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Who are Marriage and Family Therapists?

Marriage and Family Therapists are one of the five core mental health professions, as recognized by the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration (the other four are psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, and psychiatric nurse specialists). Marriage and Family Therapists are mental health providers who are licensed by their state to independently diagnose and treat mental health, relationship, and substance abuse problems in individuals, couples, and families.  Marriage and family therapists are unique among mental health professionals because they are specifically trained to understand symptoms and diagnoses within the context of interactions and relationship dynamics.  Marriage and Family Therapists have the following training and education:

  • Licensed mental health practitioners
  • Master's or doctoral degree
  • Clinical training includes minimum two years supervised clinical experience
  • Specifically trained to work from a system perspective, taking into account a person's unique environment and context

Four Facts About Marriage & Family Therapists

1) Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals who are trained in psychotherapy and family systems. We are licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders in individuals and within the context of couples and family relationships.

2) MFTs are the only group of mental health practitioners who have the training and qualifications to work both with couples/families and with individuals.  Some professionals in other mental health disciplines may have sought supervised clinical training in couple and family work. However, no other profession requires extensive training in couple or family treatment.

3) Research demonstrates that treatment programs for various disorders (for example, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse disorders, etc.) are more effective when partners and other family members are included. 

4) MFTs take a holistic perspective to health care; they are concerned with the overall, long-term well-being of individuals and their families. A family's pattern 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 is not just the person, even if only a single person is seen in therapy.

Where can I learn about the policies that regulate marriage and family therapy in my state?

Maryland: Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists
District of Columbia: Board of Marriage and Family Therapy
Delaware: Board of Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Professionals
Virginia: Board of Counseling



Silver Spring, MD 20910

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