What Are the Different Types of Family Therapy Degrees?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
In many jurisdictions, individuals who practice family therapy must be trained and licensed mental health professionals.
In many jurisdictions, individuals who practice family therapy must be trained and licensed mental health professionals.

Types of family therapy degrees vary by jurisdiction, but include master's and doctoral degrees in various mental health fields as well as certification programs for those individuals who already hold a postgraduate degree. In some cases, a person may be able to receive postgraduate training in family therapy through a religiously oriented institution as well. The types of degrees required to practice family therapy may vary by legal jurisdiction. In some cases, a person may be required to obtain a postgraduate degree specifically in family therapy in order to call himself or herself a family therapist, while other jurisdictions may be more lax in permitting mental health professionals to identify themselves as family therapists.

A marriage and family therapist (MFT) may be able to help a couple establish stronger bonds of trust and intimacy.
A marriage and family therapist (MFT) may be able to help a couple establish stronger bonds of trust and intimacy.

In many jurisdictions, those who offer family therapy services must be trained, licensed mental health professionals. The requirements to practice mental health counseling also vary, but typically require receiving a postgraduate degree in psychology, counseling, or social work. Some schools may also offer postgraduate degrees specifically in marriage and family therapy. Physicians who wish to pursue training in a mental health field may complete a residency in psychiatry.

Clinical social workers may conduct family therapy after earning a master of social work degree.
Clinical social workers may conduct family therapy after earning a master of social work degree.

Clinical social workers may be able to offer family therapy services after completing a master of social work (MSW) degree, particularly if their clinical training focused on this type of counseling. In other cases, a licensed clinical social worker may pursue additional family therapy degrees or credentials after completing his MSW. Many schools offer postgraduate certificate programs that don't require the completion of another full degree, but also provide needed education to those professionals who wish to expand their area of practice and expertise.

The types of degrees required to advise families can differ among jurisdictions.
The types of degrees required to advise families can differ among jurisdictions.

Professional counselors often begin their careers with a master's degree in counseling. In some cases, their degree program may have specifically focused on training in family therapy. For those who obtained a counseling degree with a different specialization or with no specialization at all, additional education may be necessary to offer family therapy services. Like social workers, the professional counselor may have the option of obtaining a postgraduate certificate and completing supervised clinical work in family therapy. Both professional counselors and clinical social workers may also choose to pursue doctoral work in counseling, clinical social work, or psychology, with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy.

Religious leaders who wish to offer counseling services to families within their congregations may be able to obtain family therapy degrees through postgraduate programs in theological seminaries or graduate schools of religion. In some cases, laws regarding the provision of counseling and therapy services provide loopholes for clergy who offer counseling in a religious context. Some seminaries may offer a master of divinity program with an emphasis on counseling or family therapy. In other cases, these schools may partner with other graduate schools that offer family therapy degrees so that students can participate in a dual degree program, providing them with two degrees: one in a mental health discipline, the other in ministerial studies.

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    • In many jurisdictions, individuals who practice family therapy must be trained and licensed mental health professionals.
      In many jurisdictions, individuals who practice family therapy must be trained and licensed mental health professionals.
    • A marriage and family therapist (MFT) may be able to help a couple establish stronger bonds of trust and intimacy.
      A marriage and family therapist (MFT) may be able to help a couple establish stronger bonds of trust and intimacy.
    • Clinical social workers may conduct family therapy after earning a master of social work degree.
      Clinical social workers may conduct family therapy after earning a master of social work degree.
    • The types of degrees required to advise families can differ among jurisdictions.
      The types of degrees required to advise families can differ among jurisdictions.