How Do You Become a Marriage Therapist?

marriage therapist

The job of a marriage therapist lies at the intersection between a diverse spread of applied social sciences. While there are many different educational and professional training paths that can be taken on the road to the career, there are also a few basic requirements that all who want the job will generally have to meet in order to qualify.

Aside from specialized focuses in one field of education or another, the following some of the fundamental steps that an aspiring marriage therapist will most likely need to take.

Undergraduate Foundation and Bachelor’s Degree

All marriage therapists will need to begin their path towards the possession with at least a Bachelor of Arts. Beyond just having an undergraduate degree, the most highly qualified candidates can distinguish themselves by making an effort to excel in their coursework and provide value in relevant internships.

Featured Programs

The majors that are applicable to a career in marriage therapy include family studies, psychology, family studies, social work, and any others that can be related to the science of human relationships and behavioral science.

Ultimately, so long as the undergraduate major that an aspiring therapist chooses is marginally relevant to their desired position, it won’t have as much of an impact on their chances at qualifying for the career as will their basic academic competence.

Postgraduate Education Programs

After earning an undergraduate degree, aspiring marriage therapists can choose between pursuing a master’s degree or a doctorate. The master’s degree is the minimum requirement, though some postgraduate students might decide to opt for a doctoral program out of personal choice.

Gaining Professional Experience Outside of School

After successfully graduating from a program the postgraduate level, students can participate in specialized programs that are specifically geared towards fostering their base of professional skills.

Different states have different guidelines regarding postgraduate Marriage and Family Therapy Certificate (MFT) programs, but it usually isn’t necessary to have a specific degree in Marriage and Family Therapy to participate in one.

Potential post-master clinical program participants may specifically aim for programs are regionally accredited, depending on the specific requirements of the state.

Some states make exceptions for training programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), so long as the coursework is necessary the program participant’s eventual licensing.

Supervised Training Hours and Licensure

In MFT programs and other training programs like them, participants oftentimes have to complete a certain number of supervised hours conducting work that is similar to what would be performed in the field.

The number of supervised hours that a post-graduate clinic program participant will have to complete depends on the requirements of the state. California law requires at least 3000 hours of supervised training, while some other states require less than 2000.


Ultimately, the licensure of a marriage therapist will largely depend on the specific regional requirements of their education, from undergraduate classes to the post-graduate clinical training program. Regardless of their specific paths to the career, all who successfully receive their licenses will have accumulated a fair amount of live training experience and credentials to provide professional behavioral consultation.

Related Resources: