Two to three year master's degree programs in marriage and family therapy (MFT) cover basic theories of family therapy and relationship processes. Students in these programs are exposed to a broad range of therapy theories and intervention strategies. They may also be required to demonstrate their expertise by complete a master's thesis and a community-based internship with client contact before graduating.
After completing the master's degree program students have the opportunity to continue their education in a one-year post-graduate certification program. Post-graduate certificate programs are designed to provide professionals already working in human services fields with the academic and experiential training needed to prepare for marriage and family therapist licensure.
To get into a master's degree programs in MFT students need to have a bachelor's degree in a related field, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and transcripts from previous post-secondary schools attended. Prospective students for a post-graduate certificate in MFT need to have a master's degree in social work, psychology or another related field. These prerequisite programs should include prerequisite coursework, such as psychopathology, family therapy, human development and research methods.
A thesis is sometimes required for master's degree program, alongside mandatory completion of a community-based internship with client contact.
Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy
Master's degree programs provide students the opportunity to examine individual and family development across the lifespan and address contemporary issues in the treatment of couples and families, such issues as gender roles, sexual orientation, physical abuse and addictions.
Such programs aim to prepare graduates to take the state certification exam to become licensed therapists. They are designed to familiarize students with concepts in child development, personality theory, addiction processes and family studies. In addition to their coursework, students must complete a set number of client contact hours during a community-based internship period. Thesis and non-thesis programs are offered. MFT course topics typically include:
- Family systems
- Addictive disorders
- MFT professional ethics and legal issues
- Couples therapy
- Child counseling
Marriage and Family Therapy Postgraduate Certificate
Certificate programs help to enhance students understanding of treatment and intervention strategies for individuals, couples and families. This type of MFT certification program provides the training needed for graduates to pass required state licensing exams, such as the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Board (AMFTRB) exam, for the states in which they wish to practice.
Postgraduate certificate programs are typically comprised of 15 credit hours, and they require students to complete a minimum of 300 client contact hours during a community practicum. Course topics may include:
- Client assessment
- Theories of therapy
- Human sexuality
- Couples counseling
- Family systems
- Ethical practice in MFT
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
A marriage and family therapist evaluates and treats mental and emotional disorders, health and behavioral problems and a wide array of relationship issues all within the context of family. Job opportunities are available in social service agencies, schools, private practice, community health centers, inpatient facilities and other community organizations. The use of MFTs has increased dramatically in recent years due to an increase in the number of individuals who have access to health insurance and health reform policies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the profession to grow 15%, which is much faster than average, from 2014 to 2024. The BLS also stated that these professionals earned a median yearly income of $48,600 in 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Marriage and family therapists must complete a specified number of continuing education credits every year in order to maintain licensure. Colleges, universities and professional associations, such as the AAMFT, offer courses that can meet these continuing education requirements. Individuals seeking to become researchers, teachers or advanced marriage and family therapy supervisors should consider a Ph.D. program.
Individuals interested in marital and family therapy are typically certified and licensed through organizations like the AMFTRB. However, before they qualify for certification they must meet the education requirements which either include a master's degree, or a post-graduate certificate in MFT.