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The Unexpected Blessings of a Marriage and Family Therapist

Yes, there are definitely some negatives to being a marriage and family therapist.  There is burnout, working odd hours, dealing with crises, stuck cases, stress, vicarious trauma, and of course the one directional nature of the therapy relationship.  Therapists give emotional time and energy to clients, but do not receive it back.

I could go on Blessings of a Marriage and Family Therapistand on.  I admit it.  I have had days when I wondered if I chose the right path for myself.  What was I thinking?  Would my life be easier if I just gave up and did something else?

One habit that helps me press on, when I am feeling particularly tired or overwhelmed, is to take notice of how being trained as a marriage and family therapist has enriched my life.  I want to take a moment to highlight a few of the unexpected blessings that I have received because of my chosen profession.  I should also note my husband is a marriage and family therapist.

Seeing Patterns

patternsAs marriage and family therapists, we are trained to view the world in terms of pattern.  We try to see the deeper or bigger picture issues that might be going on in a situation.  We tend to focus on process over details.  This is an incredibly useful skill.  We can apply this stance to problems with our own family, our work relationships, and even our community.

We all have little cycles of behavior, healthy and unhealthy, that we tend to gravitate towards.  It is human nature.  When you start seeing someone as stuck in a negative pattern, it becomes less about them having faulty character or being a bad person. She is just doing the best she can in her present circumstances.

Greater Appreciation of Life & Relationships

Every once in awhile, my husband has a particularly difficult session ILoveYouToowith a family or walks with a client through his heartbreaking story.  Usually that same day, I get a text or a brief phone call.  “I love you so much.”  “I am so lucky to be married to you.”  “I love our kids.”  “I am so thankful.”

When you spend much of your time helping those who are hurting, it provides you with a new level of gratitude both for your life and for your relationships.

It is an honor and privilege to be a part of the therapeutic process with people.  It is not that we are any better at “relationship” than someone else.  We know personally and professionally how much work is involved in maintaining a marriage and recovering from hard times.  We also know how quickly and unfairly it can be taken away.

Parenting Benefits

MFTParentingBenefitsI am not a perfect parent.  I do feel like I have some useful insider knowledge when it comes to raising my children that I acquired through my work with other parents and their children.

I am definitely a better parent than I would have been if I had not become a marriage and family therapist.  My training and experience has helped me to be more intentional with what I teach my children, especially through my own behavior.

Yes, I  have made many mistakes with my kids, but (even if I do occasionally lose my temper over spilled milk) I apologize.  Not only is this simply the right thing to do, but it models an appropriate forgiveness process.  Apologizing lets my children know that it is okay to make mistakes and shows them they are not expected to be perfect either.

Kids are keenly aware of any impossible standards you might set for yourself. They will adopt them and apply them to themselves even if you are verbally teaching them the opposite.  I remind myself of this on a daily basis.

I am sure that I could name many more unique advantages to being a marriage and family therapist, but that is enough for one post.  So, to all the therapy professionals out there, how has your training or therapy practice enhanced your life?  I would love to hear your story. 


*Courtney Stivers, PhD, earned her doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and she is licensed as Marriage and Family Therapist and Professional Counselor in Arkansas.  Additionally, she is an adjunct professor for Liberty University and has a passion for teaching family systems theory and professional issues.

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About Courtney Stivers, PhD (25 Articles)
Courtney Stivers, PhD, LMFT, LPC is a subject matter expert in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her professional experience includes residential adolescent addiction, school-based therapy, community mental health, teaching, research, public speaking, professional consultation, missionary fieldwork, youth ministry, and administrative positions in a juvenile drug court, marriage and family therapy clinic, and a residential treatment center. She has a passion for teaching family systems theory and professional issues.

12 Comments on The Unexpected Blessings of a Marriage and Family Therapist

  1. Great article…stymbled across your site today after reading an article about 5 misconceptions about LMFT’s on Psychcentral. Love everything you and your husband blog about and I completely agree with both yiu and your husband. Thought that was ironic until I saw you are an adjunct with Liberty University, too…I am currently in grad school with Liberty for LMFT. Love the way God makes connections in this large yet small world! Blessings to you and your husband for doing God’s calling on your lives and dealing with difficult situations with clients that drain you emotionally/physically but recharging your batteries with Him and not through your client He brought your way. I will be praying for you both; for strength and guidance in every situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cara, thank you for your comment! I read this after having a stressful day and it feels good to know that this work is helping someone somewhere. It has been a hobby until a few months ago and we decided to try and really make something of it. I love teaching for Liberty and am so encouraged to hear you are in the program! Ryan and I both teach there, so hopefully one of us will have you for a class. God bless your journey to become a counselor and we will be praying for you, too!

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  2. Thanks, Shea! I hope you feel encouraged. Hindsight is 20/20, but I definitely do not regret sticking with MFT. Maybe some of the student loans, but not the degree!

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  3. I love this 🙂 I’m still in grad school, but even now I have doubts about whether or not I made the right decision to pursue this career. It’s great to see that even though times do get rough, there are still some GREAT aspects about this job to look forward to! Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m really enjoying reading your new blog. I’m a LMFT who has just been in my first year of working in my own office. Before I worked for a social service agency. I started my Masters when my son was in 5th grade as a single mom. Finances were tight so he spent a lot of time sitting in my classes & playing basketball with Schizophrenics in an outpatient hospital. It is amazing how much therapists kids pick up from being in our world of service. One thing I’ve noticed from kids of therapists is that they are all highly communicative & empathic humans.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This was a really eye-opening post. I’m starting grad school in September for school counseling. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. R. Glenn Campbell // January 9, 2015 at 10:32 pm // Reply

    When you were in the teen class I taught, who would have thought then you would be where you are today? I knew you were determined and passionate about your beliefs, but who knew? Congratulations and bestwishes to you, Ryan and your kids.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Roy, thank you so much for your kind words! I hope I have a bit more wisdom now and a more discerning tongue. I would not be where I am today without the positive influence of Christian adults like yourself. Thanks!

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