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Marriage and Family Therapy: One Degree, Multiple Career Paths

Photographer: Zack Lane, Hofstra University Photographer

Looking to start a career in counseling but not sure what to specialize in? Consider a versatile degree such as marriage and family therapy. According to Burning Glass Technologies, the New York metro area ranks among the top ten regions nationally for marriage and family therapist job openings, with a projected job growth of almost 23%. Even better, this degree sets you up to work in a variety of areas and environments from family therapy to couples counseling to Infidelity Counseling.

Get Counseling Experience While Still in School

The first step to becoming a licensed counselor in marriage and family counseling is to enroll in a master’s degree, followed by clinical experience and internships. It’s a good idea, however, to start getting experience in different environments while still in school so you can get a sense of what type of counseling you’d like to pursue.

Hofstra’s Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program offers students credit for the all client contact hours they accrue in the program, which go towards the 1,500 hours required for licensure by New York state. This experience is extremely helpful when trying to land a job in the area according to Jillian D’Ornellas, a 2013 Hofstra alumna of the MFT program.

“I think the fact that we have two years of practical experience is key,” said D’Ornellas. “We have a chance to work with a variety of clients. When I entered my 3rd-year internship, I was really prepared and ready to take on clients immediately. I imagine, by the time I graduate, all the thorough preparation I receive in this program will give me what I need when seeking employment. I feel ready.”

Matthew Jon Mangiapane, a 2011 graduate from the MFT program, concurs with that assessment and credited Hofstra’s program with helping him start his family counseling career.

“My experience at the on-campus Saltzman Center Clinic was a great way to learn about working with clients and how to handle more basic practicalities like confirming appointments, directing them to the billing department, and even how to handle a [Child Protective Services] report if needed,” said Mangiapane. “Supervision and guidance from the clinic supervisor and the program professors were helpful in many ways, including reviewing counseling sessions. We were always encouraged to share and collaborate with our peers.”

Upon graduation, many marriage and family counselors look for a niche practice area to specialize in so they’re better able to help clients dealing with specific issues. Here are four of the most popular family counseling careers that stem from this one master’s degree:

Family Therapy

Family therapy provides help and resources for all types of families, such as traditional or blended, so they can interact in a way that supports each other. Unlike individual counseling, family counseling treats issues like they are patterns or systems that reside outside of the individual. Family counseling is often employed to treat the stresses brought on by traumatic events, including the loss of a loved one, domestic violence situations, parent or child conflict, and divorce.

Couples Counseling

Many couples seek out counseling at different stages of their relationship and for different reasons, including trouble communicating, trust concerns, or problems with intimacy. Marriage counseling, as it’s also known, helps couples move past their issues and gives them the tools to avoid those problems in the future. This type of counseling is typically shorter-term than other types of counseling, but is highly specialized because of the problems that can arise between two people, as opposed to individual counseling.

Infidelity Counseling

Extramarital affairs have the potential to rip a family apart if not addressed and treated properly, which is where a specialized marriage and family therapist comes in. There are many causes for infidelity, and couple dynamics are unique to every couple. Fortunately, there have been many counseling techniques developed over the years to help couples cope with infidelity and rebuild their relationships, both to the benefit of themselves and their family.

Learn More About Hofstra’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program

Interested in learning more about a getting started in marriage and family counseling? Check out Hofstra’s Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program, where you can discover more about the program’s requirements, curriculum, and opportunities. You may also contact Assistant Professor Alicia Bosley, Graduate Program Director, 516-463-8101.

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