Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

Summary

mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists image
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage or overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and relationships.
Quick Facts: Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists
2014 Median Pay $42,250 per year
$20.31 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Internship/residency
Number of Jobs, 2014 168,200
Job Outlook, 2014-24 19% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 31,400

What Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists Do

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with family and other relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Work Environment

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work in a variety of settings, such as private practice and mental health centers. Most work full time.

How to Become a Mental Health Counselor or Marriage and Family Therapist

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists typically are required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.

Pay

The median annual wage for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists was $42,250 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected in both occupations as more people have mental health counseling services covered by their insurance policies.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists Do

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences.

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and other relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Duties

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists typically do the following:

  • Diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression
  • Encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences
  • Help clients process their reactions and adjust to difficult changes in their life, such as divorce and layoffs
  • Guide clients through the process of making decisions about their future
  • Help clients develop strategies and skills to change their behavior and to cope with difficult situations
  • Refer clients to other resources or services in the community, such as support groups or inpatient treatment facilities

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists use a variety of techniques and tools to help their clients. Many apply cognitive behavioral therapy, a goal-oriented approach that helps clients understand harmful thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and teaches how to replace them with positive, life-enhancing ones. Furthermore, mental health counselors use cognitive behavioral therapy to teach clients to eliminate unwanted and damaging behaviors and to replace them with more productive ones.

Although some disorders can be overcome, others need to be managed. With the latter, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help the client develop strategies and skills to minimize the effects of their disorders or illnesses.

Many mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work in private practice. They must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with insurance companies and clients to get payment for their services.

Mental health counselors provide treatment to individuals, families, couples, and groups. Some work with specific populations, such as the elderly, college students, or children. Mental health counselors deal with a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, and suicidal impulses. They also help with mental and emotional health issues and relationship problems. 

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families. Unlike other types of mental health professionals, they bring a family-centered perspective to treatment, even when treating individuals. They evaluate family roles and development, to understand how clients’ families affect their mental health. They treat the clients’ relationships, not just the clients themselves. They address issues, such as low self-esteem, stress, addiction, and substance abuse.

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists coordinate patient treatment with other professionals, such as psychiatrists and social workers.

Work Environment

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists
Many mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work in private practice.

Mental health counselors held about 134,500 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most mental health counselors in 2014 were as follows:

Individual and family services 21%
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers 17
Residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities 12
Hospitals; state, local, and private 11
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 9

Marriage and family therapists held about 33,700 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most marriage and family therapists in 2014 were as follows:

Individual and family services 30%
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 23
Outpatient care centers 15
Offices of other health practitioners 8
Nursing and residential care facilities 6

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work in a variety of settings, such as mental health centers, substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, and colleges. They also work in private practice and in Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which are mental health programs that some employers provide, to help employees deal with personal problems.

Working with and assisting clients with a variety of emotional and mental problems may be stressful.

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists occasionally may travel to meet clients and patients.

Work Schedules

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists generally work full time. Some counselors and therapists work evenings and weekends in order to accommodate their clients’ schedules.

How to Become a Mental Health Counselor or Marriage and Family Therapist

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists
Master’s programs in mental health counseling and marriage and family therapy prepare students to provide counseling to couples, individuals, and groups.

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are typically required to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.

Education

To become a mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist, applicants typically need a master’s degree in psychology, clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or a related mental health field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s program.

Counseling programs prepare students to recognize symptoms of mental and emotional disorders and to use effective counseling strategies. Marriage and family therapy programs teach students about how marriages, families, and relationships function and how these relationships can affect mental and emotional disorders.

Many employers prefer to hire counselors who have graduated from programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.

Training

Candidates gain hands-on experience through postdegree supervised clinical work, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In training, they learn to provide family therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy, and other therapeutic interventions, under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Licenses

All states require mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to be licensed in the state in which they practice. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of postdegree supervised clinical experience, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In addition, counselors and therapists must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes.

Contact information for state boards regulating mental health counselors is available through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Contact and licensing information for marriage and family therapists is available through the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Counselors and therapists often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for counselors and therapists. They spend most of their time working directly with clients and other professionals and must be able to encourage good relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, both of whom need to give their full attention to their clients to understand their problems, values, and goals.

Organizational skills. Good organizational skills are especially important for counselors and therapists in private practice, who must keep track of payments and work with insurance companies.

Speaking skills. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists need to be able to communicate with clients effectively. They must express ideas and information in a way that clients can understand easily.

Pay

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Marriage and family therapists

$48,040

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

$42,250

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

$41,290

Mental health counselors

$40,850

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for marriage and family therapists was $48,040 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,510, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,920.

The median annual wage for mental health counselors was $40,850 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,930.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for marriage and family therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State and local government, excluding education and hospitals $63,960
Offices of other health practitioners 47,910
Outpatient care centers 46,640
Individual and family services 42,580
Nursing and residential care facilities 42,430

In May 2014, the median annual wages for mental health counselors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State and local government, excluding education and hospitals $47,610
Hospitals; state, local, and private 45,080
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers 40,670
Individual and family services 39,310
Residential intellectual and developmental disability,
mental health, and substance abuse facilities
34,590

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists generally work full time. Some counselors and therapists work evenings and weekends in order to accommodate their clients’ schedules.

Job Outlook

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Mental health counselors

20%

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

19%

Marriage and family therapists

15%

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Employment of mental health counselors is projected to grow 20 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected in both occupations as more people have mental health counseling services covered by their insurance policies.

The number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. The law requires insurance plans to cover treatment for mental health issues in the same way as other chronic diseases. This will increase access to prevention and treatment services to more people who were previously uninsured, did not have these services covered, or found treatment to be cost-prohibitive. Mental health centers and other treatment and counseling facilities will need to hire more mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to meet this increased demand.

In addition, the number of military veterans needing and seeking mental health treatment is expected to increase over the next decade. The federal government, community clinics, and local hospitals will need to expand their mental health counseling staff to provide timely and effective treatment for veterans and active duty personnel.

Job Prospects

Job prospects are expected to be good for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, particularly in rural areas or other communities that are underserved by mental health practitioners.

Employment projections data for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

168,200 199,600 19 31,400

Mental health counselors

21-1014 134,500 160,900 20 26,400 [XLSX]

Marriage and family therapists

21-1013 33,700 38,700 15 5,000 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $187,200 per year.
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

See How to Become One $70,700
Rehabilitation counselors

Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, and emotional disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, or psychological effects of disabilities on employment or independent living.

Master's degree $34,380
School and Career Counselors

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions by helping them develop skills or choose a career or educational program.

Master's degree $53,370
Social and community service managers

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers coordinate and supervise social service programs and community organizations. They manage staff who provide social services to the public.

Bachelor's degree $62,740
Social and human service assistants

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services, including support for families, in a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

High school diploma or equivalent $29,790
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

See How to Become One $45,500
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

Bachelor's degree $39,270

Contacts for More Information

For more information about mental health counselors, visit

American Mental Health Counselors Association

For more information about accredited mental health counselor programs, visit

Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education al Programs

For more information about marriage and family therapists, visit

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards

For more information about counseling and for information about counseling specialties, visit

American Counseling Association

For information about contacting state regulating boards, visit

National Board for Certified Counselors

O*NET

Marriage and Family Therapists

Mental Health Counselors

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm (visited February 12, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015