I have been a teacher for over a decade. Over the years, I have found that many of my friends and colleagues have turned to me for advice in solving their personal problems and I have been able to guide them properly. This leads me to think that I would make a good family or marriage counsellor. Could you tell me something about this field? Does one need to pursue a course?
A growing number of mental health professionals work in marriage and family counselling. Psychologists with a Master’s or higher degree in psychology/counselling evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders, behavioural problems, and relationship issues within the context of the family.
Often, a patient seeing a psychologist individually, is referred to a marriage and family therapist when it’s determined that family dynamics and family life cycle issues such as the birth of a child, or the death or terminal illness of a family member or parent-child issues are contributing to a problem.
Parents and couples struggling to make family relationships work also benefit from this kind of therapy. With so many marriages falling apart, premarital counselling is becoming the need of the hour.
The therapist mostly sees couples and the whole family together, but may occasionally see individual family members as well. The idea is to help them find better ways to communicate.
These counsellors often come from the ranks of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, paramedics and teachers. Recognising how vital the family experience is to overall health and wellbeing, they seek additional training to specialise in this field.
A diploma, degree or certificate course in counselling would be a good starting point.
The course will teach you the skills of the counsellor’s art — how to resolve the problems that people face; how to set up your own counselling practice; how to win clients; how to handle the client’s problems, maintain documentation, etc.
However, before you decide on a career in this field, do make sure you possess all the attributes required of a good counsellor:
• Infinite capacity to give each client a patient hearing
• Empathy and ability to strike a rapport with your clients
• A caring attitude that gives the client sufficient confidence to confide in you
• The strength to view the problem objectively without being judgmental or getting personally overwrought or emotionally involved
• Ability to communicate with people from all strata of society
You probably have some of the skills already. You’re probably a good listener. And people approach you with their problems, because they see you as a sympathetic person.
Now you can use those skills, overlaying them with professional counselling skills, to become a counsellor in your own right.