Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals trained and licensed to serve individuals, couples and families. Trained to diagnose and treat mental health issues, such as depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, marital problems, child-parent problems, ADD/ADHD, and schizophrenia, MFTs receive special training in family dynamics attending to how these dynamics shape and maintain our well-being.
Marriage and Family Therapists are skilled to address a wide array of relationship issues within the context of couples, family systems and communities. MFTs take a holistic perspective to health care; they are concerned with the overall, long-term well-being of individuals, their families and their communities. MFTs broaden the traditional emphasis on the individual and attend to the nature and role of individuals in their primary relationship networks. This unique training and focus differentiate MFTs from other mental health professionals.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists 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.
Research has shown that MFT clients are highly satisfied with the services they receive. Upon completion of therapeutic services MFT clients report an increase in emotional health, and many report an improvement in their overall physical health.
MFTs provide a variety of different services based on the needs and severity of an individual, couple or family’s situation. These services include:
MFTs are trained to assess, diagnose and treat a number of psychiatric disorders and relational issues. Some of the most commonly addressed issues in therapy by MFTs include:
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists notes that research indicates that marriage and family therapy is as effective, and in some cases more effective than standard and/or individual treatments for many mental health problems such as: adult schizophrenia, affective (mood) disorders, adult alcoholism and drug abuse, children’s conduct disorders, adolescent drug abuse, anorexia in young adult women, childhood autism, chronic physical illness in adults and children, and marital distress and conflict.
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 individuated 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.
Research studies repeatedly demonstrate the effectiveness of marriage and family therapy in treating the full range of mental and emotional disorders and health problems. Adolescent drug abuse, depression, alcoholism, obesity and dementia in the elderly — as well as marital distress and conflict — are just some of the conditions Marriage and Family Therapists effectively treat.
Studies also show that clients are highly satisfied with services of Marriage and Family Therapists. Clients report marked improvement in work productivity, co-worker relationships, family relationships, partner relationships, emotional health, overall health, social life, and community involvement.
In a recent study, consumers report that marriage and family therapists are the mental health professionals they would most likely recommend to friends. Over 98 percent of clients of marriage and family therapists report therapy services as good or excellent.
After receiving treatment, almost 90% of clients report an improvement in their emotional health, and nearly two-thirds report an improvement in their overall physical health. A majority of clients report an improvement in their functioning at work, and over three-fourths of those receiving marital/couples or family therapy report an improvement in the couple relationship. When a child is the identified patient, parents report that their child’s behavior improved in 73.7% of the cases, their ability to get along with other children significantly improved and there was improved performance in school. 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 in 46 states and are recognized by the federal government as members of a distinct mental health discipline.
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems, which independently diagnose and treat a variety of mental health, substance abuse and relational issues. MFTs focus on understanding their clients’ symptoms and interactional patterns with their environment. MFTs provide help to individuals, couples, families and groups with a variety of theoretical approaches. MFTs are one of the five core professionals in the mental health system, with distinct differences among each discipline.
Marriage and family therapists provide services in a variety of sectors in the health care industry. Nearly half of all MFTs assume work in private practice settings. Therapists are starting to obtain employments in agencies and companies outside of the traditional healthcare sector. The most common areas of employment include:
There are specific requirements that the Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy has for prospective therapists obtaining licensure. The general requirements include:
For more information about specific licensing regulations and rules, you can visit the Minnesota Board of MFT website
Typically, it takes 2-3 years to complete a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. The time of completion may differ based on curriculum of departments, length of one’s internship and other department requirements. Usually, a student completes their clinical internship (or practicum) portion of their training in the final year of the program.
There are a number of online sites that you can look to find a therapist in your area. One of the most popular sites to locate a specific therapist is therapistlocator.net. All therapists on the site are AAMFT clinical members and have met the necessary standards and requirements for practice. Another popular site is Psychology Today which provides listings of other licensed professionals. Additionally, other mental health professionals or physicians may have certain recommendations or referrals based on one’s issue or reason for therapy.