MFT Certification and Certificate Programs

Learn about MFT (marriage and family therapy) certification requirements, as well as certificate programs in the field. Discover employment outlook and continuing education information for marriage and family therapists.

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Essential Information

MFT certification programs prepare candidates for marriage and family therapist licensure through the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Board. Although specific MFT certification requirements vary from state to state, most states require candidates to have a graduate certificate or master's degree in marriage and family therapy. A master's degree program typically takes two to three years to complete, while a certificate program is usually one year in length but often requires applicants to have more work experience.


Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy

Master's degree programs in MFT cover basic theories of family therapy and relationship processes. Students are exposed to a broad range of therapy theories and intervention strategies. Master's degree programs provide students the opportunity to examine individual and family development across the lifespan and address contemporary issues in the treatment of couples and families, such issues as gender roles, sexual orientation, physical abuse and addictions.

Such programs aim to prepare graduates to take the state certification exam to become licensed therapists. They are designed to familiarize students with concepts in child development, personality theory, addiction processes and family studies. In addition to their coursework, students must complete a set number of client contact hours during a community-based internship period. Thesis and non-thesis programs are offered. MFT course topics typically include:

  • Psychopathology
  • Family systems
  • Addictive disorders
  • MFT professional ethics and legal issues
  • Couples therapy
  • Human development
  • Child counseling

Education Prerequisites

MFT applicants are required to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. A bachelor's degree in a social or human services field is typically preferred. Potential students are also often required to submit recommendation letters and a personal statement regarding their career goals.

Program Coursework

Graduate level curricula in marriage and family therapy are designed to familiarize students with concepts in child development, personality theory, addiction processes and family studies. In addition to their coursework, students must complete a set number of client contact hours during a community-based internship period. Thesis and non-thesis programs are offered. MFT course topics typically include:

  • Psychopathology
  • Family systems
  • Addictive disorders
  • MFT professional ethics and legal issues
  • Couples therapy
  • Human development
  • Child counseling

Marriage and Family Therapy Postgraduate Certificate

Usually requiring one year of study, a MFT postgraduate certificate program is designed to provide professionals already working in human services fields with the academic and experiential training needed to prepare for marriage and family therapist licensure. Certificate programs help to enhance the understanding treatment and intervention strategies for individuals, couples and families. This type of MFT certification program provides the training needed for graduates to pass required state licensing exams for the states in which they wish to practice.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants are required to have master's degrees in social work, human development, psychology, counseling or another closely related field. Prerequisite coursework, such as psychopathology, family therapy, human development and research methods, is often required. Completed applications must be accompanied by transcripts from all previously attended colleges and universities.

Program Coursework

Postgraduate certificate programs are typically comprised of 15 credit hour, and they require students to complete a minimum of 300 client contact hours during a community practicum. Course topics may include:

  • Client assessment
  • Theories of therapy
  • Human sexuality
  • Couples counseling
  • Family systems
  • Ethical practice in MFT

Employment Outlook

A marriage and family therapist evaluates and treats mental and emotional disorders, health and behavioral problems and a wide array of relationship issues all within the context of family. Job opportunities are available in social service agencies, schools, private practice, community health centers, inpatient facilities and other community organizations. The use of MFTs has increased dramatically in recent years due to an increase of family awareness and growing willingness to seek help for marital and family issues. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the profession to grow at a rate much faster than average from 2010-2020.

Continuing Education

Marriage and family therapists must complete a specified number of continuing education credits every year in order to maintain licensure. Colleges, universities and professional associations, such as the AAMFT, offer courses that can meet these continuing education requirements. Individuals seeking to become researchers, teachers or advanced marriage and family therapy supervisors should consider a Ph.D. program.

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