Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) fall into the Social Theme Code Category of the Strong Interest Inventory®. This Inventory sorts careers into six categories based on the personal characteristics and professional preferences of professionals who currently hold them. Job-seekers can utilize this inventory by taking an assessment which will help direct them towards careers they will find fulfilling. Careers in the Social Theme Code category, for instance, focus on supporting other individuals, especially in their social relationships. People matched with social careers have strong verbal skills and like the idea of sharing responsibilities and mentoring others. They also are supportive, positive people who feel rewarded when they make a positive impact on the lives of others.
MFT’s support clients in identifying and resolving any family related issues they may have or challenges they may be facing, including child rearing, divorce or separation, and financial issues among others. Clients may be referred to them through a number of different channels, but once they are established, a first step is collecting background information, often through interviews, reviewing case files, and simply observing them. Marriage and Family Therapists often confer with other counselors or professionals who may have been involved in their case to develop a treatment plan, including referring them to other professionals or resources in the community. Throughout this process, therapists ask clients questions that help them identify and verbalize their feelings and situation, encouraging them to find constructive outlets for confronting and hopefully resolving their problems.
Throughout this process, Marriage and Family Therapists constantly measure and track clients’ progress, keeping careful documentation of any progress or shortfalls, and adjusting intervention protocols to meet their clients’ needs. They may also keep family members, court systems, or other stakeholders informed of client progress. Depending on the situation, therapists may also need to write evaluations or even testify in court, make recommendations based on input from other social workers, counselors, schools, doctors, or law enforcement or other personnel, or otherwise find and present details as they become relevant. At times, they may find themselves going beyond their official job description because their ultimate task is to meet their clients’ needs however possible.
All of these details are organized using laptop or desktop computers as well as personal digital assistants or smart phones. Many different types of software are also used, including Microsoft Office Suite, e-mail servers, video conferencing equipment, accounting software (e.g. Intuit QuickBooks), and medical software (e.g., Anasazi Client Data System). While the exact tools and software used may differ, for instance depending on whether one owns their own practice or is operating in a larger institutional or corporate setting, having familiarity with standard medical and office software and tools will be beneficial.
In addition to familiarity with these various tools and technologies, Marriage and Family Therapists generally hold a graduate degree (Master’s or Ph.D.), and have a strong practical and professional foundation in psychology, as well as techniques in therapy and counseling. Many states also require state certifications or board memberships to be allowed to practice legally in that location. In these cases, therapists may also need to participate in some continuing education or other courses to demonstrate their ongoing professional expertise. Furthermore, MFT’s also need to have developed critical thinking and active listening skills, as well as a professional fluency in English and any other languages in which their clients may be more comfortable communicating.
The average Marriage and Family Therapist salary is $48,600. However, there is significant variation in different parts of the country. In New Jersey, for instance, the average Marriage and Family Therapist salary is $74,830, while the most highly paid Marriage and Family Therapists can earn salaries approaching $100,000 per year. This contrasts sharply with certain parts of the Deep South, like South Carolina and Tennessee, where MFT’s can earn as little as $18,970 per year. There is projected to be significant growth in the industry prior to 2024, with Colorado, Utah, and Oregon leading the way with growth rates well over 30%.
Below are some employment trends for Marriage and Family Therapists:
- Median Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) Salary: $23.37/hour; $48,600 annually
- Employment: 34,000 employees
- Projected growth (2014-2024): much faster than average (14% or higher)
- Projected job openings (2014-2024): 12,100
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Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2022 employment projections Onetonline.org