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A family counselor is a licensed professional who helps people overcome stress, mental health issues, behavioral problems, and family issues. He or she typically works in a group or private practice, providing counseling services by appointment to individuals and entire families. A family counselor must understand the different social, economical, and personal issues people of all ages may face. A large part of his or her career involves providing guidance to couples trying to work through marital issues and helping children adapt to difficult situations.
Families face many different struggles, from divorces to managing children with behavior problems. A family counselor attempts to uncover the nature of such problems by interviewing family members and asking about their feelings regarding their household situation. He or she might provide one-on-one counseling with family members or facilitate group therapy sessions. The counselor uses his or her knowledge of family structures, developmental psychology, and mental health problems to help families deal with their problems in a healthy way. He or she often attempts to improve communication between family members and suggests ways that individuals can approach difficult situations.
Counselors are often experts on the different problems a married couple may face. A family counselor might meet with a couple that is experiencing a number of issues, such as financial concerns, intimacy problems, conflicting opinions about raising children, and trust issues. The counselor evaluates a couple's problems, suggests ways to improve them, and provides ongoing therapy to help the couple maintain a good relationship.
To become a family counselor, a person must typically obtain a master's degree in clinical psychology or counseling from an accredited university. New counselors often work as interns, observing sessions conducted by licensed professionals. They may be allowed to provide some counseling services under the supervision of other counselors in order to learn gain experience. Counselors are usually required to become licensed in their specific state or country, which entails completing a certain number of supervised hours of counseling and passing a written examination. Additional certification by a national accrediting board may be needed to work in some institutions, though requirements can vary greatly between employers.
Family counselors typically work standard forty-hour weeks, though some professionals in private practice opt to work on weekends and evenings to better suit the needs of their clients. Some counselors invite clients to call them outside of business hours in the event of a crisis or family emergency. Occasionally, a family counselor will choose to split his or her time between providing therapy and teaching university courses on related subjects.