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What is a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Marriage and family therapy (MFT) is a specialized field within mental health that focuses on relationships, communication, and family dynamics. When seeking therapy for marital or family issues, it's crucial to understand the qualifications and credentials of the therapist you choose. This guide will provide you with insights into marriage and family therapy credentials and training, helping you make an informed decision when selecting a therapist for your family's well-being.

1. What is Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT)?

Marriage and family therapy is a therapeutic approach that addresses mental health issues within the context of relationships. MFTs are trained to work with couples, families, and individuals, considering the impact of relationships on mental health and well-being.

2. MFT Credentials:

a. Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT): An MFT is a licensed professional who has completed a master's or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy and has fulfilled the requirements for licensure in their state. They practice under the supervision of a licensed therapist, gaining the necessary experience and skills before becoming fully licensed.

b. Independent Marriage and Family Therapist (IMFT): An IMFT is a therapist who has completed their master's or doctoral degree, and has completed enough clinical hours and supervision, that they are now able to practice without a direct supervisor. This is the highest degree of licensure possible for MFTs. IMFTs can also hold a designation as a licensed supervisor, in which case, their credential is displayed as IMFT-S.

3. MFT Training:

Compared to professional counselors (LPC or LPCC), MFTs have some of the highest standards of any mental health professional in the state of Ohio. An MFT master's program is, on average, a year longer than a counseling program. MFTs must also complete a greater number of training hours than counselors and must receive four times more supervision before being licensed. Despite the title, MFTs are also well-trained and competent individual therapists for adults and children alike.

a. Graduate Education: MFTs typically hold a master's or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field. Their education includes coursework in human development, family systems theory, counseling techniques, cultural competency, and ethics.

b. Supervised Clinical Practice: During their training, MFTs engage in supervised clinical practice, working directly with clients under the guidance of experienced therapists who are also licensed supervisors. This hands-on experience is essential for developing practical skills and gaining insight into various therapeutic approaches.

c. Continuing Education: MFTs are required to engage in continuing education to stay updated with the latest research, therapy techniques, and ethical standards. This ensures that they provide high-quality, evidence-based therapy to their clients.

4. Choosing the Right MFT Therapist:

a. Check Credentials: Verify that the therapist is licensed or working under supervision. Look for credentials such as MFT or IMFT, indicating their level of training and experience.

b. Specializations: Consider the therapist's specialization. Some MFTs specialize in areas like premarital counseling, divorce, child therapy, trauma treatment, or LGBTQ+ relationships. Choose a therapist whose expertise aligns with your specific needs.

c. Personal Compatibility: Building a strong therapeutic relationship is crucial. Choose a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and understood, fostering an environment of trust and openness.


Understanding marriage and family therapy credentials and training is essential when seeking therapy for your family. By choosing a licensed and well-trained MFT therapist, you are ensuring that you receive professional, evidence-based, and compassionate support for your individual, marital, and family issues. Take the time to research and find a therapist whose qualifications and expertise match your unique needs, setting the foundation for a positive and transformative therapeutic experience.

You can easily book an appointment with one of our highly-trained therapists by calling 440.879.8440 or completing our Contact Form.



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