MFT Degree Programs and Training Requirements

Marriage and family therapy (MFT) is a graduate-level specialization for students who have completed undergraduate programs in psychology or counseling. See what kind of degrees are offered in this field and what sort of requirements and coursework go into earning them.

Essential Information

MFT programs are offered at the master's-degree level as well as the doctoral level, and in both programs, students learn how to help resolve intrapersonal conflicts and improve communication between families. Both programs include traditional coursework and numerous clinical training sessions, though doctoral programs tend to emphasize research.

Most master's programs require students to already possess a bachelor's degree in psychology, behavioral science, or counseling, along with satisfactory GRE scores for admittance. In order to enroll in a doctoral program, most students are required to possess a master's degree in a mental health field, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and curriculum vitae to prove their aptitude.

Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy

A master's degree program in marriage and family therapy (MFT) trains students to evaluate mental, emotional and behavioral problems that directly affect of the stability of the family structure. Master's programs typically take a minimum of two years to complete and require both academic coursework and supervised clinical experience. MFT counselor degrees that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) usually include post-degree certificate training in Medical Family Therapy (MedFT). This supplementary training is required for students to become state-licensed family counselors. Master's programs in MFT include coursework related to the psychology of the family structure, as well as how individual behavior affects communication and perception. Classes may include:

  • Family therapy theory
  • Couple and family therapy
  • Marriage counseling
  • Ethics and professional development
  • Psychotherapy with children and adolescents

Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy

The Ph.D. in MFT is designed for students who wish to conduct further research and clinical work related to marriage and family therapy before entering the professional world. Doctoral students are trained to work in collaboration with medical providers and are also equipped with a multidisciplinary background, which helps them approach families in need of assistance. Ph.D. candidates work closely with faculty mentors and emphasize clinical training and research rather than academic coursework. Most Ph.D. programs require a minimum of three to four years to complete.

Unlike the master's in MFT, Ph.D. programs in this field rely on clinical research supervised by a faculty member. However, most schools require Ph.D. candidates to take a handful of courses, which can include:

  • Methods of family intervention
  • Comparative family systems
  • Social processes in children
  • Scholarly process and discovery

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Although the federal government designates marriage and family therapy as a core branch of mental health counseling, it is a small field when compared to school counseling, mental health counseling, or rehabilitation counseling. Many marriage and family therapists are self-employed, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects opportunities in the field to increase at least 15% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary of licensed marriage and family therapists is approximately $48,600, according to May 2015 BLS figures.

Students that complete MFT doctoral degrees are qualified to work in universities, medical schools, private research firms, and government agencies. However, doctors who establish private practices or work in private group practices have the highest earning potential.

Marriage and family therapy degrees are most commonly found at the master's and doctoral levels. These degree programs can prepare graduates to become licensed marriage and family therapists, helping clients to modify behavior and improve relationships and communication among family members.

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