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Couples attend counseling to learn how to cope with immediate problems they may be experiencing or to strengthen their relationship through generally learning how to relate to one another. Some reasons that couples enter counseling are: constant arguing, infidelity, anger or feelings of dissatisfaction with their partner. In order to become a couples counselor, you will need to obtain an advanced degree from an accredited institution and become licensed in the country or state where you practice.
The first step you must take to become a couples counselor is to obtain your undergraduate degree. Bachelor’s degrees in psychology, sociology and social work are the most popular degrees sought by aspiring counselors. However, students who pursue other undergraduate social science degrees such as anthropology and political science are still able to become counselors. If you pursue one of these degrees, you should fulfill elective requirements outside of your major in psychology or sociology classes to avoid taking additional course work in graduate school.
After you complete your undergraduate degree, you must attend graduate school. The minimum education requirement necessary to become a couples counselor is a master's degree. However, some people enter a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) program to make a higher salary and participate in research while practicing as a couples counselor. In contrast to your undergraduate degree, you must have a specialized graduate degree in a mental health field such as psychology, sociology or social work to become licensed as a couples counselor.
While you are in graduate school, your coursework will involve taking classes about interviewing, research, chemical dependency, substance abuse and principles of counseling. Additionally, accredited graduate programs will require an internship before you graduate. Once you complete your graduate degree, you must become licensed to be an independent couples counselor. You will be able to practice under the supervision of a licensed counselor.
Licensing requirements are very different throughout the world and some countries don’t require a license to become a couples counselor. In the United States, licensing requirements vary in each state, but most of them share common criteria. In addition to completing a graduate program that requires an internship, you will also need approximately 3,000 hours or two years of clinical experience. Finally, you will need to take the state’s marriage and family therapist (MFT) exam. When you obtain your license to become a couples counselor you will need to fulfill the continuing education requirement of your state to keep your license current.