Houston Marriage and Family Counseling Degrees and Programs

Marriage and Family Therapy Programs focus on the relationships of all different types of families. Also known as marriage and family counseling or MFT degrees, these programs look at how to help people and relationships thrive. Course topics include frameworks for assessment, treatment models, counseling strategies, and more. MFT programs also may examine the needs of those from different communities, religions, cultures and ethnicities. In some cases, you may even be able to specialize in providing therapy to certain groups. 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

What to Expect in Graduate Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

Marriage and family therapy programs look at the psychology behind how individuals and families interact. These may range from married or committed couples to larger family groups. MFT programs aim to support current and potential therapists in helping people overcome personal issues that affect their relationships. This could be done in a variety of ways, and each program may have it's own approach. This may influence the program’s curriculum and teaching methods, so be sure to research marriage and family counseling degrees carefully to find a perfect match for you.

Marriage and Family Graduate Programs: Curriculum

While the specific curriculum of each MFT program may vary, overall, programs share a few distinct goals. For example, MFT programs aim to provide a firm foundation of knowledge to help real families. Curricula and individual courses may be designed with this goal in mind. Some examples of what marriage and family graduate programs might teach include the following.

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Psychological Assessment
  • Psychotherapy
  • Diverse or Multicultural Counseling
  • Human Sexuality
  • MFT Treatment Models
  • Marriage and Family Counseling Ethics

Certification or licensure may be required to work as a marriage and family counselor in many areas. For this reason, some programs may be designed with those requirements in mind. As such, it may be useful to be familiar with the licensure requirements in your state when comparing programs. These vary so follow up with the issuing organization in your state for details.i

Some programs may also require practicum, internship, or other fieldwork experience. This could provide a chance to put theory into practice and gain hands on experience. 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

Marriage and Family Therapy Programs: Varying Approaches

Different marriage and family therapy programs may follow varying treatment models, philosophies, or ideological frameworks. This could influence the perspective of each course or the program as a whole. Examples of treatment models you may encounter include Structural Strategic Family Therapy, Solution-Based Family Therapy, and Cognitive-Behavioral Family Therapy. Each of these may reflect a unique approach to helping family groups thrive. Reach out to your selected programs for more information on their approach to marriage and family therapy.

COAMFTE and CACREP: MFT Programs Accreditationi

Another important piece of selecting MFT programs is accreditation status. 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.

Some employers may prefer hiring graduates from programs accredited by industry-specific organizations. These include the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy (COAMFTE). As such, it may be useful to focus on programs that hold one or both of these recognitions. For more information, visit the organizations’ websites, the US Department of Education website, or follow up with your selected program.

Graduate MFT Degree Levels

Marriage and family counseling 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.

  • Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy programs may issue either a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree upon completion. A MST Masters degree is often a requirement for licensure in many areas. (State requirements vary.) This could make it crucial for employment as a practicing MFT in those places. As such, many programs may be designed to support the licensure process.
  • PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy programs could offer PhD, Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT) degrees. 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 in nature.
  • 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 marriage and family therapy degrees is finding ones that fit into your life. Your studies might compete for time with your personal and professional commitments. Your preference could also be influenced by your study habits. That is why programs may be offered full time or part time. Schools might even offer a range of options for flexibility and course delivery. 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. In addition to potentially being designed to comply with local licensure requirements, MFT graduate schools may be able to help organize any necessary field experiences in your area utilizing their local resources.
  • MFT Programs Online deliver courses directly to students' computers. Online programs make it possible to consider marriage and family therapy 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 might ask questions to help clients define and understand their own feelings and situations. MFTs may also provide counseling. Or they might create and enact treatment plans to help people address 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 postdegree supervised clinical experience. In addition, licensed MFT therapists must pass a state exam and complete annual continuing education classes.

Find Your Marriage and Family Counseling Degree

If you’re ready to find your MFT degree, don’t wait any longer to get started! a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of postdegree supervised clinical experience, sometimes referred to as an internship or residency. In addition, counselors and therapists must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes. If you have an idea of what you want, use the menu to filter your search. You can look by program level, format, or location. Then start reading up on sponsored listings that fit your criteria! Click on program names to learn more, and even get in touch 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

Prepares marriage and family therapists to address the varied mental health needs of children, adults, and families.
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