How to Get Your MFT License

A marriage and family therapy (MFT) license is a license required by marriage and family therapists. Without their MFT, they will not be able to provide counseling to people. Therapists with an MFT license address a variety of issues that impact family life, from simple disagreements to substance abuse. So how do you get an MFT license?

Steps to Getting an MFT License

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in a liberal art field, with psychology, human services, and family studies being the preferred options. Make sure that your degree includes courses in areas, such as marriage relationships, human behavior, and lifespan development. You may, depending on your degree, have to choose a concentration, so make sure that is related in some way to the field of marriage, family, and/or relationships. Make sure that you also include communication in your elective courses, as you must, as a therapist, be excellent at listening and communicating ideas.
  1. Earn your master’s degree. After you have earned your bachelor’s degree, you will have to start to specialize your skills through a master’s degree. You should choose a master’s in marriage and family counseling, through which you will learn about counseling techniques, research methods, intervention therapy, case management, and more. You should also complete a period of supervised clinical experience. Try, if you can, to complete an internship as well, as this will allow you to practice your skills. It also looks very good on your resume.
  1. Complete supervised work experience. This is another reason why you should undergo an internship if you can, as it may count towards your supervised work experience requirements. You will usually need at least two years of supervised working experience before you can move on to the next step. You supervisor must be approved by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Exactly how long your work experience has to be varies depending on your state.
  1. Earn your license. Now, you are ready to obtain the MTF license. The MFT license is regulated by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB), where you can find out exactly what the licensing requirements are for your particular state.
  1. Maintain your license through participation in continuous education credits.

How Long Will the Process Take?

The process of obtaining an MFT license is a lengthy one. First of all, you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree, which takes four years on average. If you study full time towards your master’s degree, then it will still take between 18 months and two years to complete. Furthermore, you usually have to have at least two years of supervised working experience. As such, it could take as much as eight years before you can even apply for your MFT license.

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Preparing for and passing the MFT exam usually takes around six months – if you pass the first time. Many fail several times before finally obtaining their license. As a result, this period could take as long as three years to complete.

Very simply put, it is recommended that students consider between four and five years from starting their master’s degree to becoming licensed. While it is possible to shorten this time, that is very risky and most who do this end up failing their MFT licensure exam, meaning they have to wait before they can take it again.

Some people wonder why so much attention is spent on the educational journey for a marriage and family therapist. This is interesting, since nobody seems to complain about the fact that psychologists must have a doctorate degree in order to practice, and they must generally also become licensed and certified. A marriage and family therapy counselor deals with many of the same scenarios as what a psychologist has to deal with. They both have to manage the complex emotional needs of clients, finding ways to address them.

Moving State

Unfortunately, although the requirements for each state in terms of the MFT license are quite similar, there are very significant differences as well. What this means, practically, is that the degree is not portable. As a result, should you want to move home to a different state, you may have to redo the test. Some tips to be aware of:

  • Make sure that your program is accredited by COAMFTE. There are 32 different states in which being awarded an MFT licenses requires you to have completed a COAMFTE-accredited degree. By making sure from the start that your degree meets these requirements, you know that you can take it across the country.
  • Make sure that your supervised pre-license hours are completed under the supervision of a marriage and family therapist, and that this therapist has been approved by the AAMFT. In some states, this is actually a requirement in order for the pre-license hours to be accepted at all. However, even if your state does not require AAMFT support for your supervision, it is still recommended to do it, so that you can have your skills transferred between states.
  • Apply to your local MFT board in the new state as soon as possible. Check their website for information on the type of proof they will need.
  • Keep documents of everything that you do, so that there is always evidence of everything that you have done.

As you can see it will take quite some time for you to complete an MFT license. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists earn an average annual salary of $43,190 per year, as well as a projected job growth of 19% from 2014 to 2024. Most would say, therefore, that the career is certainly worth it.