How to Get a Job as a Marriage & Family Therapist
Schooling is important, but all the technique that a reputable program offers won't compensate for interpersonal skills like having empathy, patience, and flexibility. "What I always tell people is that I am incredibly curious, which makes doing therapy wonderful," Salinger adds. "I get curious about what people say to me. I want to understand more." Having the creativity to try various types of treatment options is also a bonus, he says. Being a good listener also helps.
But before sending out the first resume, Salinger suggests: "No. 1. is clean up your own backyard. Get your own therapy straightened out and resolve the issues that are going to get in your way." It's counterproductive for a dedicated therapist to have a legion of unresolved personal issues that could block the ability to provide effective guidance.
What is the Job Like?
Many therapists report to hospitals and outpatient care centers to work regularly, but a lot of seasoned ones have entered into private practice. Although longevity has afforded certain perks, like the possibility to work from home and establish their own client base—Salinger says a full-time therapist would see between 28 and 32 clients; he personally sees 38 for 50-minute sessions each—it also introduces the challenges of owning your own business. Being your own boss means you'll need to devise a marketing strategy to find prospective clients and handle the red tape of insurance companies and processing payment. There was a time when most of Salinger's business came from the physician referrals. Now he says approximately 80 percent comes from Internet queries.
But both types of therapists are in a service-type occupation which can translate into long hours (weekends and evenings to accommodate the schedules of working clients) and high stress (people who are experiencing minimal to severe mental and emotional upheaval).