Family Psychology

Family psychology is a specialized field within the broad field of psychology. The interpersonal systems which exist within families can pose a wide variety of challenges and complications which need to be addressed. A family psychologist is a specialist who is capable of handling these issues and providing individuals the help they need to cope.

If you are interested in becoming a family psychologist, you will first need to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program in psychology. Since family psychology is a highly specialized branch of psychology, you will also need to purse a master’s degree and potentially a Ph.D. degree in the field too.  

What is Family Psychology?

A family psychologist is a professional who is trained to deal with the relationships which exist within a family. One of the essential elements of this specialty is a keen understanding of general systems theory as well as the application of systemic concepts as they apply to human interactions and relationships.

For individuals aspiring to become a family psychologist, an understanding of a number of facets of psychology is essential, including:

  • Psychopathology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Methods and models of couple and family therapy
  • Personality theory
  • Family legal and ethical issues
  • Group and organizational dynamics
  • Methods of family research
  • Ecological psychology
  • Communication theory
  • Models of family functioning
  • Family assessment

Family psychologists work closely with different relationships within a family unit. They carry out assessments, consultations, and even provide counseling and therapy. They also carry out education and training workshops, do research relating to familial relationships, and advocate for policies that affect families.

Degrees in Family Psychology

Since family psychology is a specialty field within psychology, individuals interested in pursuing this profession typically start out by enrolling in an undergraduate program in psychology. Specialization in this field may come in the form of a masters or Ph.D. or it may involve taking special courses. 

If you are interested in becoming a family psychologist, this is generally the educational path you need to follow:

Degree Duration
Bachelor's degree in Psychology 4 years
Master's degree in clinical psychology 2 years
Ph.D. in family psychology 2-4 years

Some of the universities which offer programs in family psychology include:

University Degree Offered
Seton Hall University Ph.D. in Family Psychology
Fordham University Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Child and Family
Lewis Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling Graduate program in Counseling Psychology
San Francisco State University Master of Science in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling (MFT)

Family Psychology Bachelors Programs

There are no dedicated family psychology programs at the undergraduate level. Instead, students have to enroll in a general psychology program. While taking this course, students can take courses which would be beneficial to a family psychology career. This includes personality and social psychology and developmental psychology.

Master’s degree in Family Psychology

Master’s programs in family psychology are also rare. However, there are a few schools which offer programs in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling or Counseling Psychology.

At this stage, students will be introduced to the key concepts of family psychology including the main psychotherapeutic approaches to counseling families. In addition, family therapy interventions, research methods, and psychological assessment techniques are all studied.

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered
Master's degree in Counseling 2 years
  • Theories of Counseling
  • Group Counseling Process
  • Couples and Family Counseling
  • Family systems course
  • Legal and ethical issues in psychology

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

 In order to work as a family psychologist, you will need a doctoral degree in the field. The Ph.D. in family psychology is designed to give students an advanced understanding of family therapy and psychology.

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered
Ph.D. in Family Psychology 2-4 years
  • Family Systems: Theory and Practice
  • Child Psychotherapy
  • Trauma and Family Violence
  • Developmental Psychopathology

Career Prospects and Salary

There are no specific statistics for how much a family psychologist earns. Instead, figures for how much psychologists earn are available. According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) psychologists made an annual median salary of $72,580 in 2015. The profession is also expected to experience a 19% growth in employment between 2014 and 2024.

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