Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are different from general therapists in that they treat clients' problems within the context of their relationships. Clients may include couples considering divorce, individuals dealing with a death in the family, or children in foster homes. MFTs can work in a variety of clinical and hospital settings and require licensure to practice.
MFTs, or marriage and family therapists, help married couples and families work through various emotional and crisis issues, such as divorce, mental disorder and death of a family member. They use various techniques to help family members identify the feelings behind various harmful behaviors and develop ways to change these behaviors. Many therapists have private practices or work for medical establishments and organizations. A master's degree and a license to practice are typical requirements for working as an MFT, though specific regulations vary by state.
|Required Education||Master's degree in marriage and family therapy or a related mental health field|
|Licensing and Certification||In almost all cases, a license is required to practice; licensing and certification regulations vary by state|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||15%*|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$48,600*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) Job Description
A marriage and family therapist is a highly trained mental health professional who helps families deal with relationship and behavioral issues. MFTs seek to secure a long-term solution to mental and emotional disorders and a wide variety of relationship issues. Marriage and family therapy is different from traditional therapy in that practitioners believe individuals and their problems must be seen in the context of their relationships; therefore, treatment is centered not only on the individual, but on everyone who has a relationship with the individual as well.
A marriage and family therapist seeks to modify perceptions and behavior, as well as improve communication among families in crisis. Couples considering divorce, families facing severe mental illness, sexual abuse victims and children in foster care are just some of the individuals in crisis who MFTs work with.
MFTs counsel families by asking questions to help them identify feelings and behaviors and then collect information using techniques such as testing, interviewing, observation and discussion. Next, they develop and implement treatment plans and counsel clients. MFTs must maintain accurate case files and sometimes work with schools, social workers, doctors, law enforcement and the court system.
MFTs can work in mental health centers, social service centers, hospitals or clinics; many have their own private practice.
Duties and Responsibilities
Marriage and family therapists guide clients through crises, such as divorce or death. They also diagnose psychological disorders, highlight problematic patterns that need to be changed, enhance communication and help clients to address dysfunctional behaviors by replacing them with constructive actions.
The MFT with a master's degree or doctorate needed to practice has the responsibility of advancing the welfare of the family, providing confidentiality and ensuring professional competence and integrity. Licensing is currently required in 48 states. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) provides a professional code of ethics that is binding on all members.
MFTs start their careers with a bachelor's degree and then earn a master's degree in either marriage and family therapy or a related discipline. They work to guide their patients through emotional and mental problems relating to family or relationships. MFTs may work in a variety of settings, including in their own practice, for social service centers, or for hospitals. Nearly all states all require licensing for an MFT to work.