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Career profile Family Therapist

Also known as Clinical Therapist, Counselor, Family Therapist, Human Relations Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Marriage and Family Counselor, Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), Outpatient Therapist, Play Therapist

Family Therapist

Also known as Clinical Therapist, Counselor, Family Therapist

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Artistic
  • Investigative
Pay Range
$33,140 - $92,930 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Psychology
  • Customer and Personal Service
Core tasks
  • Ask questions that will help clients identify their feelings and behaviors.
  • Encourage individuals and family members to develop and use skills and strategies for confronting their problems in a constructive manner.
  • Develop and implement individualized treatment plans addressing family relationship problems, destructive patterns of behavior, and other personal issues.
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What does a Family Therapist do?

Family Therapists diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, whether cognitive, affective, or behavioral, within the context of marriage and family systems.

In addition, Family Therapists apply psychotherapeutic and family systems theories and techniques in the delivery of services to individuals, couples, and families for the purpose of treating such diagnosed nervous and mental disorders.

What kind of tasks does a Family Therapist perform regularly?

Family Therapists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Ask questions that will help clients identify their feelings and behaviors.
  • Encourage individuals and family members to develop and use skills and strategies for confronting their problems in a constructive manner.
  • Develop and implement individualized treatment plans addressing family relationship problems, destructive patterns of behavior, and other personal issues.
  • Maintain case files that include activities, progress notes, evaluations, and recommendations.
  • Counsel clients on concerns, such as unsatisfactory relationships, divorce and separation, child rearing, home management, or financial difficulties.
  • Collect information about clients, using techniques such as testing, interviewing, discussion, or observation.
  • Confer with clients to develop plans for posttreatment activities.
  • Confer with other counselors, doctors, and professionals to analyze individual cases and to coordinate counseling services.
  • Determine whether clients should be counseled or referred to other specialists in such fields as medicine, psychiatry, or legal aid.
  • Provide public education and consultation to other professionals or groups regarding counseling services, issues, and methods.
  • Provide instructions to clients on how to obtain help with legal, financial, and other personal issues.

The above responsibilities are specific to Family Therapists. More generally, Family Therapists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.

What is a Family Therapist salary?

The median salary for a Family Therapist is $51,340, and the average salary is $56,890. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Family Therapist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Family Therapists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Family Therapists earn less than $33,140 per year, 25% earn less than $39,130, 75% earn less than $68,020, and 90% earn less than $92,930.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Family Therapists is expected to change by 16.3%, and there should be roughly 8,500 open positions for Family Therapists every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$33,140 - $92,930
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Family Therapists?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Family Therapist are usually higher in their Social, Artistic, and Investigative interests.

Family Therapists typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Family Therapists typically have moderate Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Lastly, Family Therapists typically have moderate Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Family Therapist tend to value Relationships, Independence, and Achievement.

Most importantly, Family Therapists very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Family Therapists very strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Lastly, Family Therapists strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Family Therapists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, concern for others, and self-control.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Family Therapists, ranked by importance:

Job requires being honest and ethical.
Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.

What education and training do Family Therapists need?

Many Family Therapists have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Family Therapists may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Family Therapists

  • 0.6% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 4.1% completed high school or secondary school
  • 4.6% completed some college coursework
  • 3.9% earned a Associate's degree
  • 17.0% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 61.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 7.9% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Family Therapists

Family Therapists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as therapy and counseling, psychology, or customer and personal service knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Family Therapists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Sociology and Anthropology
Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures, and their history and origins.
Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.

Important Abilities needed by Family Therapists

Family Therapists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Family Therapists need abilities such as oral comprehension, oral expression, and written expression in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Family Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

Critical Skills needed by Family Therapists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Family Therapists frequently use skills like active listening, social perceptiveness, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Family Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Service Orientation
Actively looking for ways to help people.
Complex Problem Solving
Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.