Is becoming a marriage and family therapist right for me?

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How to become a Marriage and Family Therapist

To become a marriage and family therapist, you typically need to follow these steps:

  • Obtain a Bachelor's Degree: Start by earning a bachelor's degree in a related field such as psychology or social work. It's important to choose a program that meets the educational requirements for graduate-level MFT programs.
  • Earn a Master's Degree: Pursue a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy or a closely related field. Look for programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) or an equivalent accrediting body. This degree typically involves coursework in human development, family systems, counseling techniques, and ethics.
  • Complete Clinical Experience: Most MFT programs require students to complete supervised clinical experience as part of their degree. This entails working directly with clients under the supervision of licensed MFTs or other mental health professionals. Clinical experience helps develop practical skills and a deeper understanding of therapeutic techniques.
  • Obtain Licensure: After completing your master's degree and clinical experience, you'll need to obtain a license to practice as an MFT. Licensing requirements vary by state, but generally include passing a state-approved exam, such as the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) exam or a state-specific exam. Some states may also have additional requirements, such as post-graduate clinical hours.
  • Pursue Post-Graduate Supervision: Many states require MFTs to complete a certain number of post-graduate clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed MFT. This supervision period allows for continued learning and guidance as you gain experience in the field.
  • Optional: Obtain Certification: While certification is not a requirement, you may choose to pursue additional certification to demonstrate your expertise in specific areas of MFT practice, such as couples therapy, family systems, or trauma. Certification is typically offered by professional organizations such as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) or the Board of Behavioral Sciences.

In the field of marriage and family therapy, there are several certifications available that can demonstrate expertise and specialization in specific areas.

  • Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT): The AAMFT offers the Clinical Fellow designation, which signifies advanced clinical skills and expertise in the field of MFT. To be eligible for this certification, therapists must have completed specific education and clinical experience requirements and successfully passed an exam.
  • Approved Supervisor Designation: The Approved Supervisor designation is offered by the AAMFT and is intended for experienced MFTs who provide clinical supervision to other therapists. This certification demonstrates competency in supervising and training MFT interns and associates.
  • Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE): The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) offers the CFLE certification for professionals who specialize in providing education and support to individuals and families. CFLEs have demonstrated knowledge and skills in various areas, including family dynamics, human development, and family resource management.
  • Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) Certification: Emotionally Focused Therapy is a popular approach used in couples therapy. Therapists can pursue certification in EFT through the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT). EFT certification involves completing specific training levels, supervised practice, and a certification process.
  • Gottman Method Couples Therapy Certification: The Gottman Institute offers certification in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. This certification is based on the research and methods developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. Therapists undergo training and supervision to become proficient in the Gottman Method and must complete requirements for certification.
  • Trauma-Focused Certification: Various organizations offer certifications in trauma-focused therapies, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing (SE), or Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). These certifications indicate specialized training in working with individuals and families affected by trauma.