How is School Counseling Different Than Marriage & Family Therapy?

You are confident that you want to pursue a degree in counseling, but you are unsure of whether that means you want to assist students, or work with individuals or communities. While there is some overlap, the following breakdown of programs should help you determine which path you should take.

What is school counseling?

School counseling focuses on supporting the entire student body with career, academic, and social/emotional issues in K-12 education. They focus on schoolwide prevention and intervention working with all partners in the school community: parents, teachers, administrators, and the larger community.

School Counseling graduates work in settings that support children, youth, young adults, and families. Here are some examples:

  • Community Behavioral Health Counselor – Mental Health Programs
  • Program Manager – Educational Opportunity Programs
  • School Counselor – Public and Private K-12 Schools

On any given day, a school counselor provides counseling to students, interprets tests, advocates for students, plans academic programming for students or helps school leadership identify and resolve student issues.

Follow a day in the life of school counseling student, Oriana Ides:


What is marriage and family therapy?

Marriage and family therapy considers the relationships an individual is a part of as essential factors in a treatment plan. Approximately half of a marriage and family therapist's time is spent in individual therapy sessions, while the other time is dedicated to couple and/or family counseling. Marriage and family therapy tends to be short-term and solutions-based.

As a graduate of a Marriage and Family Therapy program, there are many professional paths open to you:

  • Clinical Supervisor
  • Mental Health Consultant
  • College Counselor
  • Private Practice
  • Community Mental Health Therapist

A Marriage and Family therapist might be in a private or group practice setting meeting with individual clients, or consulting with community based organizations throughout a typical work day

In addition to Marriage and Family Therapy and School Counseling you might also consider Social Work, Clinical Psychology, or Professional Clinical Counseling. No matter what type of program you are considering - do your homework to make sure you are applying for the degree that will serve your ultimate career goals.

Marriage and Family Therapy program alumni Aaron Horn discusses mentoring students and generating interest in class work as a way of developing motivation, self esteem and self confidence:

 Trying to determine which path is best for you? We recommend asking yourself:

  1. Which population do I want to work with?

  2. What am I interested in doing on a day to day basis?

  3. What kind of setting am I interested in working in?

  4. How long do I want to be in school?