To achieve effective results with couples, specific post-graduate education in marriage, relationship or sexual counselling is required and very important. General counselling training just covers in most at most two units dealing with working with couples, however there are a few institutions that offer this course as part of their overall professional development. Most accredited programs have a minimum of three years of relevant experience in a relevant placement with a professional organization or agency, and may include specialized areas like family systems, parenting, trauma and couples counselling. It is also important for the therapist to have a strong understanding of human sexuality and a passion for helping people in need.
The role of the therapist in couples therapy usually starts with the assessment of the couple and their relationship. After assessing the couples, the therapist will then carry out a detailed analysis of the issues affecting the couple, and recommend solutions based on the identified needs of the patients. This is usually carried out through the use of questionnaires and interviews where the therapists gain insight into the couple’s backgrounds, their sexual and emotional experiences and even their future plans for marriage and relationship counselling. Although these professionals have been trained in interpersonal communication skills and psychology, it is important that they are aware of the different sexual orientations as well as their own personal preferences.
To become a qualified marriage counsellor or relationship counsellor you will need at least a diploma in a relevant area of this discipline, plus several years of relevant experience in this field. For the purpose of this accreditation the level 1 qualification is considered to be the minimum requirement, however some organizations require higher levels of education and training before they will consider you eligible to apply for this position. Some organizations require potential candidates to first complete an introductory course on marriage counselling, and to successfully complete a level 1 training program in relationship counselling. At the end of the program, potential candidates will be required to successfully complete a competency based assessment test (in some cases this may also be called a practicum or internship). Once all assessments are passed and courses are completed, a candidate can expect to be accepted into the program.
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