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How To Become A Family Psychologist: Degree and Career Guide

The family unit is the most important in an individual's life. The type of family you are born into will impact every aspect of your life as you grow up and it will also impact the type of family you will one day have. Therefore, society has realized the importance of having a healthy family unit.

In an attempt to create safe and healthy family units, family psychologists, also known as marriage and family therapists, play an important role in helping families work through and deal with issues that may cause future problems. They also help families work through and address the root cause of difficulties that may place strain on the family unit. Such instances may include divorce or the loss of a loved one.

To become a family psychologist, you would need to complete a bachelor's degree in psychology, you would need to complete a master's degree, or a doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or psychology, and then you need to obtain your license and certification.

Let us delve headfirst into this extremely rewarding career path and take a closer look at the steps you would need to take to pursue this career.

What Is A Family Psychologist?

Family psychologists provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for mental health issues that may exist in the family dynamic. They look at the causes of these mental health issues and they look at ways to resolve them.

With a focus on the emotional aspect of family relations, family psychologists work with the individuals in a family, and they work with the family as a unit to get through any challenges that a family may be facing.

They address challenges that may have arisen in the moment, or that a family has been facing for prolonged periods of time. They work with the family unit in overcoming challenges related to divorce, the death of a loved one, infidelity, infertility, and much more.

They may also work with families where there is an individual who suffers from a mental illness or are mentally disabled, and they may help the family unit in dealing with and overcoming any challenges related to these mental disabilities.

What Does A Family Psychologist Do?

They provide therapy and counseling to families as a whole and individuals in working through relationship issues and overcoming any underlying emotional and mental traumas that may have a direct effect on the family unit.

Over and above that, as trained professionals, they are also able to assess, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses faced by individuals within a family.

In working with both the individual and the family, they are able to identify harmful factors within the family unit and they are able to devise a plan working toward remedying the harmful factors in the family unit.

With each family being different, the family psychologist will need to learn and identify the family dynamics that exist within a particular family, they would need to identify why these dynamics exist, and they would need to identify if these dynamics are healthy or unhealthy for the family and the individuals within the family.

Types of Family Psychologists

Family psychologists may choose to focus on particular fields. Some may focus on marriage counseling and therapy; others may focus on divorce. There are also those who may choose to specialize in working with families where an individual suffers from a mental disability or has faced a life-altering traumatic event.

Steps To Become A Family Psychologist

Step One: Obtain Your Bachelor's Degree

At the starting point of this journey, you will work towards obtaining your bachelor's degree in psychology or you will work towards a bachelor's degree in a similar field that involves counseling or social work.

Step Two: Obtain Your Master's And PhD

Depending on your state requirements, you would need to obtain a master's in marriage and family therapy or in psychology where you pay keen attention to working with families, studying the family dynamic, and learning why and how certain family relations exist.

Step Three: Obtain Licensing And Certification

Before you can begin interacting with families, you would need to obtain a license to practice and obtain certification from a relevant psychology board. To obtain your licensure, you would need to successfully complete the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE), or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

Step Four: Gain Practical Experience

You will then need to earn a specific number of supervised hours whereby you shadow and work under the supervision of an experienced family psychologist to gain hands-on experience. This step is absolutely necessary for you to gain success in your career as a family psychologist.

The number of supervised hours that you would need to complete is dependent on your state requirements. It is therefore extremely important to know what your state's minimum requirements are.

What Degree Do You Need To Be A Family Psychologist?

At the very least, you would need a master's degree. Depending on the state requirements, you may need to pursue a doctorate to be a family psychologist.

What Is The Average Salary For A Family Psychologist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, marriage and family therapists earn a median annual salary of $49,880. They may find themselves working in family centers, at their own private practices, or at clinics and hospitals.

Additionally, the field of marriage and family psychology expects to see a projected growth of 14% between 2021 and 2031.

What Makes A Good Family Psychologist?

Having strong organizational skills, compassion, and patience are important to thrive in the role of a family psychologist. Additionally, you would need to have strong collaborative skills as you will be working with family units that comprise more than one person, and you would need to have the ability to set firm and sturdy boundaries so that your own family unit is not influenced by your job.


Is A Family Psychologist And A Marriage And Family Therapist The Same Thing?

At its most basic function, both roles serve the same purpose. These two roles are therefore often referred to interchangeably.

Are Family Psychologists Actually Psychologists?

Although they work closely with the family unit which involves working with more than one person at a time, family psychologists are fully trained and experienced in the field of psychology. They have the ability, knowledge, and expertise to diagnose and treat mental illnesses, but they have the unique challenge of working through these mental issues within a family.

They, therefore, work toward helping the individual as well as the family because it is not just the individual that suffers.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Marriage And Family Therapist?

Depending on the level of qualification you are working towards and the number of required practical hours you are required to obtain, it may take between six and ten years to become a practicing family psychologist or a marriage and family therapist.

Do You Need A License To Be A Marriage And Family Therapist?

Yes, you would need a marriage and family therapist (MFT) license which is issued by a regulatory board that permits you to provide counseling services and advice to families and all the members thereof.


Being a family psychologist takes a lot of intense and hard work. But to know that you are not just helping one person, but an entire family unit is guaranteed to be fulfilling. If helping people strengthen their relationships is something you are passionate about, and if family is an important aspect to you, then this may be the best career path for you.

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