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Psychology Career Path: Marriage and Family Therapy

Potential Career Paths

  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (M.A., Ph.D.)

Potential Graduate Programs

  • Marriage and Family Therapy (M.A., Ph.D.)
  • Counseling Psychology (M.A., Ph.D.)

Action Steps for Students

To become more involved in marriage and family therapy or learn about the profession, here is what students can do:

  1. Visit the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the Division 43 (Family Psychology) of the American Psychological Association.
  2. Gain clinical experience by completing an internship or volunteering in shelters, mental health centers, teen homes, or with crisis hotlines.
  3. Schedule a meeting with a marriage and family therapist to discuss the profession.

What is Marriage and Family Therapy?

Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are trained mental health professionals who evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders, as well as other health and behavioral problems, with a family orientation. MFTs address a variety of relationship issues within the context of the family system. MFTs take a solution-focused, family-centered approach to therapy. The set of relationships in which a person is embedded is the unit of treatment rather than the single individual.

MFTs treat families facing severe mental illnesses and emotional disorders, substance abuse, sexual abuse, foster care, juvenile detention, and the criminal justice system. MFTs also treat couples in crisis and young children with their parents. MFTs may work in a variety of settings including inpatient facilities, employee assistance programs, community mental health centers, social service agencies, schools, universities, and prisons.

MFTs are licensed or certified. There are two options for those interested in becoming a MFT. First, one may earn either a master’s degree or doctoral degree in an accredited program in marriage and family therapy. Second, an individual who already has earned a graduate degree in another mental health field may study MFT at one of the accredited post-graduate degree clinical training programs.

The purpose of the marriage and family therapy track is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of psychology while introducing students to the dynamics of the family system.

Undergraduate Course Requirements

Students who are interested in pursuing a career in marriage and family therapy should be sure to work with an adviser to develop an academic plan that is tailored to their interests. The plan should lead to the completion of coursework that is useful for employment in an entry-level job working with families in a mental health setting or for admission to a graduate program specializing in marriage and family therapy.

University and College Requirements

In addition to the suggestions for the marriage and family therapy, be sure to complete all other university and college requirements, including the foreign language requirement.

The center staff recommend beginning the foreign language requirement in the first year. NOTE: Students may begin with a class higher than 1110 depending on foreign language placement test results. It is possible to place out of the foreign language requirement. Therefore, it is recommended that students take the placement test for any foreign language completed in high school.

Required Courses in Psychology

The following courses are highly recommended for students planning on pursuing a graduate degree in degree in marriage and family therapy:

  • PSY 2720 Psychology of Personality (3)
  • PSY 3110 Advanced Statistics (4)
  • PSY 3250 Psychology of Health & Illness (3)
  • PSY 3420 Psychology of Adulthood and Aging (3)
  • PSY 3430 Psychological Disorders of Childhood (3)
  • PSY 3440 Psychology of Gender (3)
  • PSY 3710 Intro to Clinical & Counseling (3)

Additional Coursework

Below are additional courses outside of the Psychology Department that may be relevant to those interested in marriage and family therapy.

  • CFS 2700 Intimate and Family Relationships (3)
  • CFS 3601 Human Sexualities (3)
  • CFS 3800 Death, Dying, and Bereavement (3)
  • CFS 4600 Children, Families, and Diversity (3)
  • CFS 4610 Dynamics in Parent & Child Relations (3)
  • CFS 4660 Transitions in Development and Middle & Later Life (3)
  • COMS 2060 Communication in Interpersonal Relationships (3)
  • COMS 4200 Gender and Communication (3)
  • COMS 4410 Communication in the Family
  • SOC 2200 Intro to the Family (3)

Note: Be sure to check prerequisites for all coursework.

Students who intend to go to graduate school in marriage and family therapy are encouraged to complete courses in Biological Sciences.

Fieldwork and Research in Psychology

It is highly recommended that students interested in child and developmental psychology participate in research in a psychology lab and engage in fieldwork in settings related to the student’s particular area of interest.

Recommended Minors & Certificates

There are several different Minors and Certificates that are related to the field of marriage and family therapy.



Students should discuss with their adviser which minor is most conducive to their career goals and plans for graduate school.