What is an MFT?
Marriage & Family Therapists (MFTs) are psychotherapists licensed by the California State Board of Behavioral Sciences to provide various mental health services (e.g. couples, family, individual and/or child therapy, social services, group therapy, etc). Each therapist has their own specialties and emphasis that they gained through their education, special training received, or direct experience. MFTs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, non-profit organizations, government settings, businesses, private practice, group homes, and more.
How does one become licensed?
One becomes licensed as an MFT by obtaining a Master’s degree, getting 3000 hours of supervised clinical experience, and by passing two written examinations. This process is similar to a doctor, who after graduating with a degree must do a residency. They are called "doctor" but cannot yet practice independently. They must first do a residency and pass their exams. We do the same type of thing! A Marriage and Family Therapy Intern, has finished their master's degree but are doing their "internship" (similar to residency). Interns do everything a licensed person does, but they discuss their cases with a supervisor who has been licensed for a minimum of 2 years. The BBS web site contains more information regarding licensure requirements and the status of my license as well as all registered MFTs and LCSWs.
Should I go to a licensed professional or an intern?
Pros of going to an intern are: closer to currnent research because they just left school, as the client you get their perspective and their supervisor's (2 heads are better than 1), they are much cheaper and have had all the same educational requirements!
Cons of going to an intern are: they are less experienced and have had contact with less types of problems and they are sometimes less confident.
Bottom line is the most important thing about choosing a therapist is whether you feel understood and connected to them. Call different therapists and try to find someone who fits what you want/need in someone to help you through your difficult time.
What is the difference between an MFT and all the other "counselors"?
You may have heard of other helping fields as well: Social Workers (LCSWs), Psychologists, Psychiatrists, etc. We all do similar things and can even do the same types of therapy. What distinguishes each field is the way we were trained (see more on how I was trained at About Amy). Social Workers come from a community driven background and accessing community resources. Psychologists come from an individual perspective and internal functioning. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe psychotropic medications as well. We all learn of each other's main theories but emphasize the above stated areas in our training.
Do I have to be married or come with my family to see an MFT?
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) primary emphasis in on building and sustaining relationships. The title "marriage and family" can be misleading because we are not only trained in how to work with married couples and families. Our training extends to working with individuals, couples and/or families (married or not). However, the main goal is to strengthen relationships, whether the client is seen individually, as a couple, family, or group. You can obtain more information about MFTs from the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists and the Board of Behavioral Sciences.
You can also access this helpful pamphlet for more information... Click Here