What are the qualifications to be a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Marriage and family therapy is a distinct professional discipline with graduate and post graduate programs. Three options are available for those interested in becoming a marriage and family therapist: master's degree (2-3 years), doctoral program (3-5 years), or post-graduate clinical training programs (3-4 years). Historically, marriage and family therapists have come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds including psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing, pastoral counseling and education. 

The Federal government has designated marriage and family therapy as a core mental health profession along with psychiatry, psychology, social work and psychiatric nursing. Currently all 50 states support and regulate the profession by licensing marriage and family therapists with the remaining states in the process of obtaining licensure laws.

The regulatory requirements in most states are substantially equivalent to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Clinical Membership standards. After graduation from an accredited program, a period - usually two years - of post-degree supervised clinical experience is necessary before licensure or certification. When the supervision period is completed, the therapist can take a state licensing exam, or the national examination for marriage and family therapists conducted by the AAMFT Regulatory Boards. This exam is used as a licensure requirement in most states.


Who are Marriage and Family Therapists?

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.

Marriage and family therapists are a highly experienced group of practitioners, with an average of 13 years of clinical practice in the field of marriage and family therapy. They evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders, other health and behavioral problems, and address a wide array of relationship issues within the context of the family system. 

Marriage and Family Therapists broaden the traditional emphasis on the individual to attend to the nature and role of individuals in primary relationship networks such as marriage and the family.  MFTs take a holistic perspective to health care; they are concerned with the overall, long-term well-being of individuals and their families. 

MFTs have graduate training (a Master's or Doctoral degree) in marriage and family therapy and at least two years of clinical experience. Marriage and family therapists are recognized as a "core" mental health profession, along with psychiatry, psychology, social work and psychiatric nursing. 

Since 1970 there has been a 50-fold increase in the number of marriage and family therapists. At any given time they are treating over 1.8 million people.



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