Marriage and Family Therapy training is offered at the Master’s degree level in more than 80 accredited programs in the nation. The MS degree is the minimum required qualification for licensure in the different states.
If you are considering undertaking graduate study for this field, it’s important that you carefully study the different programs because of the varying requirements for licensure among states. At a personal level, you will want to invest your energy and resources into a training program that is compatible with your personal goals and values and provide the training that will most enable you to become an effective marriage and family therapist. Here are the important features you should examine for each program you are considering.
Accreditation assures you that the program meets acceptable standards of the profession. It may be required for licensure in your state, and assures employers and clients that you have quality training for the profession.
There are two accrediting agencies for this profession. The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) presently accredits 84 Master’s degree level MFT programs. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits six Master’s degree level programs for Marital, Couple and Family Counseling/Therapy. 32 states recognize COAMFTE accreditation as meeting their educational standards; seven states accept CACREP accreditation as meeting their requirements.
You should first check the licensure requirements for the state in which you plan to work. This can easily be done by simply clicking your state on this site. Each state specifies the courses and supervised experience required, examinations that must be taken, and application procedures for licensure. These requirements will be a basis for examining and comparing the graduate programs you will be exploring.
Most programs require two years of full time course work that include a practicum. An important foundational course is systems theory or a variation thereof and its application in treatment. Coursework should also cover different models or therapeutic approaches to MFT so that you can explore and find one most compatible with your personality.
An important aspect of MFT training is the personal development of the therapist. Growth occurs from self reflection as one learns, and through interaction with faculty and other students. The supervision provided in clinical training provides one with feedback and encouragement to stretch out. By reading the program description of MFT programs, you will see which programs place emphasis on personal development.
Clinical Experience and Supervision
The state requirements for licensing vary with respect to the number of clinical experience and supervision hours that must be completed in a practicum and in post graduate supervised clinical experience. This is an important item to check when examining MST programs. Generally, 300 to 500 hours of client contact and 100 to 200 hours of supervision are specified for a practicum, and 1000 to 2000 hours of direct client contact with 100 to 200 hours of supervision are required for post graduate clinical experience.
Another aspect of the program you might want to check is where the practicum and clinical experiences are done. Will you be exposed to a varied clientele with a range of problems? Is there a population group that especially interests you?
The quality of your educational experience will be affected directly by the faculty, to a larger extent than in other programs. It is important for you to learn as much as you can about the faculty, from examining their backgrounds, reading about them on the school website concerning their involvement in the therapy training, and from experiences of former students. If possible, visiting the school and meeting the faculty members will give you a direct sense of whether this is a program that will support your growth. The faculty-student ratio is also an important consideration.
These are the major factors that need to be examined in selecting an MFT program. A program that affects what you become as a professional therapist should be selected with care on the basis of the best fit between program, faculty and yourself.