What is an MFT? Definition of an MFT

By Robin Gluck on September 18, 2019

Young people in group therapy session

MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist ) – It is nearly impossible to move through adulthood without being asked (possibly too often) “What is it that you do?” And it’s often the case that a response of, “I’m an MFT,” is met with a look of confusion. The mental health field has more acronyms than one can count. MFT, LCSW, LPCC, HIPAA, BBS, CBT, DBT…and the list goes on. Even when the acronym is spelled out, “Marriage and Family Therapist,” an explanation is often still required.

What is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)?

  • According to the Federal government, Marriage and Family Therapists are core mental health professionals. MFTs join other mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and psychologists. MFTs, however, distinguish themselves from other mental health providers in how they conceptualize and treat mental health issues.
  • According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the definition of an MFT is as follows:
  •  “Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples, and family systems.”


MFT Career Outlook

The number of MFT licenses has increased dramatically since the 1970s and the demand is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade. The median MFT salary in 2018 was $24.08 hourly or $50,090 yearly. MFT salaries can vary drastically based on location and work setting. Marriage and Family Therapists have many options for employment. MFTs can work in hospital settings, community mental health agencies, or government agencies. Alternatively, many MFTs choose to work in a group or private practice. There is a lot of flexibility in this field, especially once licensed.


How to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

MFTs are a diverse group of people coming from diverse backgrounds. For some, this is a second or third profession, whereas others enter the field immediately following undergraduate school. Regardless of the path taken, all licensed MFTs must complete post-graduate education.


By the time an MFT becomes licensed, they’ve successfully completed a master’s or doctoral degree program, had at least two years of supervised clinical experience, and passed their state’s social work licensing requirements. Many states require license applicants to complete a law and ethics exam as well as a clinical exam (most states require the National AMFTRB exam, except for California).


If you are preparing to take any of the MFT licensing exams, be sure to check out our programs for California law and ethics, the National Clinical or California Clinical exams!


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