What is a Marriage and Family Therapist?
Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are a highly experienced group of practitioners, with an average of 13 years of clinical practice in the field of marriage and family therapy. Marriage and family therapists broaden the traditional emphasis on the individual to attend to the nature and role of individuals in primary relationship networks such as marriage and the family. MFTs take a holistic perspective to health care; they are concerned with the overall, long-term well-being of individuals and their families.
Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) have graduate training (a Master's or Doctoral degree) in marriage and family therapy and at least two years of clinical experience. Marriage and family therapists are recognized as a "core" mental health profession, along with psychiatry, psychology, social work and psychiatric nursing. Since 1970 there has been a 50-fold increase in the number of marriage and family therapists. At any given time they are treating over 1.8 million people.
Marriage and family therapists regularly practice short-term therapy -- 12 sessions on average. Nearly 65.6% of the cases are completed within 20 sessions, 87.9% within 50 sessions. Marital/couples therapy (11.5 sessions) and family therapy (9 sessions) both require less time than the average individual treatment (13 sessions). About half of the treatment provided by marriage and family therapists is one-on-one, with the other half divided between marital/couple and family therapy or a combination of treatments.
Who are Marriage and Family Therapists?
Marriage and family therapists are mental health professionals who offer a range of effective and cost-efficient services to individuals, couples and families. Marriage and family therapists pioneered brief, solution-focused, family-centered treatment, which seeks to pinpoint problems and conclude therapy as soon as specific, attainable therapeutic goals are met. They evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders, other health and behavioral problems, and address a wide array of relationship issues within the context of the family system.
Why use a Marriage and Family Therapist?
A family's patterns of behavior influences the individual and therefore may need to be a part of the treatment plan. In marriage and family therapy, the unit of treatment isn't just the person, even if only a single person is interviewed. It is the set of relationships in which the person is embedded.
Marriage and family therapy's prominence in the mental health field has increased due to its brief, solution-focused treatment, its family-centered approach, and its demonstrated effectiveness. Marriage and family therapists are licensed or certified in 50 states and are recognized by the federal government as members of a distinct mental health discipline.
Marriage and family therapists work in all areas of mental and physical health care, often providing interdisciplinary connections for more comprehensive treatment. MFTs practice in hospitals, clinics, agencies, schools, private practice and colleges and universities. They serve as clinicians, supervisors, administrators, consultants and teachers in the fields of health care, corrections, education, adoption and social service.
A Distinct Professional Discipline
Marriage and family therapy is a distinct professional discipline with graduate and post graduate programs. Three options are available for those interested in becoming a marriage and family therapist: master's degree (2-3 years), doctoral program (3-5 years), or post-graduate clinical training programs (3-4 years). Historically, marriage and family therapists have come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds including psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing, pastoral counseling and education.
LMFTs in Massachusetts are licensed by the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professionals. To check on a license of a therapist, click here.
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Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are professionals trained in psychotherapy as well as family systems, and are licensed to diagnose and treat mental disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.
Marriage and family therapy most often is:
- specific, with attainable therapeutic goals
- designed with the "end in mind."
MFTs take a holistic perspective to health care; they are concerned with the overall, long-term well-being of individuals and their families.
LMFTs diagnose and treat a wide range of mental and emotional disorders including
MFTs are the only mental health professional specifically trained to work with families.
- substance abuse and
- eating disorders.
50 States recognize and regulate LMFTs as independent mental health care providers. Massachusetts passed the licensure law for MFTs in 1989. The U.S. Health Resources Administration recognizes MFTs as one of the 5 core mental health disciplines.