2020’s Online Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Degree Programs

Last updated: November 2020

Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) help couples and families overcome their interpersonal issues. They work with their clients in one-on-one sessions, family sessions and couples sessions to build a disciplined routine around mindful habits. They are required to earn certifications and hold a master’s degree from an accredited college or university to legally practice. 

An MFT degree teaches prospective therapists the necessary tools and techniques to help facilitate positive change in the lives of their clients. There are many online MFT programs available for students who are looking for flexibility in their schedules. For more information about LMFT degree programs in 2020, take a look at the list of programs below. 

Pepperdine University is accepting California applicants for their online MA in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy. Explore the MA program by requesting information directly from OnlinePsychology@Pepperdine

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Compare Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Degree Programs

Online Master's in Marriage & Family Therapy Programs
University Name Location Type of MFT Program GRE Requirement Program Length Total Credits
Abilene Christian University Abilene, Texas Master of Marriage and Family Therapy GRE Required 2 Years 60 Credits
Alliant International University  San Diego, California Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy GRE Required 2 Years 63 Credits
Amridge University Montgomery, Alabama Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy N/A 7 Semesters 60 Credits
Antioch University Culver City, California Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy No GRE Required 3 Years 61 Credits
Arizona State University Tempe, Arizona Master of Arts in Family and Human Development No GRE Required 15-18 Months 30 Credits
Brandman University Irvine, California Master of Arts in Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy No GRE Required 2-4 Years 60 Credits
California Southern University Irvine, California Master of Arts in Psychology, MFT Emphasis No GRE Required 2-4 Years 60 Credits
California State University - Northridge Los Angeles, California Master of Science in Counseling, MFT Option GRE Required 2.5 Years 64-67 Credits
Concordia University - Wisconsin Mequon, Wisconsin Master of Science in Education - Family Life No GRE Required 1-2 Years 36 Credits
Geneva College Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania Master of Arts in Counseling with Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling No GRE Required 20 Months 60 Credits
Houston Baptist University Houston, Texas Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy GRE Required 2-4 Years 60 Credits
John Brown University Siloam Springs, Arkansas Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy GRE Required 2-4+ Years 64 Credits
Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy No GRE Required 2.5 Years 60 Credits
LeTourneau University Longview, Texas Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health; MFT Emphasis No GRE Required 3 Years 66 Credits
Messiah University Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania Master of Arts in Counseling with Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling Track No GRE Required 2 Years 60 Credits
Mid-America Christian University Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Master of Counseling - Marital, Couples, and Family Counseling/Therapy Concentration No GRE Required 2 Years 60 Credits
North Central University Minneapolis, Minnesota Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy N/A 1-2 Years 45 Credits
Palo Alto University Palo Alto, California Master of Arts in Counseling: Marriage, Family and Child Counseling Emphasis No GRE Required 2+ Years 93 Quarter Credits
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Malibu, California Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology, LMFT Concentration No GRE Required 24 Months 62-68 Credits
Regent University Virginia Beach, Virginia Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple & Family Counseling GRE Required 2-3 Years N/A
Syracuse University Syracuse, New York Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy GRE Required 2 Years 60 Credits
Touro University New York City, New York Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy No GRE Required 18+ Months 54-72 Credits
University of Colorado at Denver Denver, Colorado Master of Arts in Couple and Family Counseling/Therapy No GRE Required 3-4 Years 63 Credits
University of Massachusetts Boston Boston, Massachusetts Master of Education in Counseling, LMFT Concentration GRE Required 2 Years 57 Credits
University of West Alabama Livingston, Alabama Master of Science in Family Counseling N/A 1 Year 33 Credits

Abilene Christian University

Abilene, TX

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Internship Hours: 600 Hours

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA Requirement: Minimum 3.0
  • GRE Requirement: GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: Purpose statement and three letters of recommendation

Alliant International University

San Diego, California

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 63 Credits
  • Practicum Required - 500 Hours

Application Information

  • Complete online application
  • Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0
  • Official Transcripts
  • Resume/CV
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Faculty Interview
  • Essay

Amridge University

Montgomery, Alabama

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Internship Hours: 600 hours

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA Requirement: 3.0
  • GRE Requirement: No GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: Writing Sample

Antioch University

Culver City, California

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 61 Credits
  • Internship Hours: 500 Hours

Admission Requirements

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s degree from an institution that is accredited by its regional accrediting association
  • GPA Requirement: N/A
  • GRE Requirement: No GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: Two letters of recommendation

Arizona State University

Tempe, Arizona

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 30 Credits
  • Internship Hours: No Internship Required

Admission Requirements

  • A baccalaureate degree from an institution with regional accreditation
  • Undergraduate GPA of 3.0
  • GRE scores are NOT required
  • Submit Online Application
  • Official Transcripts
  • Resume
  • Personal Statement
  • Two Letters of Recommendation

Brandman University

Irvine, California

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Internship Hours: N/A

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA Requirement: 3.0
  • GRE Requirement: No GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: Essay and three recommendations

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California Southern University

Irvine, California

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Practicum Hours: Practicum Required
  • Internship Hours: N/A

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor's degree from an accredited university
  • GPA Requirement: Submit transcript for official review
  • GRE Requirement: No GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: Personal statement

California State University-Northridge

Los Angeles, California

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 64-67 Credits
  • Internship Hours: N/A

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA Requirement: Minimum 2.5
  • GRE Requirement: GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: Two letters of recommendation

Concordia University - Wisconsin

Mequon, Wisconsin

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 36 Credits
  • Internship Required: 120 Hours

Application Information

  • Complete and application
  • One page essay describing your reason for obtaining a graduate degree
  • Résumé of your education and employment experience
  • Two signed letters of recommendation

Geneva College

Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Internship: 600 Hours

Application Information

  • Submit a completed application
  • Official Transcripts
  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0
  • Typed, academic essay
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Resume

Houston Baptist University

Houston, Texas

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Minimum of two years of supervised work experience (3,000 hours) in marriage and family therapy services

Application Information

  • Official Transcripts
  • Two Recommendation Forms
  • Resume/CV
  • GRE Required
  • Interview

John Brown University

Siloam Springs, Arkansas

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 64 Credits
  • Internship Hours: 500 hours

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA Requirement: Minimum 2.7
  • GRE Requirement: GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: An essay and three letters of recommendation

Liberty University

Lynchburg, Virginia

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Internship Hours: Two semesters

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA Requirement: Minimum 2.7
  • GRE Requirement: No GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: Personal statement and two letters of recommendation

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LeTourneau University

Longview, Texas

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 66 Credits
  • Internship Not Needed

Application Information

  • Submit a completed application
  • Official Transcripts
  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.50 (on a 4.00 scale)

Messiah University

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Internship: Internship Not Required

Application Information

  • Submit official application
  • Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0
  • Personal Statement
  • Counseling Admissions Program Questions
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Resume
  • Interview, in person or online

Mid-America Christian University

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Internship Hours: 100 Hours Practicum; 600 Hour Internship

Application Information

  • Submit online application
  • Official Transcripts

North Central University

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 45-60 Credits
  • Internship Hours: N/A

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: N/A
  • GPA Requirement: Submit transcript for official review
  • GRE Requirement: N/A
  • Essay/Recommendations: N/A

Palo Alto University

Palo Alto, California

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 93 Quarter Credits
  • Internship Hours: 700 hours

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA Requirement: Minimum 3.0
  • GRE Requirement: No GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: Statement of purpose and three letters of recommendation

Pepperdine University

Malibu, California

Program Overview

Program Requirements:

  • Credits Needed: 62-68 Credits
  • Internship: Internship Not Required

Application Information:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Official transcripts
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose

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Regent University

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Internship Hours: N/A

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA Requirement: Minimum 3.0
  • GRE Requirement: GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: N/A

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Syracuse University

Syracuse, New York

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 60 Credits
  • Internship Hours: 500 Hour Clinical Practicum Required

Application Information

  • Personal Statement
  • Official Transcripts
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • GRE Required
  • Resume

Touro University

New York City, New York

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 54-72 Credits
  • Internship Hours: 500 hours

Admission Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA Requirement: Minimum 2.5
  • GRE Requirement: No GRE Required
  • Essay/Recommendations: None

University of Colorado at Denver

Denver, Colorado

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 63 Credits
  • Internship Hours: 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours

Application Information

  • Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.75
  • Current resume
  • Letter of intent
  • Three Letters of Recommendation

University of Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 57 Credits
  • Practicum Required

Application Information

  • Cumulative GPA of 2.75 on a 4.0 scale
  • Complete the online application
  • Submit Official Transcripts
  • GRE Required
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose

University of West Alabama

Livingston, Alabama

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Credits Needed: 33 Credits
  • Internship Hours: N/A

Admissions Information

  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor's degree required
  • GPA Requirement: Submit transcript for official review
  • GRE Requirement: N/A
  • Essay/Recommendations: N/A

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What is an MFT?

A marriage and family therapist (MFT) is a licensed professional who diagnoses, assesses and treats a variety of clients with different issues. To become an MFT, these professionals must earn at least an MFT degree (or similar) and complete a minimum threshold of clinical internship hours, supervision and board exams. An MFT can work in numerous settings including private practices, schools, government agencies, medical facilities and nonprofits.

Therapist vs. Psychologist

Although the terms therapist and clinical psychologist are often used interchangeably, the titles are different.

A clinical psychologist requires a doctoral degree in a psychology discipline. Many psychologists conduct research, teach in higher education, and work alongside psychiatrists. They may also receive licensure through the American Psychological Association. That said, they may also provide clinical psychotherapy to individuals, families or couples.

Although some therapists have doctoral degrees, it is not a requirement for the career. Therapists and most mental health professionals must have master’s degrees to provide services to clients independently. Therapists typically receive licensure from their individual state boards.

LMFT vs. LCSW

A licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) might seem like similar positions, but they are actually quite different. 

A LMFT focuses primarily on families and their immediate influences when providing therapy. They use many techniques to help individuals cope with their issues in a sustainable way. LMFTs typically use cognitive behavioral therapy to help their clients overcome unproductive thought patterns. 

On the other hand, an LCSW spends their time helping clients with mental, behavioral and emotional problems. Licensed clinical social workers are a unique group of social workers who can create treatment plans and diagnose their clients without the need of a specialized therapist. LCSWs are required to have a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and maintain their state certification.

LMFT vs. LPC

There are two more professions that seem similar, but are actually very different. The two therapist roles are a LMFT and a licensed professional counselor (LPC).  

LMFTs provide families and couples help with managing their interpersonal issues. LMFTs teach their clients the importance of identifying destructive behaviors through one-on-one or family therapy sessions. Many work in private practices and meet regularly with their clients to maintain a disciplined routine.

LPCs evaluate their clients’ mental well-being and create treatment plans to help them reach their goals. They may specialize in mental health, but do not necessarily have to as they help clients deal with a variety of issues ranging from stress and low self-esteem to grief or loss of a loved one. LPCs work in private practices and other health care facilities including mental health and outpatient care centers.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in a helping profession, check out how to become a counselor.

MFT Degree Program Details

The first step toward becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist is earning a marriage and family counseling degree. There are several traditional and online MFT programs available for prospective therapists. Students should consider school accreditation, location, length and rigor of the program, and financial aid when narrowing down their options. In terms of admissions, each school has its own GRE requirement and GPA requirement.

Application Requirements

Each school has its own unique admission requirements. However, students may need:

  • Updated transcripts to demonstrate past bachelor’s degree completion and GPA score.
  • Resume highlighting relevant clinical work or volunteer experience.
  • Personal essay that showcases their writing skills and passion for the field.
  • Recommendation letters from former employers or instructors who can speak on behalf of the student’s work ethic, academic performance and moral character.

Coursework

Coursework will vary depending on the university, but coursework for a master’s in marriage and family therapy degree (PDF, 700 KB) may include:

Clinical case conceptualization and formulation

The clinical case conceptualization and formulation classes will help the aspiring clinician to collectively understand the client’s problems as a whole before addressing any specific problems. It is supported by a body of research that is used in tandem with the social, psychological and biological observations of the client.

Research methods and data analysis

An MFT must learn how to critically analyze a situation before they can step into the field. Research methods and data analysis provides the means for counselors to accurately diagnose their client’s issues and provide them with an action-oriented approach to overcoming their problems. 

Family systems

Family systems theory is all about families functioning as a collective unit, or system, where each member has their designated roles and responsibilities. An MFT learns to understand the various archetypes and devises a treatment plan to help introduce flexibility where rigid family paradigms exist.

Couples therapy

To be able to address the needs of couples and the individuals that make them up, an MFT must know how to facilitate healthy conversations. Couples therapy courses cover techniques to manage conflicts, promote deeper friendships and renewed intimacy. Aspiring MFTs will also learn how to empirically evaluate scenarios to help reach resolutions in an effective manner.

The counseling process

Before an MFT can begin practicing on their own, they must demonstrate that they have a competent understanding of the counseling process. In this interpersonal course, students learn the basic principles of effective counseling, communicating and interviewing so they can accurately determine their clients needs. 

Field experience

MFTs have different field hour requirements per state before they are able to legally practice therapy. Field experience is completed with an LMFT present, supervising the students as they learn to conduct effective therapy sessions on their own. Field experience can be done in a variety of settings, usually in alignment with the student’s field of choice.

Clinical Placement Requirements

To become an MFT, all MFT students must complete several years of traineeship or internship clinical fieldwork in order to become eligible for licensure. Most schools provide clinical placement support when students are ready to start their fieldwork. Some programs have a working list of approved sites that students may use when applying for their fieldwork position.

Fieldwork provides students with the valuable opportunity of learning to practice therapy while receiving ongoing clinical supervision and support. Most schools require that students discuss their current clinical cases via conceptualization papers and supervision meetings. Each state has its own requirements in terms of the number of hours and type of hours students must accrue before becoming licensed.

Student Support For Online Students

Like traditional campuses, online schools typically offer many student support services throughout the program. Such services and resources depend on the particular institution, but they may include:

  • Virtual office hours
  • Technology support
  • Alumni programs and career placements
  • Library access and services
  • Admission and financial aid advising
  • Academic tutoring
  • Personal support (e.g., health and counseling services)
  • Military support for service and family members

Live Class Discussions

Many online programs offer synchronous or live class discussions in their curriculums. Synchronous classes entail interactive discussions through different mediums like video chat, live talking and instant messaging. Students gather to meet in their virtual classrooms at a designated time each week or month.

Asynchronous classes, on the other hand, refers to the coursework that isn’t live. For example, this may apply to independent homework, message board responses, listening to audio recordings and reviewing presentations. Despite having deadlines, students enjoy the freedom of working on their own schedules.

Small Class Sizes

Large class sizes can be overwhelming for both the students and instructors. Research shows that small class sizes have many positive effects (PDF, 326 KB). These benefits include:

  • Increased individualized time for each student
  • Improved class culture and cohesion
  • Stronger teacher-student relationships
  • Increased class engagement

Each institution has its own limits of class and cohort sizes. However, prospective students can and should inquire about these sizes during the application process.

What Can You Do with an MFT Degree?

Focus of treatment

MFTs primarily use cognitive behavioral therapy to help their clients understand their thoughts and perceptions. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to reverse the thought patterns that make the client’s life difficult and establish healthier outlooks to use going forward. This is done systematically by asking questions and listening to the answers to find underlying problems in the client’s psyche. 

Questions can be related to how a person feels when they receive praise or reliving a past experience to help clarify emotional responses. While the client is experiencing their deep emotions, the MFT provides support and feedback that helps to nurture their growth. Cognitive behavioral therapy is all about building coping tools that keep life in perspective. 

Skills gained in an MFT degree

MFTs assist individuals, couples and families in addressing their relationship problems. By earning their MFT degree, they learn how to help others cope and address their issues. While there are many different tools and techniques an LMFT will learn while earning their degree, there are also many skill sets to learn. The skills one can expect to gain from a degree in marriage and family therapy include: 

  • Communication skills, including compassion and empathy
  • Organizational skills
  • Professionalism as it relates to boundaries
  • Facilitation and peace-keeping skills, especially with upset couples or families
  • Leadership and teaching skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Business management

Common workplaces for MFT degree holders

LMFTs and MFTs have the ability to work in many different locations due to their advanced training. These places include schools, health care offices, inpatient care facilities such as hospitals, outpatient care facilities, private practices, social service agencies, mental health centers and nursing care facilities. 

MFTs are employed at all levels of the system, from entry-level workers to chief executives. No matter what level the role is, the overall duty is still fairly similar. LMFTS and MFTs help to implement sustainable health care practices for their companies and their clients. As MFTs advance their careers, there may be the opportunity to oversee company and community well-being. This includes designing treatment plans that encompass large groups of people. 

Doctorate in marriage and family therapy

A doctorate in marriage and family therapy is the highest level of education that an MFT can achieve. Some students pursue this track because they want to conduct research, supervise therapists or work in academia. Others simply want to apply advanced principles and knowledge to their clinical practice. The doctorate may provide more career opportunities due to the additional education and fieldwork requirements.

Depending on the school, degree names and options vary. Examples include:

  • Medical Family Therapy Ph.D.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Psy.D. in Marital and Family Therapy
  • Ph.D. in Counseling and Psychological Studies
  • Family Sciences Doctorate
  • Ph.D. in Couple and Family Therapy
  • Human Development and Family Studies Ph.D.

Other doctoral degree options

Those who are interested in pursuing their doctoral studies in MFT have many options to consider. Earning a Ph.D. in MFT may lead to new career opportunities because marriage and family therapy is a broad, all-encompassing term. This means that a master’s degree holder can study counseling related to a variety of topics such as a specific philosophy or trauma-related illness to become a specialized MFT. Whether you want to work more closely with clients or spend time on your research, there are options for continuing education after earning a master’s degree.

Licensure Requirements to Become an LMFT

Licensure and certification laws for MFTs serve the purpose of helping the public clearly identify qualified practitioners. LMFTs and MFTs who have their license or certificate have met or surpassed the necessary clinical experience and education needed to legally practice. For most states, this means they have at least 2,000 documented hours of clinical experience providing services under direct supervision of an approved LMFT. To learn more about licensure and certification requirements, read our article on how to become an MFT.

While all states require MFTs to have a master’s or doctoral degree to practice, there are some differences for state requirements.

State-specific requirements

MFTs are subject to state-specific requirements to be able to legally practice.  50 states and territories have some type of regulation that stipulates whether MFTs can practice in a state, so it makes the most sense to view your state’s advisory board to know your requirements. For example, California’s licensure laws are much stricter than other states. They require therapists to accrue more than 3,000 hours and 104 weeks of supervision separated by therapy type, such as couples or family therapy, as well as treatment environments, such as telehealth.

Salary and Job Outlook

The salary and job outlook for marriage and family therapists is promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the growth rate for MFT jobs between 2018 and 2028 is expected to be 22%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The increase in job demand that is expected is due to the integrative practices that are growing more commonplace in health care facilities. Integrative care allows MFTs to work with other health care professionals to give a holistic overview and treatment for clients. 

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for MFTs is $49,610. The top 10% of earners took home $87,700 while the lowest 10% earned $32,070. The majority of earners who made more than $50,000 worked in outpatient care centers or in the state government (excluding education and hospitals). 

Resources for MFT Students and Graduates

BBS: Board of Behavioral Sciences State Licensing Board

The Board of Behavioral Sciences State Licensing Board (BBS) aims to provide Californians a standard for the safe, ethical and competent practice of mental health counseling. They set, communicate and enforce each standard so residents of California can trust in the competency of their therapists.

AAMFT: American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) is the professional association for representing all LMFTs and MFTs in the U.S., Canada and abroad. Their Clinical Fellow develops social and family policies and promotes research that advances the field of marriage and family therapy.

IFTA: International Family Therapy Association

The International Family Therapy Association (IFTA) collaborates with professionals from around the world to improve the quality of family therapy. They provide international conferences that educate audiences about a variety of topics related to the improvement of family therapy standards.

CAMFT: California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) is an independent professional organization dedicated to improving the field of marriage and family therapy. They actively monitor and work with regulatory boards and state legislatures to sponsor bills and pass laws that help the public receive higher quality care. 

AMA: American Counseling Association

As a not-for-profit organization, the American Counseling Association (AMA) dedicates itself to the advancement of the counseling profession. Their mission is to create ethical standards that protect those who use counseling services and provide education and professional development for counselors.

AFTA: American Family Therapy Academy

The American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) is an organization of family therapists and associated professionals, such as program directors, clinicians and researchers, who work toward creating a national organization free from bias. They pride themselves on thinking critically about the systematic theory and practice of ethical counseling and transforming social contexts to promote the overall wellbeing of families and communities.

NCFR: National Council on Family Relations

The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) is “the oldest nonprofit, nonpartisan, multidisciplinary professional association focused solely on family research, practice, and education.” Founded in 1938, their mission is to provide an educational forum for educators, practitioners and researchers to share their insights and methodologies to improve the field of family therapy.

Delta Kappa: International Marriage and Family Therapy Honor Society

As the official honor society for the field of marriage and family therapy, Delta Kappa serves to work with the AMA, the AFTA and the IFTA to promote the ethical practice of family counseling. They provide educational training for emerging leaders, structure for developing forums and promote achievements within the field.

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FAQs

Is an MFT degree worth it?

If you are trying to change careers or learn more expertise, then an MFT degree may help you gain the skill sets you need to be competitive in the job market. A degree will also provide you with up-to-date information regarding the latest techniques and methods that marriage and family therapists are using to help their clients cope. 

See our article on if an MFT degree is worth it.

Are online MFT programs as good as on-campus programs?

Online MFT programs are designed to reflect the on-campus experience. While in-person programs allow for more face-to-face interactions with your teacher, there are often downsides to attending class on-campus that are made up for in online programs. Some students thrive in an environment free from the distractions of their classmates so they can work at their own pace while absorbing the course material. It all comes down to your learning preferences when deciding if an online MFT program is a good fit.

How long does it take to complete an MFT degree program?

Most degree programs take around two years to complete as a full-time student due to the number of clinical hours and different settings needed to prove competency as a therapist. In that time, aspiring MFTs will learn to master the fundamentals of counseling to be prepared for work in their own private practice or setting of choice.

Can marriage and family therapists diagnose?

Marriage and family therapists are able to diagnose and treat substance abuse and mental health problems. They train for at least two years in supervised clinical situations before obtaining their license to practice. During this time, they are under the direct supervision of a LMFT who demonstrates the best practices when it comes to diagnosing and treating issues. MFTs are able to diagnose and provide solutions to families and couples for most of their specific needs and will utilize other professionals, like a psychiatrist, when necessary.

What makes a good marriage and family therapist?

A good marriage and family therapist knows when to help and how to do it gently. It takes a big heart and dedicated commitment to improving the lives of their clients. They show a strong sense of empathy and compassion. A good MFT helps their clients to make informed decisions that promote their ideal healthy life.

What do marriage and family therapists do?

MFTs play an integral role in the interpersonal development of their clients. They diagnose and provide treatments to equip their clients with the tools they need to grow confident and happy. Marriage and family therapists are crucial in healing interpersonal relationships that need third-party help to mend. They facilitate conversation that promotes interconnectedness and self-awareness.

What is the difference between mental health counseling and marriage and family therapy?

It may seem like mental health counseling and marriage and family therapy are similar but there are slight differences that set them apart. While a MFT does help couples and families to overcome their mental health issues, they are able to offer guidance in other areas of healing as well. In contrast, licensed mental health counselors are specialists who diagnose and create treatment plans for clients with a range of psychological issues. 

What can an MFT diagnose?

MFTs are licensed to diagnose mental and emotional disorders as they pertain to couples and families. The psychological disorders can be a variety of conditions that require keen attention to treat. Examples of what an MFT can diagnose include obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and bipolar disorder. MFTs are able to provide treatment plans that help address their client’s needs to help improve their quality of life. 

Can an MFT prescribe medication?

No, a MFT typically does not prescribe medication. They will usually work with a psychiatrist who will prescribe the correct psychotropic medication for the mental issue. This integrative approach helps the client by connecting the specialized professionals suited for their needs. While an MFT does not prescribe medication, they are integral in developing a routine that allows their clients to thrive while taking the medication.