What is a PsyD in Marriage Family Therapy Degree?

Experts and laypeople alike decry the failure of the institution of marriage today. They also claim that family values are breaking down, that more children are more distant from their parents than ever, that the family is breaking up earlier and we are doing a disservice to our children.

Whatever you believe, statistics do point to a problem in marriages and families. “Almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation,” points out one legal website. “Researchers estimate that 41 percent of all first marriages end in divorce. 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce. 73 percent of all third marriages end in divorce.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that problems are worse than they’ve ever been before. Indeed, the normalization of divorce has saved many people and children from dysfunctional and damaging environments, which can only be seen as a good thing. The stats are clear, though, that a household with two parents is better for children. And given that most people in couples would rather stay in couples (at least at first), there is a strong case for marriage and family therapy in America – and abroad – today.

If you would like to be part of the solution, you might be interested in getting a PsyD in Marriage Family Therapy today. Here’s a brief breakdown of the program, what you’ll learn, what you can do with the degree after graduation, the job outlook and some resources to get you started.

What Is Marriage Family Therapy?

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), “Marriage and family therapists treat a wide range of serious clinical problems including depression, marital problems, anxiety, individual psychological problems, and child-parent problems.”

Marriage family therapy also referred to commonly as marriage and family therapy, is geared toward creating peace and understanding in the household. This may go in any direction, including:

  • Between spouses or life partners
  • Between children and their parents, and vice versa
  • Between siblings
  • Between any extended family members that might live in the household, such as grandparents
  • Alternative caretakers, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles
  • Between household members and others who are there for a shorter-term stay, such as foster children
  • Between adopted children and their families

The goal of marriage family therapy is to use psychological techniques to understand mental and emotional problems and provide solutions for them. This leads directly into the daily duties and responsibilities of a marriage family therapist.

What Does a Marriage Family Therapist Do?

“About half of the treatment provided by marriage and family therapists is one-on-one with the other half divided between marital/couple and family therapy, or a combination of treatments,” says the AAMFT. “Marriage and family therapists regularly practice short-term therapy; 12 sessions on average. Nearly 65.6% of the cases are completed within 20 sessions, 87.9% within 50 sessions. Marital/couples therapy (11.5 sessions) and family therapy (9 sessions) both require less time than the average individuated treatment (13 sessions).”

In addressing the variety of problems that these populations represent, practitioners address a wide variety of social, emotional and behavioral issues. More specifically, marriage and family therapists, in the course of their practice, may:

  • Work one-on-one with individuals, work with couples, work with children, work with an entire family or work with any combination of the above
  • Listen to the problems experienced by any of the above individuals and groups and provide psychologically-based solutions
  • Refer to psychiatrists for pharmaceutical treatment, if necessary

Note that marriage family therapists do not prescribe drugs, nor even do those who hold a PsyD. Medication prescription is the purview of psychiatrists, who take a different and more medically centered route to their careers. That said, what exactly is the Marriage Family PsyD?

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What Is a Marriage Family Therapy PsyD?

First, it is critical to distinguish between a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in psychology. While both are geared toward understanding of the discipline, there is a major difference between the two:

  1. A Doctor of Philosophy is tailored for people who want to work in an academic setting. Usually this means they will teach the subject at a college or university while pursuing their own research. They often design and carry out studies, analyze them and write papers, contribute to research groups and journals, and generally try to add to the knowledge base of the field. That’s not to say they don’t ever work with patients (and indeed, they must complete clinical hours while earning their degrees). However, this is not their focus.
  2. A Doctor of Psychology, on the other hand, is intended for those who want to work with patients in their careers. While those who hold a PsyD in Marriage Family Therapy might choose to teach or take on leadership roles, the degree is really for those who have a strong interest in engaging with individuals, couples and families on a regular basis. See PhD vs PsyD.

To that end, the program is intended to teach the real, actionable principles that psychologists will use when practicing. That includes the informational and ethical foundations of psychology; different mental and behavioral models; various approaches to marriage family therapy; developmental psychology; policies and laws; and more.

SEE ALSO: Online PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy DMFT Programs

The program will look different for every candidate based on the individual factors of your life. Programs may last anywhere from 3 to 5 years, or even longer for those who are completing it on a part-time basis while they continue to practice. It will also depend on your focus area, where you attend school, your financial situation and more.

You can find out specifics by requesting information from the admissions department of the exact school(s) in which you are interested.

What Are the Exams and Licensing Like?

There are two groups of students who come into the Doctor of Psychology in Marriage Family Therapy program:

  1. Those who have a master’s degree in psychology and are already practicing in the field, in which case they have already taken the exam and have a license. If they stop practicing while going to school, that license might lapse and they may need to retake the exam and reapply. However, most who already have both try to keep them current, and often keep practicing, while going to school.
  2. Those who haven’t yet worked in the field, but are rather coming to the PsyD program straight from a master’s program. In this case, they have not yet taken the exam or applied for a license, and will do so upon graduation.

If you are in the second category, then you will start preparing for the exam at the end of your program. All 50 states use the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) to test students for licensure. After you pass, you can apply for your license. This requires you to prove that you have the required number of clinical hours during school and have passed the exam. You will also need a particular number of supervised hours after the program, which varies by state. The American Psychological Association explains the requirements in further detail here.

How Is the Job Outlook?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Marriage and Family Therapists make an average of $50,090 per year or $24.08 per hour. This, however, is misleading for a few reasons. For one, these numbers are for those who hold only a master’s degree. With a doctorate, you can make significantly more money than you would without a terminal degree.

SEE ALSO: Salary Outlook PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy Degree

For another, this is just the median pay, which means it is what people currently in the field make most frequently. Considering how many people leave the profession, this isn’t representative of the salary you can bring in at the apex of your career, especially in the leadership roles that many PsyD candidates take on after graduation, such as teaching or leadership at organizations.

Even more excitingly, jobs are projected to grow at a rate of 23 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than average. That means if you graduate in good standing from a respected program, you will have trouble finding work or setting up your own practice.

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Further Resources for Candidates in Marriage Family Therapy

Have other questions about the profession? That’s only natural at the start of your educational journey, so here are some resources that may help PsyD students achieve better:

Have further questions before exploring program options? We invite you to get in touch today! Otherwise, good luck and bon voyage on your new psychological journey.