Alabama Marriage and Family Therapy Masters Programs

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy programs may provide students with counseling skills to meet the needs of individuals, couples and families. You could learn to help all types of peoples improve communication, resolve conflicts and develop healthier patterns. Marriage and family therapists are required to have a masters degree and license to practice.i Therefore Marriage and Family Masters programs may be a great way to work towards your goals.

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

Marriage and Family Therapy Masters Programs: Essentials

What is an MFT Degree?

Master of Family Therapy programs award MFT degrees at the masters level. This degree is also called a ‘Marriage and Family Therapy’ or ‘Marriage and Family Counseling’ degree. While earning a MFT degree, students may learn to apply ‘family systems theory’. This is a theoretical approach. It involves focusing on the mechanics of relationships. As a method, it is used when diagnosing and treating patients and clients. Students in Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy programs learn how to treat the clients’ relationships, not just the clients themselves.

Many full-time Marriage and Family Therapy Masters programs take about two to three years to complete. While length and curriculum may vary, you could expect about 60 to 66 credits.

We asked Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer why he earned his Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy degree:

“The degree I value the most is my M.A. in marriage and family therapy. My training as a MFT 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

Graduates of Marriage and Family Therapy Masters programs may be prepared to work towards (state) licensure as a marriage and family therapist. Alternatively, they might choose professional counseling with a specialization in marriage, couple and family counseling. If this is something you are considering, there are Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling programs with concentrations in trauma studies and couples counseling.

What Is Family Counseling and Marriage Counseling?

Family counseling is a type of therapy that helps family members communicate better and resolve conflicts. Family therapy is based on the belief that the family is a unique system and has own structure and patterns. Therefore problems are seen as being in these patterns, rather than the people themselves.

Marriage counseling, or couples therapy, is similar to family counseling but focuses on couples of all types. Marriage counseling could help couples negotiate differences, problem solve and communicate in a healthier way.

Both marriage and family counseling might be studied in Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs. If one of these areas is of more interest to you, look for programs that might allow you to concentrate your studies.

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs Admission Requirements

Students applying into a Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling program typically need to have earned a bachelors degree from an accredited college. The variety of educational backgrounds might include psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing, pastoral counseling and education. Other admission requirements might include a minimum GPA and or GRE scores. Some universities may want to see that an applicant has completed prerequisite courses. General psychology, abnormal psychology and statistics are some possibilities. Keep in mind that each graduate school has its own set of standards and application requirements.

​Potential Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Curriculum

The issues addressed in Marriage and Family Therapy Masters programs cover quite a lot of territory. Concerns such as divorce and separation, child rearing and destructive patterns of behavior are a few examples. Underlying cognitive, emotional and behavioral disorders are also addressed. These range from affective mood disorders to adult alcoholism and adolescent drug abuse. MFT programs also cover topics such as those listed below.iii

  • Professional regulations, standards and ethics,
  • Identification of psycho pathologies and behavioral disorders,
  • Practice Management,
  • Holistic health care,
  • Short and long-term therapeutic strategies.

This is just a sample of courses. Programs vary.

Internship and Clinical Hours

Students may also have to complete an internship or clinical practicum, and/or research, as part of Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Masters programs. This is in addition to rigorous coursework. In some schools, the practicum and internship are built into the program. Basically, these are supervised, direct client contact clinical hours. They could provide valuable learning and skill development. Also, completion of the clinical component may be necessary for licensure. All students are encouraged to review their marriage and family board licensure for state requirements.

MA-MFT and MS-MFT Degree Options

Masters in Family Therapy programs are offered in two formats, depending on the school. One is the Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (MA-MFT). The other is the Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy (MS-MFT). Both may cover the same subjects but in different ways. Each type of program may also attract students from quite distinct backgrounds. The MA-MFT program might suit someone with a bachelors degree in a related field. The MS-MFT might attract someone with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology or Counseling. However, there is no hard and fast rule.

MA-MFT Degree Programs

The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT) may be based on the practitioner-scholar model. The belief is that competent mental health practitioners need to understand both science and theory. They then learn to apply this knowledge to the clinical practice of Marital and Family Therapy. Students may work towards licensure through an MA-MFT program. However, those who prefer research, writing and teaching might pursue a doctorate degree as a next step. To this end, MA students are often required to complete a thesis or research project.

MS-MFT Degree Programs

The Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy (MSMFT) is a terminal degree program. Whereas the MA may emphasize research, the MS focuses on professional practice. Usually, the MS-MFT program combines coursework with, in some cases, 500 hours of clinical practice.

Are Online MFT Programs Available?

Are you interested in finding a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy program in a specific city, state or country? Or would you prefer distance-education? An online masters degree in marriage and family therapy may be available from traditional universities as well as fully online schools. Some MFT masters programs are 100% online, while others are a hybrid. These combine online courses with low residency requirements. The ‘program format’ menu in our navigation can help you refine your search results.

Accreditated Marriage and Family Therapy Masters Programs

Aside from choosing a specific MFT degree path, students should familiarize themselves with the different aspects of accreditation. At the institutional level, schools that offer Marriage and Family Therapy Masters programs may be regionally accredited by one of six agencies recognized by the Department of Education. Within these accredited schools, you may find accredited Marriage and Family Therapy Masters programs. The two most important accrediting bodies for this field are listed below.

  • Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education - COAMFTE
  • Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs - CACREP

How to Become a Family Therapist and Marriage Counselor

Every state requires marriage and family therapists to be licensed to practice.i Many students use the MS-MFT as a platform to pursue this status. In addition to a masters degree in pyschology or a related field, licensure as a marriage and family therapist may require the following.i

  • 2,000 to 4,000 hours supervised clinical experience
  • Passing state-recognized exam
  • Adhering to ethical code of practice
  • Annual continuing education credits

Note every state is different so follow up with your state board for details. Another option for MFT graduates is to pursue either a PsyD in Marital and Family Therapy or a Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT) degree.

MFT Potential Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects fast employment growth for marriage and family therapists. Here are some career fast facts.

  • 15 percent increase in employment for family therapists is predicted between 2014 and 2024.i  
  • In May 2015, the median annual wage for marriage and family therapists was $69,700 for those working in state and local government.i
  • The industries with the highest levels of employment are individual and family services, outpatient care centers, state government and offices of health practitioners.iv

Take the Next Step

Along with psychologists, psychiatrist and social workers, Marriage and Family therapists are recognized as a core mental health profession. Browse the directory of sponsored Marriage and Family Therapy Masters program listings. Or select a learning format or location from the menu. When you find schools you like, follow the link to contact them directly. Find an MA MFT or MS MFT degree today!  

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