How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist
3 Steps to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist
Becoming a marriage and family therapist requires specific training and certification in order to practice legally in the United States. This typically means a master’s degree or higher along with thousands of hours of supervised fieldwork and passage of a state-approved exam. Below are some common steps to becoming a marriage and family therapist.
- Complete MFT Education Requirements
Most states require marriage and family therapists to hold a master’s degree in either marriage and family therapy or a relevant mental health field such as psychology. To start, those interested in a career in any psychological or mental health field should pursue a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area such as counseling, psychology or social work. When choosing a master’s degree program in pursuit of a marriage and family therapy (MFT) career, options include master’s in marriage and family therapy, a master’s in mental health counseling, or even a master’s in clinical psychology.
- Complete MFT Field Experience
While every marriage and family therapist is required to complete supervised internship hours in the field as a prerequisite to licensure, the amount varies by state. In most cases, this is a one-year clinical rotation whereby a certain number of hours are expected to be spent in very specific qualifying experiences, including conducting one-on-one therapy, participating in research and performing non-patient-contact services. Prospective marriage and family therapists can expect to spend anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 hours in the field accruing work experience prior to receiving a license to practice independently.
- Obtain Marriage and Family Therapist Certification and Licensure
Each state has its own licensing procedure when it comes to becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). The Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) provides a state-by-state roadmap for MFT licensure including requisite education, qualifying supervision, number and type of clinical hours and testing requirements. Most states rely on the AMFTRB-developed MFT national examination as their official licensing test. The exam covers a wide array of content, including therapeutic practice, diagnostics, treatment, crisis management and ethics. Learn more about the MFT National Examination.