Relationship counselors speak with couples and families to help them understand and overcome interpersonal problems. Professionals rely on their expert knowledge of established psychotherapy techniques to facilitate better communication, behaviors, and understanding within clients' relationships. A person who wants to become a relationship counselor usually needs to obtain at least a master's degree in counseling, complete one to two years of supervised practice, and pass a licensing exam. With the appropriate training and licensure, a relationship counselor is qualified to work in private practices, mental health clinics, and government family service agencies.
An individual who believes that he or she wants to become a relationship counselor can enroll in a four-year bachelor's degree program in psychology, sociology, or counseling. As an undergraduate, a student takes a number of general psychology courses to gain a basic understanding of the history and fundamentals of the subject. Additional courses in statistics, biology, computer science, and communications provide a hopeful relationship counselor with the skills necessary to succeed in an eventual relationship counselor career.
Near the end of a bachelor's degree program, a student who wants to become a relationship counselor can begin looking into master's degree programs at accredited universities. Some schools offer degrees specifically in marriage and family counseling, though a graduate student can also benefit from a general counseling program if specialized instruction is unavailable. Most master's degree programs take two to three years to complete and include both classroom instruction and a practical internship at a local mental health clinic. Interning is an important aspect of a degree plan, as it allows an individual to experience the daily activities and responsibilities of a relationship counselor.
After completing graduate school, an individual can apply for another internship or entry-level position. In most settings, a new counselor is allowed to work directly with clients under the supervision and guidance of a more experienced professional. The length of time that a person must spend under supervision varies between regions, but most new professionals can expect to work for one to two years before having the opportunity to practice independently.
An individual who successfully completes training can take a regional licensing exam to officially become a relationship counselor. Licensing exams are usually computer-based tests that feature multiple-choice and essay questions regarding local laws, confidentiality standards, client assessment skills, and standard procedures. After passing a test, a counselor can begin pursuing a career in many different professional settings. A person who wants to become a relationship counselor in his or her own practice usually needs to gain several years of experience in the field and pursue continuing education in order to prepare for the additional administrative duties of running an independent business.