United States Marriage and Family Therapy Programs and MFT Degrees
Marriage and Family Therapy Programs (or as they’re often called, MFT Programs) focus on the healthy functioning of family and romantic relationships. Potential course topics include frameworks for assessment, treatment models, counseling strategies, and more. Students might also examine the needs of families from different communities, religions, cultures and ethnicities. Some programs may even allow students to concentrate their studies on one specific patient population. In sum, marriage and family therapy graduate programs aim to foster skills to provide effective therapy to couples and families in any situation.
Marriage and Family Therapy Programs: Varying Approaches
Marriage and family therapy graduate programs may adhere to a few different treatment models, philosophies, or ideological frameworks. Each of these could have a significant impact on the perspective taken in each course, or even on the design of the program as a whole.
Examples of treatment models you may encounter include:
- Structural Strategic Family Therapy
- Solution-Based Family Therapy
- Cognitive-Behavioral Family Therapy
Reach out to your selected programs for more information on their preferred treatment models and how that might affect your education.
Example Curriculum in Graduate MFT Programs
While the specific curriculum for different MFT programs may vary, each of them is likely to share a few distinct goals. For example, MFT graduate programs generally aim to provide a firm foundation of knowledge, which professional marriage and family therapists might use to help real families. What may differ is how those goals are addressed in an individual program’s curriculum.
Some examples of what marriage and family graduate programs might teach include the following.
- Developmental Psychology
- Psychological Assessment
- Diverse or Multicultural Counseling
- MFT Treatment Models
- Marriage and Family Counseling Ethics
Certification or licensure may also be required to work as a marriage and family counselor in many states. As a result, schools may also design their curriculum to support licensure prerequisites in their region. It may be useful to familiarize yourself with the requirements wherever you plan to live and work, and make sure the programs you apply to align with those requirements.i
Some programs may also require practicum, internship, or other fieldwork experience in order to earn an MFT degree. These types of experiences give students a chance to put theory into practice and gain hands on experience in a guided setting. The specific details may vary by program, concentration, and other factors. Contact your selected program to learn more.
We asked Dr. Paul Hokemeyer about how earning a M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy helped his career:
"Earning a marriage and family therapist degree taught me to think systemically. No longer do I view things in isolation. I view them as interconnected to three levels of a persons existence: intrapersonal, interpersonal and social cultural."
"My MFT degree has enabled me to address disorders in the fullness of their expression and impact."
~Dr. Paul Hokemeyer Click to Tweet
CACREP and COAMFTE Accredited Programsi
Many potential graduate students prefer only to consider MFT programs accredited by organizations within their target industries. In fact, some employers may even prefer to hire graduates of such programs. In marraige and family counseling, these organizations include the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy (COAMFTE).
Accreditation is a process by which a school or program is recognized as being qualified to issue a degree or teach a certain subject. This is one way to judge a program's quality. The US Department of Education recognizes various accrediting bodies. A program or school maintains accreditation by meeting certain standards set by these organizations. For more information about what this entails, follow up review the CACREP or COAMFTE websites, the US Department of Education website, or follow up with your selected program.
MFT Graduate Programs: Degree Levels
Marriage and family therapy degrees may be offered at several levels. In general, these can be broken down into three groups. The type of program you choose could depend on your objective, your educational and professional background, and other preferences.
- Marriage and family therapy masters programs may issue either a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree (often abbreviated as MSMFT) upon completion. Some states may require the MSMFT (or similar) as a prerequisite for licensure. As such, many such programs may be designed to support the licensure process. However, requirements may vary by state, so make sure to consider this during your search.
- Marriage and Family Therapy doctoral programs could offer a few different types of degrees. These include a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT). The specific approaches and objectives of each may vary. However, in many cases, PhD programs are more academically inclined and look at designing and implementing research. PsyD and DMFT programs, on the other hand, tend to be more clinical.
- Marriage and Family Counseling Graduate Certificate Programs are much shorter than degree programs and may be found. This could enable students to study specific topics of interest within Marriage and Family Therapy. Certificate programs might also be a great starting point for those just beginning their graduate education. Or they could act as continuing education to support licensure maintenance. Programs may be found at the masters and post-masters level.
Marriage and Family Therapy Programs Formats
A big part of choosing an MFT degree program is finding the ones that fit into your life. Whether you prefer to commit yourself completely to your studies, or balance your time between school, home, your professional therapy practice, and family obligations, different programs might serve you in different ways.
MFT programs may offer a range of options for flexibility and course delivery formats, each of which might be attractive to different students. While each have unique aspects, they can generally be divided up into three types.
- Marriage and Family Counseling Schools offer MFT education in a face-to-face classroom format. Some of these programs may be designed to comply with local licensure requirements. MFT graduate schools may also be able to help organize any necessary field experiences in your area utilizing their relationships with hospitals and practices in the local community.
- Online MFT Programs deliver courses directly to students' computers. Choosing to study online may make it possible to consider marriage and family therapy graduate programs outside your local area, and offer extra flexibility to accommodate your schedule.
- Hybrid Marriage and Family Therapy programs are also referred to as partially online or blended programs. Hybrid programs use a variety of styles to combine the convenience of online courses with face-to-face learning.
What Is a Marriage and Family Therapist?ii
A marriage and family therapist seeks to help couples and families function in a healthy way. They do this by identifying specific obstacles and helping clients overcome them. Therapists or family counselors might ask questions to help clients define and understand their own feelings and situations. They may provide counseling, or create and enact treatment plans to help people overcome issues and encourage healthier behaviors.
A marriage and family therapist career typically requires a master's degree, such as the Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy degree. In addition, all states require marriage and family therapists to be licensed. State requirements vary but licensure may require a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised clinical experience. In addition, licensed MFT therapists must pass a state exam and complete annual continuing education classes.
Find MFT Programs & Schools
GradSchools.com is here to help you begin your search for graduate MFT programs! You can start by reviewing the sponsored program listings here, or narrow down your options using the menu. Select filters by program level, format, or location. Then review the programs that match your search criteria! Click on program names to learn more, and contact the schools to start your application.
Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1013.00
When divorce and other strife enters the lives of children and teens, it often takes a sensitive professional to help them and their families weather these storms.
University of the Rockies
Enhance your knowledge of human relationships with your Master of Arts in Counseling, Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling Specialization through University of the Rockies online.
Prepare for a career in the counseling profession with Walden University’s M.S. in Mental Health Counseling. Examine a range of topics affecting the counseling field, including assessment, legal and ethical concerns, and intervention. This prog...
Grand Canyon University
The Master of Science in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy program is designed for students interested in becoming professional counselors. The program provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to id...
- San Francisco, CASan Francisco, CA
University of San Francisco
Preparing Culturally Competent Therapists to Help Clients Achieve a More Fulfilling Quality of Life...
- Irvine, CAIrvine, CA
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
The M.A. in Clinical Psychology program Specialization Martial and Family Therapy (MFT) provides strong preparation in the development of essential diagnostic, therapeutic and consultative skills in order to work with a variety of clinical population...
- Irvine, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- San Diego, CA
- San Jose, ILSan Jose, IL
Pacific Oaks College
The Trauma Studies Specialization, within a social ecological context, is keeping with the School of Cultural and Family Psychology’s social justice mission that underscores urgent societal issues that have long term disabling effects on the f...
- Fort Lauderdale, FLFort Lauderdale, FL
Nova Southeastern University
The Ph.D. in Family Therapy prepares graduates for careers as professors, researchers, supervisors, and senior clinicians.
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Loma Linda, CALoma Linda, CA
Loma Linda University
The MS in Marital and Family Therapy is designed to give students a broad academic background, as well as professional practice, for working with individuals, couples, groups, and families in a variety of settings.
- Macomb, ILMacomb, IL
Western Illinois University
The Department of Counselor Education and College Student Personnel offers a post-baccalaureate certificate in marriage and family counseling.
- Pittsburgh, PAPittsburgh, PA
University of Pittsburgh
- New Rochelle, NYNew Rochelle, NY
Marriage and Family Therapist is a licensed profession in New York State.
- Syracuse, NYSyracuse, NY
Designed to meet the academic requirements for Clinical Membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy...
- Morgantown, WVMorgantown, WV
West Virginia University
- Provo, UTProvo, UT
Brigham Young University
The mission of the MFT program is to develop a student’s professional identify as a marriage/couple and family therapist.
- Louisville, KYLouisville, KY
University of Louisville
The Family Therapy Program offers excellent education and training for emerging and current professionals.
- Minneapolis, MNMinneapolis, MN
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program prepares graduates for professional work in human services.
- South Orange, NJSouth Orange, NJ
Seton Hall University
- West Hartford, CTWest Hartford, CT
University of Saint Joseph
The University of Saint Joseph graduate program in Marriage and Family Therapy fully prepares students to be competent and carin...
- Durham, NHDurham, NH
University of New Hampshire
Program specifically prepares students to work in mental health, family service, medical, and human service settings...
- Lincoln, NELincoln, NE
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
- Johnson City, TNJohnson City, TN
East Tennessee State University
prepare students to provide counseling for individual, couple, and family problems.