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Family Psychologist: Education and Career Information

A family psychologist is also known as a marriage and family therapist, or family counselor. They have extensive education and experience in handling individual family and group therapies, and are found in private practices, state government, local government, home health care service facilities, hospitals and other medical settings. This career requires an advanced educational degree and a license. There are many situations that require the assistance of a family psychologist. They work with schools and other agencies to help families who may have had financial problems and are now homeless, or families who have a member who has problems with alcohol. There are a number of circumstances where a family psychologist needs to intervene to either help to repair the family unit or take action to protect the minor children.

What does a family psychologist do?

A family psychologist is able to diagnose and treat each member of a family either individually or as a group and is trained to deal with issues that arise within the family setting. This can include marital issues, child-rearing problems, adolescent and teen rebellion. They help evaluate, diagnose and treat indicators of mental illness and signs of psychological distress within the family unit. They specialize in divorce counseling, child counseling, family counseling and relationship counseling. Some tasks of this career path:

•Diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders
•Working with the family through allegations of abuse and neglect
•Helping to restore the family unit
•Developing treatment plans for family crisis situations
•Assisting in developing communication skills for the family
•Working with individual or multiple family members on self-esteem issues, depression, anxiety, anger, grief and other personal problems that may be affecting the family as a whole

How much do family psychologists earn?

The salary prediction for this field is expected to grow by 29 percent between 2011 and 2022. The salaries for this field begin around $72,000, but increase with education, level of experience, expertise, location and type of facility or practice you work in. A family psychologist can make over $100,000 per year, especially if they are in private practice, or work as a contractor with an agency where families are referred to their practice.

What types of skills are necessary to be successful in this field?

There are a number of skills and qualities associated with being a family psychologist. Some of these skills and qualities are:

Good communication skills: A family psychologist must be able to communicate with patients and doctors on all levels to assess, diagnose and treat issues occurring within the family unit.

Good ethical judgment: A good family psychologist must be able to remain unbiased in every situation, looking at the facts and recommending the right course of action and treatment to help solve problems.

Ability to work with others: This role must be able to work with a variety of individuals and convey information in a clear and concise way.

A working knowledge of all laws and regulations: Knowing the law is a must for any psychologist, and staying within those boundaries is key in avoiding legal implications.

Compassion for others: The family psychologist will see and hear many things. Having a high level of compassion to help families work through their problems is an important aspect of the job.

The ability to keep things confidential: Doctor/Patient privilege is a must. Being able to keep certain things confidential not only helps build trust, but keeps the psychologist in compliance with the law.

The ability to have an open mind: Everyone does not see eye-to-eye. A psychologist must be able to hear and see what the patient is trying to convey, regardless of how far-fetched it may seem.

Patience: Patience is very important in this field. There may be times when you cannot get all the information you need, or you may become frustrated with the circumstances. Being patient is one of the keys to having a good relationship with patients and other physicians.

Good public speaking skills: Being able to speak clearly to others and disseminate information to a variety of people is crucial in this field. Having good public speaking skills is a necessity.

Internship requirements

There are a number of clinical hours required for psychology degrees. For a bachelor’s degree, the internship is a class that will award three credit hours of internship credit. The hours may be increased based on the school and program. For the master’s program, a number of clinical internships are required for completion of the program. A doctoral program is heavily immersed in clinical studies, and several years of experience in clinical are required to complete this program and become certified in the area.

Education requirements

The educational requirements to become a psychologist are very detailed. The first step is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Some people may start by getting an associate’s degree in psychology, with those credits being applied toward the bachelor’s degree. Coursework in the bachelor’s degree program includes:

•Experimental Methods and Research Design
•Intro to psychology
•Personality psychology
•Abnormal psychology
•Cognitive psychology
•Psychology of learning
•Social psychology

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, a career in family psychology requires a master’s degree. To enter into the master’s program, you must prepare for, take and pass the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). Students in the master’s program will have advanced studies in the core subjects that were covered at the undergraduate level.
Once the master’s program is completed, you may become licensed in different states to work in certain areas. A counseling psychologist requires a master’s degree and clinical experience working with patients to become licensed. This certification will grant you the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) designation. There are also additional requirements needed, such as an exam from the state licensing board.

After the master’s degree, deciding whether or not you want to be able to clinically diagnose and treat patients with or without medication will be the next step. For individuals who want to work as a family psychologist that can clinically treat patients, they must prepare for a doctoral degree.

A doctoral degree for a clinical family psychologist is a PsyD degree. This includes years of clinical, in addition to the classroom learning environment. The program is typically another four to six years after the master’s degree and includes clinical hours as a requirement as well as classroom learning. Coursework for this program includes:

•Cognitive Bases of Behavior
•Behavioral Assessment and Intervention
•Cognitive Assessment
•Advanced Clinical Psychopathology
•Interviewing and Intake Evaluation
•Ethical, Legal and professional Issues
•Personality Assessment
•Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology

After the coursework and program is completed, you will be eligible to become certified by the American Board of Professional Psychologists (ABPP). This requires a doctoral degree, passing scores on the examination, and a number of years working in the specialty. You must also hold a state license in psychology.

Once all the educational requirements are completed, this career can be very lucrative for anyone who wishes to make a difference.

Psychology Scholarships

American Psychological Foundation Scholarships Association of Black Psychologists Epilepsy Foundation
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship Future Counselors of America Scholarship Gallagher Koster Health Careers Scholarship
Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award NIH Undergraduate Scholarship NAJA Graduate Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Psi Chi Awards and Grants Wayne F. Placek Grants

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For 80 years, we’ve been preparing students for career success. We’ve led the wayso that our students can too.


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