Earning a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy Online could be a flexible, top option to train as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). These programs examine behavior, communication patterns, and conflict resolution, as they relate to family and committed romantic relationships.
They may also address family systems and how they may vary in different communities, cultures, and economic situations, and how one might adjust best therapeutic intervention techniques to accommodate these differences. And because they are offered online, they could accommodate the real demands of today’s students, be it work, family obligations, or a combination of both.
An Online Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy may be earned through the study of family dynamics, psychology and counseling theory, addicition counseling, and MFT practice. Often, these programs are designed with the working professional in mind, with flexible course schedules and convenient digital access to course materials. As licensed marriage and family therapists are typically required to have a masters degree, this could be a great way to pursue your goals without compromising on your other responsibilities.i
Students could typically complete their masters degree in marriage and family therapy online in approximately two to three years of full time study. To apply to a human services program lik ethis, students usually need a bachelors degree from an accredited college. Depending on the type of degree being issued and the individual program requirements, this degree may need to be in a related field. Other requirements vary by school.
We asked Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer about the biggest benefit of earning his Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy:
"My training as a MFT taught me to think systemically. Mental health and addictive disorders do not occur in isolation. They impact the person who suffers as well as the people around them. My M.A. in marriage and family therapy has enabled me to address disorders in the fullness of their expression and impact."
~Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Click to Tweet
Most Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy online programs offer flexible schedules. Students take the same challenging classes as their campus friends, but access their courses, materials, and resources through online course modules from their own computers. Some of these programs even allow for self-pacing, meaning students could complete the coursework at a speed and time most convenient to them.
However, be aware that just because you chose to earn your masters in family counseling online doesn’t mean there won’t be in-person requirements. Students often need to gain clinical experience through supervised direct client contact in their local community. Your online program may be able to assist you in setting these experiences up or do so on your behalf, or give you some freedom in doing it yourself.
DID YOU KNOW? LMFT stands for ‘licensed marriage and family therapist’ ii
An online graduate school might offer either a Master of Arts Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT) or a Master of Science Marriage and Family Therapy (MSMFT) to students who complete their program requirements. These programs focus on helping students develop entry-level knowledge for independent clinical practice. Students study a combination of theory, clinical skills, and other professional development.
The online Master of Science MFT program is often a terminal, professional practice degree. Students may complete their courses first. Then, following post-graduate supervised practice hours, may be prepared to take state licensure exams. Licensure requires a masters degree, 2,000 to 4,000 hours of post-degree internship.i
While some Online MA MFT programs focus on clinical training, others are more academic in nature, focusing on building skills like research and analysis. In programs like this, students may be required to complete a research project or thesis prior to graduating. This may still help to fulfill licensure prerequisites, but could also support students in pursuing a doctorate degree. The PhD doctoral degree in MFT program is often designed to provide students with an option if they wish to pursue scholarship over practice, whereas the PsyD in Marriage and Family Therapy is generally seen as the more clinical alternative.
Online MFT masters programs are typically designed to offer several a range of educational experiences. This way, programs might appeal to different learning styles while fulfilling some of the prerequisites to apply for residency.
One major component you’re likely to find: a for-credit residency and a practicum requirement. The clinical practicum is designed to offer hands-on field experience and prepare graduates for state licensure eligibility. More academic programs may also have a seminar or thesis requirement.
While your best bet is not to assume all programs are the same, here is a ‘cheat-sheet’ of what you might expect to encounter while earning your masters degree in marriage and family therapy online.
Online Marriage and Family Therapy Masters program curricula may vary from school to school. Prospective MFTs need to learn theories, build diagnostic skills and have a tool box of intervention strategies for different scenarios.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy organizes MFT core competencies around six primary domains. Many online MFT programs may have courses surrounding each of these.
Some online Marriage and Family Therapy Masters programs enable students to choose a concentration area. Licensed marriage and family therapists may work with families, couples and in marital intervention. Some MFTs may be also be licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders.
Because the specific needs of each patient population may vary, some online MFT programs allow students to dedicate their time to a specific practice area to better serve the actual needs of their prospective patients. Below, we’ve listed a few examples of the types of subjects one could choose to concentrate on. These relate to different issues you might help to treat in the field.ii
Accreditation is offered on a regional and programmatic level. It is an important credential to look for in a university, because it reflects that the university in question has made an effort to meet or surpass the standards set by the accrediting agency.
Regional accreditation is issued at the university level by organizations recognized by the Department of Education to accredit universities in specific states. This status could be important if you hope to transfer credits between universities. Several regionally accredited universities offer online masters in marriage and family therapy programs.
In addition to regional accreditation, a Masters in Family Therapy program may be accredited programmatically by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). What this means is that a program is compliant with specified professional standards developed by others in the field.
Students with a COAMFTE-accredited MFT degree may apply for Clinical Membership in the parent organization, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). This is done through the accelerated Accredited Program Track in the absence of state licensure.
Some MFT programs may additionally be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Fields, or CACREP.
As more people have access to insurance, many counseling facilities are expected to hire more marriage and family therapists. This is one reason the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers marriage and family therapy a faster-than-average growing field.i With the potential to choose courses that might shape your career, not your lifestyle, there is no time like the present to search for your potential marriage and family therapy graduate programs online. Look through sponsored listings on our site. Then submit a form to request more information about the programs you’re interested in, and get started!
[i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1013.00