Marriage And Family Therapy Essay

The institution of marriage is recognized by the U.S. Constitution as a civil right, and the freedom to marry has been established as one of the individual rights which are a component of each Americans pursuit of happiness. However, in contrast to 1960, when 72 percent of those 18 or older were married, today less than 51 percent of persons in the U.S. are married (Cohn, Passel, Wang,

&amp; Livingston, 2011). The Pew Report (2010) defined married persons as married adults ages 18 and older with spouse present or absent excluding separated couples. In light of the fact that most analytical data on married couples determined the divorce rate to be at least 50% for both Christian and secular marriages, the premise of this paper is that family psychotherapy when implemented professionally is a viable means for relationship satisfaction.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Furthermore, psychotherapy can provide service to children as products of divorce, diverse family structures, and implement best practice models for relationship disputes. This report will also examine the systems theory which views psychological problems as stemming from internal environmental factors combined with inter-generational family systems. According to Hook and Worthington (2009), 82% of American adults identify themselves as Christian, and most adults are married or in a committed couple relationship. Therefore, the current decline of married couples along with the influx of divorces may be attributed to a lack of knowledge regarding family systems theory, spiritual foundations for marriage, and family therapy benefits.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Research Paper: Marriage Couple and Family Counseling<br /> During the last three decades America has witnessed diverse changes to the definition of marriage, and the family structure has been evolving simultaneously. In the book titled The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling (Clinton &amp; Hawkins, 2011) marriage is described as our most treasured human relationship. The institution of marriage is recognized by the United States Constitution as a civil right, and the freedom to marry was formerly established as one of the individual rights which are a component established for each citizen. Our nations originators declared that citizens under the U.S. government would be guaranteed certain unalienable rights bestowed upon them by their Creator as they pursue happiness (Hall, 1980, pp. 365-366). However, opponents of the traditional model of marriage are locked in a battle over the redefinition of marriage from the union of a man and a woman to the union of any two persons (Stewart, 2008). Nevertheless, in stark contrast to 1960 when it was reported that 72 percent of persons 18 or older were listed as married, today less than 51 percent of persons in the U.S. are claiming marital status (Cohn, Passel, Wang, &amp; Livingston, 2011).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Pew Report (2010) defines married persons as, married adults ages 18 and older with spouse present or absent excluding separated couples. Another trend which has been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) is the divorce rate which is 50 percent for both Christian and secular marriages. Moreover, the family is defined as, The basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children (Merriam-Webster, 2011). In contrast, the contemporary psychotherapist compartmentalizes the family from a systems perspective and in turn focuses upon the human condition and views this family dynamic as a unit (Clinton &amp; Hawkins, 2011). The current definition of family (i.e. nuclear or extended) filtered through the eyes of the family systems theory is, as a family system which functions because it is a unit, and every family member plays a critical, if not unique role in the system (The American Heritage Medical Dictionary, 2007). Formerly, families were seen as a group of independent agents that are linked by their membership in the family and each members behavior may be unconnected and apart from other family members (Clinton &amp; Hawkins, 2011). According to Clinton &amp; Hawkins (p. 125) under the framework of the systems theory the rate of therapeutic intervention increases when the effects of systemic factors are incorporated instead of discarded to promote change. Premise of Marriage</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The current sanctity of marriage and family is based upon the traditional view that this union is solely for a man and a women under the umbrella of Holy Matrimony. However, it is apparent that constitutional norms are in danger of being overturned due to public policy that seeks to classify gender as irrelevant. The confusion and conflict that has arisen over the traditional premises of marriage which are based upon constitutional law has arisen because appellate court administrators have failed in upholding the established rule of law (Stewart, p. 315, 2008). Secondly, the legal system did not feel it necessary to legislate marriage by limiting the union to a man and a woman. But just over the horizon is the term, union of any two persons, looming at Americas door step.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">According to Cade (2010), there is a movement by some religious groups, and state legislatures to undergird the institution of marriage by classifying the institution as a Covenant. The overall premise of covenant marriage is the idea that marriage extends the concept of the marriage contract by legally deeming it a lifelong commitment. The commitment contract is inclusive of a supportive community which in turn is upheld by evangelical Christians.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In lieu of the raging debate to abolish legal marriage altogether it is estimated that all relationships including traditional and alternative relationships evolve and undergo some form of conflict, anxiety, guilt, depression, anger, low tolerance, and emotional turbulence. The psychotherapeutic process is useful in giving individuals, couples, families a method of self-observation and self-assessment tools to alleviate the impact of the afore mentioned problems (Clinton &amp; Ohlschlager, G. (2002). There is myriad of licensed professional marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, mental health professionals who are sworn to abide by the rule of ethics, do no harm (American Psychological Association). Impact of Marriage upon Family Structures</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Bible states that the origin of the family is God centered and attributable to His design for creation. According to Kostenberger, and Jones (2004), the Bible also addresses an entire range of issues connected to marriage, and family-extended subjects such as human sexuality, gender, reproduction, parenthood, and more. This record states that He created them in His own image and made them male and female (Genesis 1:27). Furthermore, the first familys creator admonished the couple to be fruitful and to multiply (Genesis 1:27-28). As Clinton &amp; Ohlschlager (2011), stated that subscribers of psychotherapy must be made aware that God created us with a healthy reflective nature of sensualities and erotic inclinations. Thus it is the parent(s) or caregivers responsibility to train offspring how to harness sexual desires. Social and religious conservatives are sounding the alarm regarding the decline of marriage and the influx of nonmarital families (Scott, p. 537, 2007). In spite of all of the conflict and debate marriage has retained its traditional influence upon the family structure. Gay marriage advocates argue that the influence of the traditional family roles is outdated and biased due to its patriarchal nature along with its values that exclude diversity (Scott). Furthermore, advocates for implementing an alternative family structure contend that the traditional family structure is rooted in historical traditions and want to replace it with a semblance of the positive attributes of marriage (Scott, p. 538).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The traditional setting of marriage and family structure was for the procreation and child cultivation of its members. According to Mohler (2007), For the first time in its history, Western civilization is confronted with the need to define the meaning of the terms ˜marriage and ˜family. According to Goldenberg and Goldenberg (1985), family is described as a natural social system unique with properties all its own, inclusive of a set of rules, roles, power structure, communication patterns, and ways of regulation and problem solving. According to Clinton &amp; Ohlschlager, (2010) the two parent family with biological children all living together is becoming almost non-existent in America. The trend is moving towards single-parent blended multigenerational systems along with other types found in America (Clinton, 519).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">If one takes the position that life is the design of a creator, then humanity must recognize its godly parentage and ancestry. By accepting this sobering truth marriage partners, couples and family members must give credence to the fallen nature of man (i.e. humanity) as a preexisting condition. According to Sedlacek (2011), the first task of a Christian counselor during the initial assessment is to determine which nature (i.e. spiritual or carnal) predominates in a clients life (Romans 8:6-8). Professional Ethics</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The professional practice of couples and family therapy is controlled by state laws, professional specialty guidelines, ethics codes, peer review, continuing education, managed care and consultation (Goldenberg &amp; Goldenberg, 2000). The practitioner must remain abreast of their primary duty when servicing clients by striving to do no harm, and by following ethical and legal practice at all times (Corey &amp; Callanan, p. 180, 2011).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The practice of family therapy codices were developed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (2001) for the purpose of advancing the welfare of families and individuals. The AAMFT devised ethical standards based upon a framework for many ethical issues that practitioners will encounter during practice as follows: (1) Responsibility to clients; (2) Confidentiality; (3) Professional competence and integrity; (4) Responsibility to students and supervisees; (5) Responsibility to research participants; (6) Responsibility to the profession; (7) Financial arrangements; and (8) advertising (Corey &amp; Callanan, 2011). Couples and Family Therapy</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The practice of helping couples and family during therapy is derived from systems therapy (Corey &amp; Callanan, 2011). The basic premise of the systems theory is that psychological problems are viewed as stemming from the individuals present environment and the inter-generational family system (Corey). According to Corey and Callanan (2011), the dysfunctional symptoms of problem behavior are traceable to the inherited blueprint of families, and may very well be an outcome how the system functions. Furthermore, Corey et al. stated that the family systems approach is predicated upon the following behavioral assumptions: (1) the clients problem behavior may serve a purpose or function for the family, (2) be a malfunction which impedes family efficiency, (3) the behavior may be a symptom of dysfunctional family patterns passed down from prior generations.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Other psychological therapeutic approaches that have been used successfully in couples and family therapy are; Bowens multigenerational family therapy model, Satirs human validation process model, and Whitakers experiential approach, structural family therapy, strategic family therapy, and social construction models of family therapy (Corey, 2001). Christian Couple Counseling</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">As stated previously in the discussion one of the contributing factors for a spiraling divorce rate may be the loss of a biblical understanding of marriage and family especially among Christians (Kostenberger &amp; Jones, 2004, p. 69). Also, at this current time Christian counselors cannot refer to one specific diagnostic framework. However, according to Clinton et al. (Clinton &amp; Ohlschlager, 2002) there are four types of marital interventions specifically tailored for Christians as follows; (1) preparation for marriage; (2) marriage enrichment; (3) church and community-based interventions, inclusive of Christian education for marriage, marriage mentoring, and lay marriage counseling; and (4) marital therapy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Practitioners in the counseling profession will encounter couples, individuals and families from diverse cultural traditions and values in contrast to their own. According to Corey &amp; Callanan (2011), whenever there is a cultural difference counseling professionals should acquaint themselves to the manner that clients approach the counseling session. The key is to avoid countertransference which simply is a desire to please the client through compromise of personal values. Clinton and Hawkins (2011), advice is when dealing with culturally diverse clients is to use direct, and active interventions by way of self-disclosure. Diller (2011) promotes the idea of the professional addressing culturally diverse clients with cultural competence. Cultural competence is the ability to provide helping services cross-culturally (p. 32).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The intervention program model that is considered by professionals as scientifically sound and empirically based is The Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) which was authored by Markman, et al. (1993). The authors of PREP have utilized three classifications applied to levels of marital distress: (1) primary, (2) secondary, and tertiary (Heller &amp; Monahan, 1977). The most common classification utilized for marital distress is psychotherapy or tertiary prevention. The program was designed by the authors with the purpose of promoting better marriages and can be implemented by pastors, practitioners, and counselors alike. The program consists of two formats, extended and regular session intervention. Couples are expected to work with a communication consultant for weekly sessions lasting from 2 to 2 ½ hours with groups of 4 to 8 couples. The sessions focus on enhancing communication skills or addressing relationship issues. The value of this program model is that each couple is assigned a consultant who acts as a coach to provide constructive feedback. The PREP program was designed to teach premarital couples the skills and best practices for marital success. Also, the program is flexible enough to be incorporated into a premarital counseling format for clergy professionals (Renick, Blumberg, Markman, &amp; Howard, 1992, p. 141).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Another intervention program is the Marriage Enrichment model which was designed to promote better relationships for couples that experience a normal relationship. According to Clinton &amp; Ohlschlager (2002), the targeted population consists of the following; (1) couples that function well, (2) couples with an average number of problems, and (3) couples with subclinical (i.e. early stage) problems.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Research on marriage enrichment conducted by Hight (2000) found that couples receiving marriage enrichment improved considerably across a broad spectrum of programs. A well-known enrichment program developed by Worthington et al. (1997) called Hope Focused Relationship Enhancement, is highly esteemed due to its uniformity with theological principals. Hope focused relationship enhancement is highly recommend by Christian therapists as a way to rescue at-risk marital relationships. The strengths of HFRE are as follows: (1) Hope for the relationship is maximized through initial written feedback; (2) HFRE utilizes a strategy inclusive of love, work, and faith; (3) The enhancement of love by practicing valuing through STEPS intervention; and (4) Breaking negative exchange cycles by utilizing valuing during conflict.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The pastoral counseling which is utilized by church and community based marital interventions is the most prevalent form of intervention among helping professionals. Although pastors do more counseling than other professionals there is a lack of empirical data to substantiate its efficacy. According to Clinton et al. though many parishioners prefer pastoral based enrichment counseling there is no data to validate professional practice. Serving Children who are the Product of Divorce</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Due to the high influx rates of divorce child therapy is relied upon and currently is in great demand. According to Karen Horney (2011), it is theorized that all children need to feel safe and secure in their environments, but these can only be gained through the love and affection of parents. A child that feels neglected, dominated, rejected, may lead to basic hostility towards their parents. Theorists estimate that the trauma and impact of divorce affect preadolescence children to a greater degree than adolescents and teenagers. Therefore, children under such conditions can benefit from counseling intervention. Furthermore, the effects of divorce can be traumatic for preteens, and the myth that, kids will simply snap out of it are utterly false. When counseling children it is of utmost importance that the practitioner becomes familiar with laws that deal with minors and adolescents governing their particular state (Barnett, Hillard, &amp; Lowery, 2001). Parents and legal caregivers under some circumstances are entitled to general information from the counselor in regards to progress, without allowing access to a records review (Corey, and Callanan, 2011).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Also, informed consent of parents or guardians may not be required in cases where the minor is as follows: seeking counseling for dangerous drugs or narcotics, sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, birth control, or sexual assault. School counselors are not required to obtain parental consent unless it is a state requirement. The current practice is to call upon a child therapist to conduct a custody evaluation. The question that ultimately affects the stability of the child is, what is the best interest of the child? (Clinton &amp; Ohlschlager, 2002). Another critical issue that frequently arises in counseling children is the conflict between legal and ethical standards (Corey &amp; Callanan, 2011). In such matters it is prudent for practitioners to seek the advice and guidance from other trained professionals or supervisors (p. 11). Margolin (1982) reminds therapists that legal obligations to clients sometimes require them to place the welfare of a child over that of a familial relationship. Comparison: Secular vs. Christian Counseling</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The secular counseling organization is regulated by the American Counseling Association (ACA). This organization was established to serve clients by enhancing human development principles throughout the clients existence. A cross cultural approach is utilized to support the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of people from a cultural interpersonal, and intrapersonal approach from a perspective garnered from five main purposes. Both counseling organizations have some similarities due to similar instances occurring when servicing clients. However, the primary difference is that the AACC adopts a Christian worldview perspective whereas the ACA does not incorporate spirituality in practice. At the onset it is evident that Christian counselors lack the benefit of referring to a standard diagnostic framework (e.g. DSM-V).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">According to Sedlacek (2011), the Christian is left with a situation where there is sufficient spiritual assessment and a host of credible biblical interventions but no means of problem formulation leading to a diagnosis (p. 8). However, Christian counseling has grown to international proportions and services a host of clients from a unique worldview perspective. Christian counseling is regulated by the American Association of Christian Counselors, (2004). Clinton and Hawkins (2011) stated that the goal of Christian counseling is to help persons deal with tragic losses, illness, conflicts, and mental disorders. The ultimate overarching goal is to help clients adopt a lifestyle that is Christ centered and develop intimate relationship with both God and humanity (Crabb, 1977). Areas for Improvement</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The AACC must continue to strive to implement a diagnostic framework for the treatment of spiritual conditions. In order to improve Christian counseling, according to Clinton and Ohlschlager (2002), the Christian counseling profession must provide direction, empirical support, and enhance theories that are marked differences from secular counseling approaches. Also, the body of literary professional literature must increase to meet the challenges of family and couples counseling (Clinton et al.) However, in the book Caring for People Gods Way (Clinton, Hart, &amp; Ohlschlager, 2005) the authors have outlined seven steps to recovery that are utilized by Christian practitioners today (Clinton &amp; Hawkins, 2011). In order for Christian counselors to become more viable as salt and light, in the world, Worthington et al. (1996), stated the proponents of Christian therapy must work to integrate theology and psychology. Conclusion</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The family is the social system that all societies refer to for the replacement of its members (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 1968). In a broader sense, family is defined more liberally as consisting of persons inhabiting a common dwelling unit which may or may not be related. Historically, as previously stated marriage has been intertwined with the definition of family which meant the cohabitation of a man and a woman in a monogamous relationship (Martinson, 1960). However, many civil rights groups are joining forces to dismantle the current definition of marriage and amend it to be more inclusive of homogenous and heterogamous relationships. The social environment and its interactive relationships such as ones family, culture, neighborhood, ethnicity, community, church, and gender dynamics will continue to pose challenges for individuals.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Nevertheless, the fact of the matter still remains; married couples, individuals, and diverse family structures will require implementation of psychological therapeutic intervention models. In spite of the current decline of married couples, the influx of divorce and persons opting for alternative lifestyles there will still be a demand for human service professionals. The broader intent of this discussion was to provide an objective view of Christian marriage and family interventions that promote better marriages. The interventions discussed included the following: preparation for marriage, marriage enrichment, church and community based interventions, marriage mentoring, marital therapy were reviewed as a means for family enrichment, couple enhancement, prevention of problems, and proposed therapies (e.g. Hope-focused relationship enhancement) to strengthen family structures.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> References<br /> American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. (2001). AAMFT Code of Ethics Regular. American Association of Christian Counselors. (1990). American Association of Christian Counselors membership registry. Jackson, Miss.: The Association. American Association of Christian Counselors. (2004). American Association of Christian counselors code of ethics. Forest, VA. Retrieved from http://www.aacc.net/ American Psychological Association. (2003). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. Anonymous &amp; International Association of Marriage and Family Counseling. (2006). Ethical code for the international association of marriage and family counseling. The Family Journal, 14(1), 92-98. doi:10.1177/1066480705282058 Barnett, J.E., Hillard, D., &amp; Lowry, K. (2001). Ethical and legal issues in the treatment: Innovations in clinical (pp. 257-272). Sarasota, FL: Professional Resources Press. Bowen, M. (1978). Family therapy in clinical practice. New York: Jason Aronson. Cade, R. (2010). Covenant marriage. The Family Journal, 18(3), 230-233. doi:10.1177/1066480710372072 Centers for Disease Control. (2010). Marriage and divorce (pp. 365-366). San Francisco, CA: Foundation for American Christian Education. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/divorce.htm Clinton, T., &amp; Hawkins, R. (2011). The popular encyclopedia of Christian counseling: An indispensable tool for helping people with their problems. Eugene Oregon: Harvest House Publishers. Clinton, T., &amp; Ohlschlager, G. (2002). Competent Christian Counseling. Colorado Spring, CO: Waterbrook Press. Clinton, T., Hart, A., &amp; Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God&#8217;s way. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson. Cohn, D., Passel, J., Wang, W., &amp; Livingston, G. (2011). The decline of marriage and rise of new families. Pew Social &amp; Demographic Trends, 1(1), 1-17. Corey, C., &amp; Callanan. (2011). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. Crabb, L. (1977). Effective Biblical counseling: A model for helping caring Christians become capable counselors. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Diller, J. V. (2011). Cultural diversity: A primer for the human services. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. ISBN: 978-0-8400-3225-6. Goldenberg, I., &amp; Goldenberg, H.<br /> (1985). Family therapy: An overview 2nd ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Hall, V.M. (1980). The Christian history of the Constitution (pp. 365-366). San Francisco, CA: Foundation for American Christian Education. Heller, K.Y., &amp; Monahan, J. (1977). Psychology and community change. Ontario, Canada: The Dorsey Press. Hook, J.N., &amp; Worthington, E. L. JR. (2009). Christian couple counseling by professional. Pastoral and lay counselors from a protestant prospective: A nationwide survey. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 37(1), 169-183. Horney, K. (2011), Karen Horney, The glaring facts. Feminine Psychology</p> <p style="text-align: center;">pg. 2-3 life<br /> International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. (1968). Marriage:. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045000773.html Kostenberger, A. J., &amp; Jones, D. W. (2004). God, Marriage and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (p. 69). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. Margolin, G. (1982). Ethical and legal considerations in marital and family therapy. American Psychotherapy, 37(7), 788-801. Markman, H.J., &amp; Stanley, S. (2010). Fighting for your marriage. 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Martinson, F.M. (1960). Marriage and the American ideal. New York: Dodd, Mead. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045000773.html Merriam-Webster. (2011). Webster&#8217;s online dictionary, 11th edition. Group International. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/ Mohler, R.A. (2007). God, marriage, and family: Rebuilding the biblical foundation. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 50(1), 167-171. Morgan, O.J. (2007). Counseling and spirituality: Views from the profession. Boston, MA: Lahaska Press. Pew Research Center. (2010). The decline of marriage and rise of new families. Pew Research Center: A Social &amp; Demographic Trends Report, 1(1), 1-122. Renick, M. J., Blumberg, S. L., Markman, &amp; Howard, J. (1992). The prevention and relationship enhancement program (PREP): An empirically based preventive intervention program for couples. Family Relations, 41(2), 141-147. Satir, V., Gomori, M., Banmen, J., &amp; Gerber, J.S. (1991). The Satir model: Family therapy and beyond. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books. ISBN 0-8314-0078-1. Scott, E.S. (2007, Fall). A world without marriage. Family Law Quarterly, 41(3), 537-567. Sedlacek, D. (2011, December). Biblical<br /> diagnosis: a tool for Christian counselors. Christian Counseling Connection, 16(1), 3-16. Stewart, M.N. (2008). Marriage facts. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 31(1), 313-345. The American Heritage Medical Dictionary. (2007). Family therapy. Retrieved from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Family+Therapy Worthington, E.L., Jr., Hight, T.L., Ripley, J. S., Perrone, K.M., Kurusu, T.A., &amp; Jones, D.R. (1997). Strategic hope-focused relationship-enrichment counseling with individual couples. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 44, 381-389. Worthington, Jr., ELK., TAM., M.E., &amp; Sandage, S.J. (1996). Empirical research on religion and psychotherapeutic processes and outcomes: A 10-year review and. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 448-487.</p>

Marriage Family Therapist

The field of Marriage Family Therapy is exciting in many aspects.  The road to becoming an MFT is said to be trying, however the rewards of such a gratifying career seem to far out weigh the lengthy education requirements.

MFT's are let into countless lives and become the confidants of many different people during their careers.   They are often a huge part of individuals getting the help and support they need to turn their lives around and repair and rebuild broken relationships. Having the determination, personal skills and compassion to handle a career like this is only half the battle. It takes many years of training for an individual to be able to hold the title and accomplish the myriad of tasks a MFT can be faced with.

Lia Huynh is one such individual who was naturally gifted at being a confidant and giving personal advice to people who needed it. She turned this gift into a career through a lot of hard work and perseverance. Lia, even as a young adult, was often turned to when friends needed guidance and advice. She thought of this as a gift; she was honored that people wanted to invite her into their personal lives in that way.

In her interview, you'll see that Lia still considers this a gift and has an amazing attitude that no doubt helps her in her work with clients.

Where did you attend school? Undergrad?  How did you first become interested in marriage and family therapy?Grad? How long did it take to become certified?

I attended UCLA for undergrad and San Francisco State University for graduate school. Took me two and 1/2 years to finish my master's program because I got a dual master's degree in Marriage Family Therapy and also School counseling. From there, I had to accrue 3000 hours and sit for my licensing board's examination. The 3000 hours took me nine years, because I took some detours along the way, and also because collecting those hours are pretty grueling (a lot of people don't finish), but I did it. Some people can do it much sooner if they are very determined.

How did you become interested in MFT?

My mother is a great listener and I'd like to think I learned a thing or two from her.( She used to be a bartender and she spent a lot of time doing free counseling!) Anyway, from a young age, I was always the one that people went to when they had problems. I remember feeling very privileged that people would let me into their lives, and it felt good to help them. I know that some people don't know what to say when someone has a problem. For me, it was natural.

When I was a senior in high school, I ended up taking a Peer Counseling Class. At that age, everyone followed their friends when it came to electives, and none of my friends were vaguely interested in Peer Counseling. I didn't care. I enjoyed learning about active listening and using reflections; my teacher said I was good at it and should consider it as a career. A career? I didn't even know you could get paid to do this, let alone let it be a career.

During what part of your education did you have to make a decision to go full steam ahead toward this practice?

I was deciding between business and psychology at first. Business for practical reasons--more financial stability. I was lucky, though, that my parents (unlike a lot of my friends' parents) did not pressure me into doing the "safe" major but told me to just choose something I liked.  So I made the decision and it was so fun and interesting to me that I never questioned it.

What was the hardest part of your education process? Did you have any setbacks, challenges, or epiphanies along the way?

I think the hardest part was deciding what kind of graduate education I was going to get.  I wanted to get a PhD but it is very expensive to go to a private school and public schools in California that have PhD programs are very difficult to get into. I think it was something like 6 people out of 300 applicants got in so basically I had a 2% chance.

I decided to give it a shot and attempt doing what I needed to do to give me a good chance of getting in. Then I was a research assistant and at the end of that stint, I decided I didn't want to do research and was reminded about that peer counseling class and how much I wanted to be a clinician, not a researcher. So it was a no brainer. I took a year off to work, got some experience, and applied for schools and I was on my way.

Tell us about your practice. It seems as though you are versed in many aspects of therapy?

I see a broad range of clients. I get a lot of people wanting marriage counseling because it's in my title, but I also get a lot of people dealing with Depression, Anxiety, loss, identity crises, or just people who are stuck in a rut and want to get out. I tend to see people in the younger range (40's and below), although I do see people who are older and we do fine together.  I also see a lot of Asian Americans who are looking for someone who shares their culture and similar family history.

Are you continually surprised by some of the topics you deal with on a daily basis? If so, what aspects of your education and training have been most crucial to your success? Give us some examples of the day to day processes you maintain as a therapist.

I am surprised and I'm not. I feel like the human condition has not really changed since the beginning of mankind. So the specifics of people's lives are different, which is what makes therapy fun and exciting, but the core issues like disappointment, anger, pain, as well as love and  healing, are the same. Underneath all the specifics are the core issues that everyone on some level can relate to. Uncovering those core issues is what the art of therapy is.

In terms of my education, I feel that the biggest influences on my identity as a therapist has been one where we are taught that it's more important to BE a therapist rather than DO therapy. That our own character and the relationship we foster with our client is what is going to bring change. Yes, we need technique. We need to know who Freud is. But our foundation is what we bring as a person into the therapy room. I learned that you cannot "learn" from a textbook how to be a good therapist, that it comes from living life and dealing with problems, getting through problems, feeling your feelings and finding healing so that you can show your clients with confidence that "if I can do it, so can you."

Day to day is pretty structured. I spend a lot of time talking with new potential clients--psychotherapy can be a very mysterious process, so people often have a lot of questions, and for good reason. I like to educate my clients and help them find the best solution, whether they decide to book an appointment with me or not. I see clients in 45 minute blocks and spend time at the end of my day doing charting. I try to have lunch with a colleague regularly to find support, and also attend seminars and do a lot of reading on various techniques and the newest research.

Who/what are some of your biggest influences? Any recommendations of authors, speakers, or experts you suggest to follow for folks interested in marriage and family therapy as a career?

I like John Gottman for all things having to do with marriage. I enjoy Dr. Daniel Amen's Change Your Brain Change Your Life , for some of my clients who want a scientific view of what's going on in their brains. I also enjoy Martin Seligman and positive psychology. Irvin Yalom is great.

How do you promote your business? Are you actively looking for new clients? How does one begin the process of developing their own practice? Challenges?

I mostly promote my business online. I do give talks and workshops from time to time but most of my business comes from people who are looking online. I am always looking for new clients. If you want to start your own practice, be prepared to work hard. There are so many intricate details involved. When you work for someone else, you get paid for everything you do (if it's a good company).

When you have your own practice, you do everything--answering phones, taking out the trash, buying paper. Of course you can hire someone, which I do for some things, but I do a lot, since I'm a perfectionist which I'm trying to work on! If one wants to begin the process of developing their own practice, I would read a lot, pick peoples' brains, and don't expect a big profit right away. You have to really love it (the process of therapy) and you really have to have a genuine desire for helping others. Good business skills also helps.

Do you intend of furthering your education at the degree level? Do you work with universities or companies for research or simply run your own practice?

I want to further my education, but not right now, I'm just too busy. I run my own practice.

If you could go back in time and choose to do your education all over again would you choose the same path? School? Business settlement?

Yes, I would do the same thing over again. No regrets.

Any final words for the future marriage and family therapists who are reading this?

I feel like when people open up to me, it is a gift that I don't treat lightly. And when I see them get better or make progress, I feel privileged that I got to be a part of that. It's such a rewarding experience. At the same token, you deal with a lot of pain, and you are reminded of your own pain when you do this work.

It's important to know that it's not easy work, and if you want to be a good therapist, you need to be able to face pain and all of the negative emotions that most of society likes to either hide from or numb themselves to avoid. So we as therapists need to take good care of ourselves, set boundaries, foster healthy relationships, learn to deal with anger and sadness, and be an example of courage to our clients.

Lia is a Marriage Family Therapists with her own practice in Milpitas California near San Jose and the Bay area. You can learn more about Lia at her website www.liahuynh.com.

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