When individuals, couples or families face problems in their personal lives or in their relationships, they turn to marriage and family therapists, or MFTs, for guidance. These mental health professionals diagnose and treat emotional and behavioral disorders. They earn their salaries by adjusting their sessions to match the schedules of patients.
The lowest-paid 10 percent of marriage and family therapists made $12.13 per hour or $25,230 per year as of May 2011. The highest earning received $35.84 per hour or $74,550 per year. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the mean pay was $23.42 per hour, or $48,710 per year. MFTs center their therapy around the entire family, even when treating individuals. They offer strategies to cope with their patients' traumatic situations and coordinate treatment with other professionals such as social workers and psychiatrists. They may refer clients to other community resources such as support groups.
In 2011, more than a quarter of all 39,990 marriage and family therapists worked for individual and family services, including those who were in private practice. Their average salaries were $21.81 per hour, or $45,360 per year. Therapists working for state government earned the highest pay at a mean $29.88 per hour or $62,150 per year. A master’s degree in marriage and family therapy is the minimum requirement. All states also require a license, which mandates the education, two years of supervised clinical experience and passing a state-recognized exam. Continuing education is necessary to maintain these credentials.
Metropolitan areas with the highest populations offered the most jobs for marriage and family therapists in 2011. Topping the list was the second- most populous city in the nation, Los Angeles, with over 6 percent of the positions, and mean earnings of $24.52 per hour, or $51,010 per year. The most populated city, New York, had almost 4 percent of the positions and average pay of $25.54 per hour, or $53,120 per year. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had the highest wages at a mean $34.08 per hour, or $70,880 per year, followed by Bakersfield, California, at a mean $33.51 per hour or $69,690 per year.
The BLS predicts that jobs for marriage and family therapists will grow by 41 percent from 2010 to 2020, which compares to 36 percent growth expected for mental health counselors, and 14 percent for all jobs in all industries. Population growth will fuel the demand, especially in mental health centers, colleges and hospitals. In addition, insurance companies are encouraging the use of MFTs as a less costly alternative to psychiatrists and psychologists.