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Marriage and Family Therapist Interview

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Marriage and Family Therapist Career Interview

Dr. Carmen Knudson-Martin has been a marriage and family therapist for over 25 years and is the current director of the Ph.D. program in marriage and family therapy at the Loma Linda University in California. She is also a member of the American Family Therapy Association (AFTA).

Marriage and Family Therapist Career Path

Carmen found her passion for therapy after a career in education.

“I was a teacher,” she explains, “and I was interested in the kids who were struggling, such as with their family relationships. I studied family science, and I became interested in becoming a family therapist.”

This isn’t how most people find a career in therapy, according to Carmen.

“I wasn’t a psychology major, which is how a lot of people come at it,” she says. “I wanted to address some of the issues that I witnessed as a teacher to help families build stronger relationship bonds.”

Marriage and Family Therapist Experiences

Carmen received her Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy from the University of Southern California and her Master’s degree in family education from Utah State.

She has been a family therapist for 25 years. During that time, she has worked with families and couples to resolve their issues in many different areas.

During her training, Carmen spent time learning how to be a therapist with patients in supervised sessions. This is generally how most programs work because this gives students hands-on experiences while still allowing them to learn from experienced professionals.

Carmen taught family life education for four years before going to school for marriage and family therapy.

Marriage and Family Therapist Degree Programs

“To be licensed, you need at least a Master’s degree,” Carmen explains. “Every state has that at least. Some people also have a doctoral degree, which gives you additional expertise, but that isn’t always necessary.”

Marriage and Family Therapist Job Description

Carmen is the director of the Ph.D. program in marriage and family therapy at the Loma Linda University in California, where she teaches others how to be therapists and do therapy research.

Marriage and Family Therapist Daily Routine

A marriage and family therapist’s day really depends on where they work.

“Some therapists work at the hospital to work with people who are going through a liver transplant and their families,” says Carmen. “A lot of people work in community agencies where they work with young people who are struggling with school, legal, or parental problems. Some therapists go to people’s homes and work with them there.”

Carmen primarily works with couples when she does therapy sessions.

“That’s what I enjoy doing because I can help couples work their way through their problems and demands. I meet with people for about an hour at a time, asking them focus questions to help them see their relationships in different ways and can relate to each other better. People come to me for the same problems that they might see another counselor for, but we help them understand the problems in a larger social context than a typical therapist.”

Marriage and Family Therapist: Steps to Success

“You have to be very flexible,” Carmen advises. “You meet people, and you don’t know what they are going to present you with, so you have to be able to personally engage them. You have to be able to tolerate not knowing exactly what you are going to be faced with and what the end result between the family/couple will be.”

Good communications skills are crucial for marriage and family therapists.

“You have to have a good ability to engage with people and overcome obstacles,” says Carmen. “You have to be able to discuss very private things and not be overwhelmed.”

“You also have to be optimistic,” she adds.

Marriage and Family Therapist Job Opportunities

Because of the expanding human population and the problems that go along with that, there are a lot of opportunities for growth in family therapy.

“There are lots of different kinds of places that require the skills of that career,” Carmen explains. “There are some private practices, but generally therapists work out of large agencies. Programs don’t accept large classes, but it’s not really difficult to get into them; you just need the emotional maturity and skill set for the job.”

Marriage and Family Therapist Favorite Aspect

“I love the inside looks at peoples’ lives and the feeling that I can help people make better choices,” says Carmen. “The personal connections are very interesting and very rewarding. I get to know so many different kinds of people and learn what it’s like to be them.”

Advice for Prospective Marriage and Family Therapists

Before starting in this career, students should examine which kind of therapy they want to study.

“In trying to decide between family therapy and other kinds, know that family therapy takes a more positive outlook, focusing on people’s strengths and how they can build on that,” Carmen explains. “You should choose family therapy if you really want to see people as something bigger than they are because we are all interconnected, and family and marriage therapists should understand that.”

Carmen advises to know exactly what you are getting yourself into by pursuing family and marriage therapy.

“You need to be able to take feedback,” Carmen recommends. “Be able to look at yourself and improve yourself. If you have a strong need for perfection, you have to accept feedback. Working with people is an imperfect science, so you have to be able to do it and make mistakes, receive feedback, and not be overly sensitive about yourself.”

  • nkiruka

    My name is nkiruka.I did my bachelors degree in Nigeria with major in Economics.I worked in a bank for Nine years.I came to America and want a career change to Marriage and Family Therapy.The reason for choosing that career being that am passionate about good and healthy marriages.I am also passionate about educating the youth on making good choices of life partner.I have organised and facilitated many seminars for the youth back in nigeria.Though, wasn’t a professional therapist,have been able to save many marriages from failing via my discussions with them.I also have a book i wrote on choosing a life partner titled READY FOR MARRIAGE.I know i have a call in this career.My challenges are job availability for career (new jersey).I also have met people who told me that blacks have less job opportunity in this career.Pls i need you to give me some advices on what to do.Because, am thinking of going for nursing but i kno what i really want to do is Marriage and family therapy.

  • myFootpath Advisor

    It’s great that you’re thinking about becoming a marriage and family therapist. In the United States, most students first earn their bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling or a related field. From there, they go on to a master’s program in marriage and family therapy. This degree is the minimum required to practice as a marriage and family therapist, and is the degree you will need if you want to go down this career path.

    For more information about becoming a marriage and family therapist, visit our marriage and family therapy career profile.

  • Jennifer Arias

    I am currently a high school teacher but my dream is to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. What should my next step be? What should I get my Master’s Degree in? Who do I contact to find out if my home University offers such a degree?

  • myFootpath Advisor

    A: It sounds like you already have your bachelor’s degree, which is the first step in the process. Most marriage and family therapists earn a Master’s degree in counseling with the specialization of marriage and family therapy. For more information on this career, as well as schools that offer this program, you can visit our marriage and family therapist career profile.

  • Makala

    im a current student in high school i find this carrer very instersting i will be taking some cources thats in this feel for my 10th grade year ,what you think i should do threw out my high school years to get ready to study more in the field

  • myFootpath Advisor

    In order to become a marriage and family therapist, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology or a related field, and then a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Therefore, any similar classes you can take in high school, such as psychology, would be helpful. If these kinds of courses are not offered at your high school, you could also look into taking them at a local community college.

    For more information, visit our marriage and family therapy career profile.

  • Nasha Adams

    *hello, how are you today ? im in the 11th grade this year. i want to become a marriage and family therapy ! what collage should i attend after i get out ofu00a0school ? is lamer a good collage to attend ? what will i need to becomeu00a0 a marriage and family therapy ? also is that the real name ? and how many years does it take? also how much do u make ? ! i know so many questions, but im willing to work hard to make my dream come true after i get out ofu00a0school ! also if u know a school in P.A or BMT may u tell me ! thanks have a blessed day ! :)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for contacting us. On our website, we have a marriage and family therapy career profile that contains information about this career, such as how long it takes and what salary you can expect to make once you graduate. You can view that page here:

  • Anonymous

    You can find all the education information related to becoming a marriage and family therapist on this page:

  • Anonymous

    That’s great that you’re already thinking about your career! You can find out more about marriage and family therapy careers and how to get started here: