Job: Marriage and family therapist
The role: While once primarily focused on the relationship between romantic partners, marriage and family therapists now work with clients to improve relationships of all kinds, including between family members, friends, roommates and co-workers.
“As long as it’s a relationship, and people have a desire for that relationship to improve, that’s our skill, that’s really what we do,” said Andrew Sofin, a registered marriage and family therapist based in Montreal and the president of the Canadian Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (CAMFT).
Mr. Sofin adds that the association’s title is likely to evolve or change in the coming years, but for now, it remains an ode to the profession’s origins. Mr. Sofin adds that couple and family therapists provide services similar to those offered by other therapists, only with a focus on relationships between people, rather than the individual.
A majority of marriage and family therapists in Canada work in private practice, according to Mr. Sofin, though they typically begin their careers in hospitals, non-profit organizations or in social services. Once in private practice, marriage and family therapists typically split their time between working with patients and managing the business.
“It's paperwork and then actually sitting in the office doing the work,” said Mr. Sofin. “There are also always lots of phone calls, either to new referrals or contacting clients that you need to check in on.”
Salary: Many marriage and family therapists begin their careers working for public institutions, which Mr. Sofin says is typically “very hard work for very low pay,” adding, “I’d compare it to entry level social work.” According to Canadian job listing aggregate service Neuvoo, entry-level salaries start at $46,800 a year and average about $62,000.
“The minute you move to private practice, if you are good, you can make a lot of money,” said Mr. Sofin. “You can be doing part-time making $40,000 to $60,000, or full-time making $120,000, with some of the best making easily $200,000 [annually].”
While skill and reputation do play a role in determining salary, Mr. Sofin adds that it also depends on how many clients practitioners see in a given day and where they are based.
“If you can become a very good clinician in a market where the office rental rate is low, your earning potential goes way up and there’s less competition,” he said. “People in Toronto or Vancouver, they’re going to be hit hard by the going rate per square foot for office space.”
Education: Each province has its own requirements for those seeking to obtain a registered psychotherapist designation, but only Quebec requires family therapists to obtain a specific permit in order to practice.
Elsewhere, practitioners must be licensed by their provincial authority in order to provide psychotherapy services of any kind. Once they obtain a registered psychotherapist licence from their provincial authority, practitioners typically pursue a registered marriage and family therapist designation from the CAMFT, though it is not a legal requirement outside of Quebec at this time.
In order to receive a registered marriage and family therapist designation from CAMFT practitioners need to complete a minimum of a master’s degree in a mental health discipline and achieve certain grades in designated courses. Candidates also need to complete the required clinical experience and supervision hours of training, as outlined by the CAMFT.
“It’s quite rigorous, because it’s a completely different ball game than one-on-one, individual therapy,” Mr. Sofin said. “You must also continue doing some continuing education throughout your career.”
Job prospects: The psychotherapy industry has been growing in recent years, thanks to increasing social acceptance. “More people are seeing psychotherapy as not something to be ashamed of,” said Mr. Sofin.
Challenges: Relationship and family therapists help their clients face some of the most difficult emotional circumstances imaginable – and they aren’t always successful – which can take a significant toll on their own mental health.
“If you want to have a successful career as a marriage and family therapist, you have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well,” Mr. Sofin said. “You have to practise self-care or you will burn out.”
Why they do it: While helping clients through emotionally difficult circumstances can be difficult, it can also be very rewarding.
“I’ve had people crying, saying 'you saved my marriage,’” Mr. Sofin said. “You feel like you’re making a positive difference in the world.”
Misconceptions: While the media often depict marriage and family therapists as mediators between romantic partners, they, in fact, provide assistance in strengthening relationships of all kinds.
Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.