ideas from Attachment Theory and applied it to modern couples.
Gary Chapman didn’t develop his own approach to marriage therapy, but you probably have heard of his book The Five Love Languages.
Marriage Counseling Examples
Marriage counseling is more than just sitting in front of a couple asking about their infidelity - your day to day life may vary depending on how you want to gain clients or if you’re working for a larger healthcare company. As a marriage counselor, you may find yourself:
- Calling potential clients to see if you make a good fit
- Talking to a couple about adultery and fidelity issues
- Assigning homework to help couples build skills in communication
- Running workshops on falling in love after decades of marriage
- Attending conferences or webinars to freshen up on the Imago approach