In his novel “Anna Karenina,” Leo Tolstoy famously wrote that “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” He may have been off the mark with the first part–even happy families have differences–but the point of the second part is well taken. Fortunately, professional therapy, which didn’t exist when Tolstoy first published his novel in 1878, can now provide even the unhappiest of families hope for the future.
Today, professionals with a marriage and family therapy degree help families, married couples, and individuals within each to dig into issues and find the root causes of their unhappiness. This therapeutic approach is based on the concept that the problems faced by an individual are often related to the dynamics within their family and larger social systems.
The field requires specialized training because of the complexity of human behavior and relationships family therapists face, from emotional and physical abuse to passive-aggressive behavior, abandonment, conflict resolution, parenting issues, sexual dysfunction, communication problems, and more.
Marriage and family counseling is a growing branch of therapy. Federal data projects marriage and family therapist jobs will increase 14% by 2031, adding more than 9,000 positions nationwide. Add to this growth the positions becoming available as current therapists retire. The profession promises to expand opportunities for those committed to earning a marriage and family therapy degree and learning the latest therapeutic theories and best practices.
Different Types of Marriage and Family Therapy
Marriage and family therapy includes a wide variety of therapeutic approaches. No matter which is used, the goal is to create better, safer, and happier homes where everyone feels valued, and relationships become closer. Achieving this typically involves managing conflict and improving both communications and the quality of interactions. Therapists can choose from a variety of marriage and family therapy approaches, according to Very Well Mind:
Family systems. Focuses on helping people use strong relationships to overcome mental health problems.
Functional family. A short-term treatment that therapists often use with young people involved with risky behavior, violence, or substance use. It gives teens and families time to build trust and respect for each other while searching for solutions together.
Narrative family. Encourages family members to each tell their story, allowing everyone to understand issues from various viewpoints. This can build better empathy and understanding.
Psychoeducation. Centers on educating family members about medications, treatment options, and self-help approaches, helping them become a cohesive support system.
Supportive family. Focuses on fostering a safe environment where family members openly share feelings and support one another.
Marriage and family therapists help clients improve relationships and achieve goals. They also focus on developing family strength and resilience and promoting healthy communication and problem-solving skills.
Marriage and Family Therapy Assessment Tools
Married couples and families typically seek therapy in the aftermath of a specific event, such as divorce, separation, death of a loved one, or a significant life transition. Therapy also is typical for families where a child or teen has developed behavioral problems, parent-child conflicts have arisen, or problems emerge between siblings. ‘
Marriage and family therapy assessment tools provide a way to determine whether the people in therapy are progressing toward their goals. Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. Marisa T. Cohen outlined four marriage and family therapy assessment stages.
The first stage involves the therapist assessing the challenges presented by the client and developing the best course of action for treatment. In the second stage, the practitioner continues using the assessment to understand the client’s problems, always remembering not to underestimate the severity of the issue.
In the third stage, the mental health counselor reviews previous approaches to determine the effectiveness of each in the specific situation. They also use formative assessments to monitor the client’s progress. In the fourth stage, the counselor determines whether or not the treatment was effective.
By assessing clients and considering the different treatment options, mental health practitioners create the best possible outcomes for their clients.
Touro University Worldwide MA in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree
The MA in Marriage and Family Therapy degree from Touro University Worldwide offers a scientist-practitioner model designed to prepare graduates for success in marriage and family therapy.
The TUW graduate marriage and family therapy program meet state licensure requirements in 42 states, including California. Students can concentrate on one of three tracks: clinical, non-clinical, and licensed professional clinical counseling.
The TUW program has earned COAMFTE accreditation, meeting or exceeding established marriage and family therapy program standards and criteria. It also indicates TUW faculty actively contribute to the body of knowledge in the field.
Students who enroll in a COAMFTE-accredited marriage and family therapy program know they will attend a respected school that meets rigorous academic standards. They also know the program prepares them for licensure as a marriage and family therapist and for state and national exams. Accreditation also facilitates attaining a state license by presenting a recognized qualifying degree.
The flexibility of TUW’s online marriage and family counseling degree allows students to earn a graduate degree while maintaining professional and personal obligations. For those who aspire to work in the essential and growing marriage and family therapy field, the graduate program is a crucial step toward achieving their goal.