How Do You Become a Marriage and Family Therapist?

We live in a world that seems to be ever changing and evolving. This can lead to multiple stressors for families. One solution for today’s family is to turn to therapists who specialize in marriage and family therapy.

Dr. James Billings, Dean for the School of Social & Behavioral Sciences at Northcentral University (NCU) says, “We are living in a time where it has become increasingly important to better manage family relationships and stress in our rapidly changing world. The holistic and systemic approach that Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) bring to the field of mental health has proven to be not only effective but also efficient, with many clients requiring only 12 or fewer sessions to see a significant reduction in presenting symptoms.”

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) backs up what Dr. Billings says. According to research, MFTs regularly practice short-term therapy that requires an average of just 12 sessions. After receiving treatment, the result is usually quite positive. In fact, almost 90% of patients report improved emotional health.

The Benefits of Marriage and Family Therapy

Becoming a marriage and family therapist is more than just a job. It’s about helping individuals, couples and families navigate the natural stressors and unexpected challenges of life and emerge stronger than before.

The AAMFT states that “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.” AAMFT points out that MFTs offer brief, solution-focused, specific therapy with an end in mind. So how do you become a marriage and family therapist?

How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Marriage and Family Therapists require at least a master’s degree and, within the next decade, the job outlook is expected to grow by an astounding 19%—a rate many times higher than most other jobs.

The first step in becoming an MFT is to find a program that can help you get your master’s and/or doctoral degree and has the appropriate accreditation necessary for students to be licensed as a therapist. At NCU, the MFT programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). This will help provide you with a quality education and training experience that will challenge you to develop your critical thinking and research skills while applying what you learn to professional practice in the field of marriage and family therapy.

In addition to education, most states have specific requirements that must be met in order to be licensed as a marriage and family therapist. Typically these requirements are patterned after AAMFT Educational Guidelines, but variance in specific requirements exists from state to state.

Northcentral University MFT Student Shares Her NCU Experience

Alexandra M. Colvin currently works for the State of New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Developmental Disabilities. She received her MA in Counseling Psychology in 2003 and, twelve years later, decided to go back to school to complete a PhD in MFT with a specialization in Child and Adolescent Therapy. She chose to attend NCU online because she felt it is more appropriate for her as a working professional than a traditional brick and mortar university. “I work full-time and do not have the time to travel to a campus two to three times a week. I no longer [even] have to visit my local public library to retrieve [research] resources.” NCU’s 100% online education means Colvin and other working students just like her can complete a higher education degree that fits their lifestyle. She retains her full-time professional career, stays involved in her family’s life, but can pursue her dream and career choices of completing a PhD in the MFT program.

Colvin explains that marriage and family therapy is a specialized field that focuses on couples and families. “Although mental health and psychology concepts/theories are integrated into the MFT program,” explained Colvin, “I strongly believe MFT stands out for its emphasis on systemic approaches and theories (e.g., Bowen Family Systems, Structural Family Therapy). Reaching out to families and couples from a systemic approach helps therapists to understand the family discord from all levels: individual, social, community, and society.”

Colvin looks forward to continuing her PhD studies and appreciates the help she has received in transitioning to the online education at NCU. “The entire MFT faculty [at NCU] has provided volumes of clinical and research feedback to help me understand concepts I may have missed,” said Colvin. “I value the faculty’s expertise, experience, and total dedication for teaching me a new world in marriage and family therapy.”

For more information about NCU’s online master’s and online doctorate programs, visit our Programs Page, or Request Information now.

To learn about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed programs, and other important information, please click here.

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