Best Online Family Therapy Programs

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Applicants to master’s in family counseling online programs need a bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. Some programs accept applicants who majored in another subject but completed specific undergraduate prerequisites. The curriculum focuses on counseling best practices and different groups’ mental health needs.

Online family counseling programs qualify graduates to work as licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) or licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCCs). These professionals treat families in crisis. Graduates may also work as case managers or community health services managers.

This page lists the best online family counseling programs. Read on to learn about degree costs and common courses.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Family Counseling

true Q. What degree do I need to become a family counselor?

Counselors need a master’s or doctorate to qualify for licensure in their home state. These degrees convey the academic knowledge and practical experience counselors need to treat patients.

true Q. What does a family counselor do?

Family counselors work with individuals and families to identify issues affecting mental health. These discussions help counselors recommend coping techniques and resources.

true Q. What’s the difference between a family counselor and a therapist?

Both LMFTs and LPCCs treat people in need. Unlike LMFTs, LPCCs focus on substance misuse and mental health conditions. Like LMFTs, some LPCCs specialize in helping families.

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Why Get a Degree in Family Counseling?

Online family counseling programs prepare enrollees for careers as LMFTs or LPCCs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for LMFTs to grow 16% from 2020-2030. Students can work with career advisors to select the right academic path.

Learning online offers many advantages over on-campus education, such as asynchronous learning. Asynchronous learners do not attend class at set times. Instead, they schedule coursework around other responsibilities. Online family counseling degrees at the master’s level require some in-person experiences, such as residencies or internships.

How Much Does a Family Counseling Degree Cost?

According to, top private schools’ master’s in family counseling online degrees may cost more than $80,000 on average. Degree-seekers may pay a per-credit tuition rate. Most full-time students graduate in two years. Part-time enrollees need an extra year. Online learners should plan for additional expenses, such as books and travel to internship and practicum sites.

Degree-seekers can lower their expenses by applying for scholarships and grants. Students should first complete the FAFSA. Many schools and private aid programs use FAFSA results to award aid.

How Much Do Family Counseling Majors Make?

LMFTs earn a median annual salary of $51,340, according to the BLS. Professionals working for state government agencies or outpatient care centers earn the highest salaries. Geographical location also affects salary. In Utah, New Jersey, and Illinois, workers earn $67,650-$80,110. However, LMFTs making less in other states may experience a lower cost of living.

Education and experience play a major role in raising salary potential. Workers need a master’s degree for licensure. Those who pursue a Ph.D. in psychology or counseling may work as college or university lecturers or professors. Postsecondary teachers make a median annual salary of $80,560. This exceeds the median annual salary of $41,950 for all occupations.

Courses in Family Counseling

Some universities offer combined LMFT/LPCC programs. These master’s programs train learners in best practices and state regulations. Some specialization options include health psychology and Latino/a counseling. Learners take core courses alongside peers in the LMFT or LPCC track.

See below for three core courses students complete early in their program. Please note that programs’ academic offerings, practicum experiences, and other graduation requirements vary by school. Prospective enrollees can contact an admissions or academic advisor to learn more.

  • Psychology of Interpersonal Communications

    Master’s in family counseling online programs require this course in the first semester. Students learn the skills counselors and therapists need to treat patients, such as advanced therapy techniques. Enrollees also learn how to ask effective questions and gain patients’ trust. Learners critique their conversational style and improve communication skills.
  • Evidence-Based Approaches to Psychotherapy

    This course introduces students to the latest techniques in counseling and therapy. Assignments cover different counseling methods and theoretical perspectives. Other readings go in depth with research’s role in counseling. The course prepares degree-seekers to become lifelong learners and contribute throughout their career.
  • Multicultural Counseling

    This course prepares students to work with patients from many racial and ethnic backgrounds. Students analyze differences between and within groups, such as identity development, experiences, and attitudes. Learners also examine how racial and cultural privilege affects counselors’ attitudes toward patients. Coursework involves reading the latest research on multicultural counseling.

Licensure for Family Counseling

Licensure requirements for LMFTs vary by state. However, all candidates need a master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited university. They should also complete supervised work experience before and after earning a degree. Supervisors need an active LMFT license. The final step involves passing one or more exams.

Prospective LPCCs earn a license by meeting similar requirements. California residents need a master’s in counseling or psychotherapy. They must also complete 3,000 hours of postgraduate supervised experience and take two exams. These exams include a state-specific exam covering relevant laws and ethical guidelines.

LMFTs and LPCCs can maintain their license by taking continuing education (CE) courses. CE courses cover the field’s latest research and best practices. State licensure board websites feature a list of approved CE providers. Professionals can also earn CE credits by teaching a class or presenting at an academic conference. They must submit CE paperwork and a renewal fee by their state’s deadline.

Best Master’s in Family Counseling Degrees

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  1. Brigham Young University

    Provo, UT



    OverviewBrigham Young University is a private university located in Provo, UT. The school is fully owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Often referred to as BYU, it offers 68 master’s programs and 25 doctoral degree programs. Brigham Young has a student population of 33,000, around 3,000 of which are postgraduates. Program FeaturesBrigham Young offers a Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family therapy. Students choose between a clinical track or research track for their degree, depending on their career plans. Classes for each of these tracks include:

    • Research Methods for Marriage and Family Therapy
    • Addictions and Violence in Families
    • The Individual and Family Over the Life
    • Master’s Thesis
    In addition to course requirements, the clinical track requires a final presentation, while the research option requires preparation of a final thesis. Students must also complete 500 hours of direct face to face client experience, regardless of track.NotablesApplicants to the program are required to submit scores from the GRE. Students should also provide lists of clinical/human services experience and research experience. Students will also complete a video interview, for which they will receive further instructions during the application process.

  2. Pepperdine University

    Malibu, CA



    OverviewPepperdine University is a private, non-profit university located in Malibu, CA. The school has an affiliation with the Churches of Christ. In addition to their main campus in Malibu, they also offer six additional graduate campuses throughout Southern California and international campuses in Asia and Europe. Pepperdine has around 680 academic staff members and 7,800 total students.Program FeaturesPepperdine offers a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. This is a 62-unit program, which generally lasts two years. Courses required in the program include:

    • Theories of Counseling and Psychology
    • Multicultural Counseling
    • Clinical Practicum
    • Interpersonal Skills and Group Therapy
    The program meets requirements for licenses including the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist license or the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor license in California. NotablesPepperdine utilizes a small cohort method, which provides a shared-learning experience among students in the program. In addition, the program includes small class sizes and automatic class registration in each term. Students also engage in supervised counseling experience in the local community during their second year.

  3. University of San Diego

    San Diego, CA



    OverviewThe University of San Diego is a private university located in San Diego, CA. USD has an affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded in 1952 as the San Diego College for Women. The school has since expanded to offer more than 60 degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Around 6,000 students attend the school and are divided between six schools and colleges. Program FeaturesThe University of San Diego offers a Master of Family Therapy program. Full-time students generally graduate in two years and are required to complete a total of 59 units during their time in the program. Sample courses include:

    • Systematic Treatment on Children
    • Human Diversity in Family Therapy
    • Couples and Sex Therapy
    • Collaborative Care
    In addition to course requirements, students must complete a total of 500 clinical contact hours, which also includes a minimal of 250 relational hours, and 100 supervision hours (including 50 with raw data). These are completed during a student’s Practicum course towards the end of the program.NotablesAll masters and doctoral students are required to participate in an international experience, which is designed to support the growth of their cultural competency. USD’s program utilizes a biopsychosocial systems approach, which focuses on the deep relationships that evolve within families that affect people’s everyday lives.

  4. Nova Southeastern University

    Fort Lauderdale, FL



    OverviewNova Southeastern University, better known as NSU or Nova, is a private nonprofit university located in Davie, FL. Nova is currently made up of 18 colleges and schools that offer over 175 academic programs with more than 250 majors. NSU enrolled around 24,000 students during the 2014-2015 academic year and has an alumni network of over 170,000 people.Program FeaturesNova Southeastern University offers a Master of Science in Family Therapy. It is a 60 credit-hour program, which is intended to last for a total of two years. The program is designed to develop students’ research skills and prepare them for careers as marriage and family therapists. Courses from the program include:

    • Introduction to Systems Theory
    • Theories of Marital and Family Therapy
    • External Practicum I-II
    • Human Sexuality and Gender
    Students are allowed to enter the program in either the Fall or Spring semesters. They may enroll part-time of full-time, taking somewhere between six and twelve credits per semester.NotablesApplicants to the program should possess at least a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution. They should possess a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and a total score of 300 on the quantitative and verbal sections of the GRE. Students also provide letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and an academic writing sample.

  5. Syracuse University

    Syracuse, NY



    OverviewSyracuse University is a private, research university located in Syracuse, NY. The school maintains a relationship with the United Methodist Church, but has identified itself as nonsectarian since 1920. Syracuse has around 1,500 academic staff members and 22,000 total students. Syracuse is organized into 13 schools and colleges, and has an endowment of $1.25 billion.Program FeaturesSyracuse offers a Masters of Art degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. The program requires students to complete 60 credit-hours, and typically takes two years to complete. Program courses include:

    • Psychopathology
    • Introduction to Family Systems
    • Alcohol and Other Drugs in Social Work Practice
    • Marriage and Family Therapy Ethics and Issues
    The first 51 credits of the program come from a pre-set list of required courses. The final nine credits are chosen from a list of electives, which students choose after consultation with their advisors.NotablesElective courses include options such as Family Therapy with LGBT Couples and Families. Students have the option of completing the program on a 3 year, part-time basis. Students are allowed to transfer up to 12 units of degree applicable work (must have a grade of B or higher in transferred courses).

  6. Bethel University

    Saint Paul, MN



    OverviewBethel University is an evangelical Christian university located in Arden Hills, MN, just outside of St. Paul, with a second campus in San Diego, CA. The school is affiliated with the congregations of Converge, which were formerly known as the Baptist General Conference. Bethel has around 6,000 students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, seminary, and adult education programs. Program FeaturesBethel offers a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. It is a 60-unit program, which combines training in clinical practice and theory with Christian theology. Highlights from the program include:

    • Instruction and supervision by scholar-practitioners
    • Support for personal, theoretical, and spiritual integration
    • An emphasis on the self of the therapist
    • Preparation for competent, ethical practice in any setting
    Graduates from the program have gone on to careers such as school-based therapists, directors of children’s and family ministry, and case managers. Graduate employers include companies such as the Minnesota Renewal Center and the Neighborhood Involvement Program.NotablesCoursework from the Marriage and Family Therapy program meets the academic requirements for licensure in the state of Minnesota. To obtain a license, students must then only complete the additional supervised clinical practice and to pass the licensure exam. Most courses are offered during the day, with a few weeklong intensives offered in June.

  7. Friends University

    Wichita, KS



    OverviewFriends University is a private, Christian university located in Wichita, KS. The school was founded by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1898, but now identifies as non-denominational. They have 319 academic staff members and around 2,700 total students.Program FeaturesFriends University offers a Master of Science degree in Family Therapy. Students are required to complete a total of 60 credit-hours from core curriculum, clinical training, and elective courses. Sample courses include:

    • Pharmacology in Mental Health Services
    • Spirituality and Clinical Practice
    • Emotion Focused Approaches to Therapy
    • Sexuality, Intimacy, and Sex Therapy
    Applicants to the program are required to have a baccalaureate degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale. A brief autobiography and statement of goals will also be required.NotablesStudents are able to take classes in either Wichita or Kansas City. The program meets the educational requirements for licensure as a marriage and family therapist in Kansas and Missouri. Prerequisite coursework is required in research methods/designs, as well as two upper-division courses in family studies, human development, psychology, or sociology.

  8. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Marion, IN



    OverviewIndiana Wesleyan University is a private, liberal arts university located in Marion, IN. It is considered an evangelical university and has an affiliation with Wesleyan Church. It is the largest private university in Indiana and the largest member the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, with around 16,000 students.Program FeaturesIndian Wesleyan offers a Master of Arts with a major in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy. It is a 60 credit-hour graduate program that emphasizes family systems within each student’s Christian worldview context. Sample courses from the program include:

    • Sexuality, Intimacy and Gender
    • Psychopathology
    • Appraisals of Individuals and Families
    • Integration of Christian Faith in Professional Counseling
    In addition to coursework, students must complete 100 practicum hours and 900 internship hours. These hours are completed at either the Marion or Indianapolis campuses.NotablesThe curriculum is designed so that students meet the academic requirements for licensure as a family or marriage therapist in the state of Indiana. To apply, students are required to possess a baccalaureate degree from a college or university accredited by a regional accrediting body or the Association for Biblical Higher Education.

  9. Fairfield University

    Fairfield, CT



    OverviewFairfield University is a private university located in Fairfield, CT. Fairfield is a Jesuit Catholic school, and is a member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. They have five colleges: arts and sciences, business, engineering, nursing, and education. The overall student population is composed of 4,100 undergraduate and 1,100 graduate students.Program FeaturesFairfield offers a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program. Students complete a pre-set arrangement of courses, which begins with the foundations of relational/systematic theories and models. Courses then progress as follows:

    • Clinical Treatment with Individual Couples, and Families
    • Ethics and Diversity
    • Research Evaluation and Diagnosis/Treatment of Issues
    • Community Intersections and Collaborations
    • Foundational Clinical Practice
    Students complete the program by taking a comprehensive exam, giving a capstone presentation, or taking a thesis seminar. The thesis is recommended for students who wish to further pursue their academic career in marriage and family therapy.NotablesFairfield also offers a Master of Arts program in Family Studies, which has similar admissions requirements to the therapy program. All students being considered for admission to the program will be required to complete an on-campus interview with staff from the program.

  10. Regis University

    Denver, CO



    OverviewRegis University, previously known as Regis College, is a private university located in Denver, CO. Regis is a Roman Catholic university, specifically of the Jesuit congregation. RU is divided into five colleges: Regis College, the College of Business and Economics, the College of Computer and Information Sciences, the College of Contemporary Liberal Studies, and The Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions. Regis has a student population of around 11,400 and employs just under 2,000 academic staff.Program FeaturesRegis offers a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program. This is a 60-credit-hour program, which meets the academic requirements for Colorado Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. Courses from the program include:

    • Theories of Family Therapy
    • Gender Development and Sexuality
    • Play in Family Therapy
    • Professional Orientation and Ethical Issues
    Students are required to complete a prerequisite course in Human Growth and Development (3 semester hours) before beginning their graduate study.NotablesRegis offers a number of related postgraduate certificates, including certificates in Counseling Children & Adolescents, Marriage and Family Therapy, Depth Psychotherapy Counseling, and Counseling Military Families. Applicants to the program should have an undergraduate degree in psychology or family studies. Strong applicants will also have experience relating to psychotherapy, either personal or professional.

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